There’s just something about Pai. It is a place I had been longed to go for a while since I heard so many great things about this small town in northern Thailand.
As soon as I arrived, I immediately fell in love with this charming little town. Some people may have never heard of Pai before, but they have been to Chiang Mai many times. If you go to Chiang Mai but not Pai, you are missing out. The easiest way to go to Pai is to use AYA mini van service and it’s the only one service running between Chiang Mai and Pai. If you buy the tickets straight from AYA, it’s 150 baht one way, but hotels and travel agents might add 20-30 baht extra. AYA service will come and pick you up from your hotel. Don’t be alarmed if they come and pick you up with a truck; they are just taking you to the bus station. It’s a three hours ride from Chiang Mai and the first hour and half is pretty uneventful. But over 700 curves await next hour and a half. My friend and I left around 8 from Chiang Mai, and I didn’t have breakfast before I left to prepare the windy roads up to Pai. It’s very scenic on the way, and the van drivers stopped only once for 15 minutes on the way.
Upon arriving in Pai, the van stopped at AYA Travel service and that’s where the city center of Pai is. Unlike Chiang Mai, there are no public transportation. So you only have 3 options to get around:_ rent a bike, rent a scooter, or rent a car. There are many package tours to choose and they are 500 baht. But if you have more than 2 people, the best way is to rent a car and it’s probably cheaper than buying package tours and you can go at your own pace.
From the city center to our hotel, it’s less than a kilometer and I knew that we could definitely walk. But since our bags are a little heavy, we willingly paid 100 baht to go to our hotel. The first day we just walked around the town and checked things out and had massage. Pai river is about 500 m from the city center and I’d like to stay at one of the rivers by Pai river next time.
The next day our driver picked us up from the hotel by 7:45 a.m. and took us to different famous spots in Pai. Yhun Lai view point was one of the highlights of the trip. The weather was cool and the view was stunning. However, if you are going up there on a motorcycle or a bike, it might be quite challenging. You need to pay an entrance fee of 20 baht and you get a pot of nice warm tea. Sipping the tea as you look out across the fields below is well worth 20 baht. It is one of the best place to see sunrise so make sure to go there in the morning.
From the view point, the driver took us to Santichon Chinese Village. It’s not a real village, but sort of like a tourist trap. So skip it; you won’t miss anything.
Then we were off to a waterfall. Mor Paeng waterfall was very quiet but very average. The waterfall was nothing compared to what one would see in Kanchanaburi.
There are more than one hot springs in Pai, but the main one is overpriced, 300 baht per person. The one we went is only 20 baht per person but smaller and quieter. It’s about 4 km from the main road and if I were on a motorcycle, I would not be able to make it as the road was very steep and challenging. The hot spring is not hot but warm. It was a nice experience but the bathrooms were quite small and filthy so I had a hard time changing clothes. I was told by some tourists there that the main hot spring is more developed but very crowded.
After lunch, the driver took us back to the town to see the famous spots in Pai. Most places were worth the visit except from The Heart of Pai, Pai Waan hotel, Strawberry Farm, and Tree House. The Heart of Pai is a upside down small house in front of The Hart of Pai hotel and not sure why it is a famous spot, but I could understand it might be fun to take a picture of a upside down house.
But I don’t get the point why one would go to Pai Waan resort to take a picture of pink color splashing all around the resort. Apparently it is popular with Chinese tourists as there were many of them taking pictures at the resort. Mari Pai is another resort witha giant tree and the swing. It’s lovely there but I would hate to stay at the resort because I don’t want to be intruded by tourists who are not the guests of the resorts walking around, making noises, and taking pictures. Then another stop at Coffee in Love, a coffee shop with a nice view; we stopped to take some pictures and also had coffee. We made a quick stop at Strawberry Farm which is not very impressive.
Pai Canyon is the place to go for sunset but since we were heading back to Chiang Mai on the 5:30 van, we went to Pai Canyon around 2. Man, it was hot! If you are into hiking, you should walk where the paths go down and less than an hour, you would be back to the point where you started. It is very small but could be very slippery when it rains and scary for those with fear of heights. I am into hiking so decided to go down the path and asked my friend if she wanted to join or wait. She decided to join me. When we got to a point where it requires taking a huge step or a jump from one ridge to the other side, she had a mild panic attack. I tried to calm her down, but it was my first time encountering someone with a panic attack so didn’t exactly know what to do or say. Finally we did finish and I was so glad to go back to the car with no injuries whatsoever.
After a quick stop at the World War II memorial bridge, we came to Tree House to get something to eat before we went back to Chiang Mai. The service there was terrible and they sure didn’t know what they serve. My friend ordered French toast and they brought 2 pieces of garlic bread insisting that was French toast.
Our last stop in Pai was Mae Yen (White Buddha on the hill). Although stopping at different “famous spots” was a little annoying, I enjoyed my time in Pai. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t go to Lod Cave, but that is my excuse to go back to Pai.
Obviously one night wasn’t enough and saying goodbye so soon was a little bittersweet. Hope to see you soon, Pai!