In this blog post, Thailand expert and enthusiast Mariska from Go To Thailand shares 10 great things to do in Pai, Thailand.
10 Things to do in Pai, Thailand
Pai is a small and unique mountain village tucked away in a valley in Northern Thailand.
Its natural surroundings are nothing less than stunning.
Pai is surrounded by waterfalls, hot springs, paddy fields, and caves. All of which are all easily accessible by motorbike.
Because of the low prices and the laid-back lifestyle, Pai has become a popular hotspot for backpackers, hippies, and artists.
It’s the kind of destination where you stick around a bit longer than expected. And I should know because I've lived there for six months.
A two-day trip turned into a week, a month, and before I knew it half a year had gone by. Why?
Check out these 10 great things you can do in Pai and find out for yourself!
Read: Our Thailand Travel Tips before you travel to Thailand.
1. Watch the sunset at Pai Canyon
Pai Canyon is an impressive ravine where you can follow a walking trail over the steep rock faces.
Locals jokingly call it ‘the Grand Canyon’, but in fact, the Pai Canyon is not ‘grand’ at all; walking from end to end takes about thirty minutes.
Some parts are quite narrow, with a drop of more than 50 meters on each side. So please be careful.
It's best to visit Pai Canyon during sunset because the view of the surrounding hills is amazing!
2. Swim underneath waterfalls
Pai is also known for its waterfalls. You can swim in them, jump off cliffs and even slide down. Several waterfalls are very easy to reach by motorbike, which makes it a perfect day trip.
They’re at their most beautiful during the rainy season, which lasts from July until October.
The Pambok Waterfall is the best known of them all. It’s located near Pai’s town center, in a ravine deep enough to jump in from a cliff.
Another conveniently accessible waterfall is the Mor Paeng, a large three-tier waterfall. When the water is high enough, you can slide down it.
Two slightly lesser known waterfalls are the Mae Yen and Hua Chang.
The Mae Yen is located in the middle of the jungle. Hiking there takes about three hours, so be prepared!
The hike to Hua Chang is about an hour. Because the river regularly bursts its banks during the rainy season (July until October), the footpaths are sometimes barely passable. So I advise against visiting these waterfalls during this period.
3. Visit the Land Split
On your way to the Pambok Waterfall, you'll come across the Land Split, where natural erosion has caused fissures in the soil, rendering agriculture impossible.
However, the owner of the land thought of a brilliant solution and turned his land into a tourist attraction.
After you check out the fissures, he will come by and offer you some homemade snacks with ingredients from his land such as roselle juice, crispy bananas chips, peanuts, and tamarind.
4. Float around in a hot spring
The Pai valley has several hot springs; blissful pools of clear warm water.
I recommend visiting them in the early morning when temperatures are still low, and most of the tourists are still asleep. Afternoons are notoriously busy!
Our favorite hot spring is Sai Ngam, a small pool of crystal clear water surrounded by nature.
Pai’s most famous hot springs are the Ta Pai Hot Springs, which are located in a beautiful environment.
The water vapor and the smell of sulfur make for an almost magical experience.
The natural water pools are too hot to bathe in (80 degrees Celsius), but there are some man-made pools as well with temperatures of 34 to 38 degrees Celsius.
5. Rent a motorbike
Wondering how to get to the waterfalls and hot springs? You guessed it! By motorbike.
Pai is the best place in Thailand to Thailand to rent a motorbike. And with good reason: riding around the countryside, the paddy fields, and the jungle is an experience you'll never forget.
Do make sure you always wear a helmet and only drive if you’re an experienced motorcyclist. Accidents happen!
Renting a motorbike will cost you about 300 baht per day, and you'll find plenty of rental shops along Pai's Walking Street.
We recommend choosing a rental shop that doesn't need to hold your passport as a deposit. Instead, give a copy of your passport plus a despot in cash, which is usually around 3,000 to 5,000 baht per motorbike.
So… are you up for some more motorcycling?
Pai is located on the Mae Hong Son loop, a motorbike route of about 650 kilometers long that passes through the mountains and the jungles of Northern Thailand. The roads are in excellent condition, and the entire course is littered with viewpoints.
6. Snack on some street food
Pai's Walking Street market is set up as soon as the sun goes down. This is where it all happens at night.
Crave some tasty street food? You're in for a treat. Your dinner – a smoothie, pad thai and a serving of mango sticky rice – will cost you a just a few baht.
Afterward, you can stroll along the adjoining market and buy some handmade souvenirs.
Pai is home to many artists, who come here to show and sell their paintings.
To close out the evening, visit one of the neighboring bars for a nice cold Chang beer and listen to some live music from the comfort of your hammock or lounge chair. Cheers!
7. Raft through Tham Lod Cave
The Tham Lod Cave is a stunning cave complex that consists of three chambers, remarkable rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and pillars.
Moreover, there’s an underground river which you can cross on a bamboo raft.
The distance between Pai and Lod Cave is about 40 kilometers, across a beautiful winding mountain road.
A tour of all of three of the cave chambers and bamboo rafts will cost 450 THB.
8. Visit the Chinese viewpoint
Just outside Pai’s center, you'll find a small ethnically Chinese community built on a mountain slope.
On top of the mountain is a small viewpoint (Yun Lai Viewpoint), which is the perfect spot for enjoying a nice cup of green tea while overlooking Pai.
You can also visit this viewpoint at sunrise, which is very popular among Thai tourists.
Despite the hour, you’ll find them taking one selfie after another while impeccably dressed. A nice and amusing way to start your day.
9. Eat Khao Soi
Khao Soi is Thailand’s number one lunch meal; a creamy, yellow, coconut-flavored curry mixed with egg-noodles and soft, braised chicken.
You can add extra spices such as onion, chili or vegetables to add even more flavor.
Although khao soi is pretty much on every menu, I recommend having Khao Soi at either the Duang Restaurant or Nong Beer where the taste is fantastic.
Prices are low (only 40 THB per bowl!) Aroi mak mak!
10. Enjoy your coffee
Besides the tranquil surroundings and nature, Pai is also known for its excellent food traditions.
There are many trendy places to eat, mainly focussed on coffee and healthy foods.
Our favorite place to have breakfast is the Lemon Thyme Café, a small café that serves some divine French toast, poached eggs, and shakshouka.
Pai’s lunch hotspot is the Om Garden Café, which is located in a beautiful garden and serves healthy meals and sweet cakes. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
Then I recommend Earth Tone because of it super healthy salads and tempeh sandwiches.
How to Get to Pai Thailand
- Pai is about 80 km from Chiang Mai. You can get to Pai by flying or driving.
- Kan Air flies three times a week from Chiang Mai to Pai – it is only a 25-minute flight and is quite reasonable.
- Public buses leave hourly from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station.
- Mini Buses can be booked at travel agents and guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- One-way scooters can be rented from Chiang Mai to Pai. – We have driven this route and it is fine, but be sure to have experience on a motor scooter before you decide to drive in Thailand.
Where to stay in Pai, Thailand
There are many places to stay in Pai. Most backpackers choose to get a place downtown Pai to be close to amenities and nightlife.
But Pai also has lovely resorts along the Pai River that are still close to downtown but much quieter.
Search TripAdvisor for Pai Hotel Reviews and bookings.
Check out Booking.com for more Pai hotels
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Have you been to Pai? What are your favorite things to do. Share them in the comments below.
Mariska van Brederode is an expert on Thailand and helps other Thailand-lovers prepare for their trip to Thailand. She is from The Netherlands and travels to Thailand for six months of every year to look for the best destinations, like Pai.