Pai is located in Northern Thailand, just 90 miles north of Chiang Mai. This picturesque town is a great place to escape the city life and just slow it down. It’s nestled in a valley, with the Pai River running though it and is full of photo opportunities.
When reading up on Pai, we read how laid back and slow-paced it was. Upon our arrival, there seemed to be quite a bit of hustle and bustle in the center. Scooters were zipping by everywhere and there was a good-sized street market as well. I have to admit, I didn’t fall in love instantly. I kept thinking, “Where is the sleepy quiet Pai?”
Well, we found that the following day, walking around town in the morning and exploring the surrounding area. Pai is a bit more touristy than I was hoping for, which also means prices are much higher than anticipated as well. There was a nice hippie granola vibe about the town and it is clear that it is still a backpackers paradise. While we liked Pai for a few day visit, I don’t think we would want to settle there for a long time.
Enjoy our photo essay – Perfectly Pai Thailand.
We just loved this bamboo bridge crossing the river. The supports are all bamboo as well as the weaving on the top. We were a bit unsure about the stability, but it was just fine. One side of the bridge is the walking street and town and on the other side are cute huts and bungalows for rent.
Along the walking street are many places to eat and chill. Hey you can even see the dogs are relaxed around town too.
Our friends and neighbors (Randy and Lori) from Chiang Mai, happened to be in town as well. We had a nice dinner out and a little bit of a walk around town. I don’t know how, but Randy managed to get Alan, our Resident Non-Foodie, to try grilled squid! Alan thought it tasted like a grilled rubber band and will not likely eat squid again.
We enjoyed our meals out and loved walking around town.
This was the municipal market that was buzzing upon our arrival on a Tuesday afternoon.
Surrounding the town were plenty of rice paddy fields and they were so gorgeous. It was a bit overcast and later rained for the remainder of our stay.
Pai – Wat Phra That Mae Yen
No matter where you are in Pai, you can see a big white Buddha on the hill, off in the distance. It was our mission to seek it out and explore. It was very easy to get there via car and it wouldn’t be so bad via bike or scooter either. You can also walk from town, but look out if it is hot, it is a long walk.
This was our favorite site around town for sure. At the bottom of the hill there is a sign with an arrow pointing cars one direction and walkers to go another. We of course were in the car, so followed the sign. We arrived at the parking lot, outside of Wat Phra That Mae Yen.
We looked up and could see the white Buddha with a couple hundred, newly created stairs between us and the top. They appeared to be constructing the stairs, so we requested permission to climb. We received the nodding heads and a wave of an arm, so up we went.
The view from the top was spectacular!
We descended back down to the parking lot and explored the Wat next. We then noticed there was another long set of aged and guarded stairs, up to the Wat from below. Ah, this must be where the “walking arrow” sends you. We loved it all!
We only had a couple of days there, but there are plenty more things to do in Pai!
Getting To Pai From Chiang Mai
There are a few options for experiencing the over 2 solid hours of 700+ turns through the mountains. We read horror stories about people being motion sick and Lars and I don’t do so well in that department.
Car – Once again, we opted to rent a car. As a family of 4 this was the most economical and flexible for us. We also have a little control over our speed, how often we stop and can even explore down side roads. We rented the car for 3 full days at 2000 baht ($61) and spent about 800 baht ($25) for fuel. The total for 4 of us was $86. With this, we had the flexibility and freedom to come and go on our own time schedule and stop and see the sights where ever we liked.
Scooter – This is likely the lowest cost option, but not likely the safest. On our journey to Pai, it did rain and the roads were slick. We passed a couple spun out scooters and Alan even stopped to help two girls on a scooter who had run off the road. The painted lines on the road are particularly slippery when wet. Just because it isn’t raining in Chiang Mai, doesn’t mean it isn’t in the mountains. If you do opt to take a scooter, they can be rented for an average of 150 – 200 Baht ($5-$7) per day. Do allow extra time for your journey and plenty of stops. This just wasn’t an option for us traveling with kids.
Bus – There are regular public buses which depart from the Arcade bus station on the NE side of Chiang Mai. Do factor in the fact that you will need to take a songthaew to the bus station so add 20 Baht ($.60) each way for that. Tickets are 150 Baht each way so 300 Baht ($10) round trip. The journey is about 3 hours and from what I read, is really the safest and best option via public transit. The larger buses need to drive a bit slower on the winding roads and overtake less often than the minibus. This is both good for motion sickness and safety.
We considered this option and if we selected it our total for 4 people would have been $40 for the round trip bus and $5 for the songthaew. We then would have rented 2 scooters in Pai to get around and see the sights at 200 Baht ($6) per day each. The grand total for transport for the 4 of us would have been $57.
Mini Bus – The mini bus seems to be the most efficient and quickest route to get to Pai. They usually will pick you up at your hotel or home and take you to Pai. The cost for this is about 450 Baht ($14) round trip. Sometimes they gather you and drop you at the Arcade bus station to load onto the minibus heading to Pai. On the return you have a choice of 2 drop off points, Tha Phae Gate or Chiang Mai Airport. You will then need to factor in the cost of a songthaew back to your place, about 20 Baht ($.60) for each person.
We didn’t even consider this option, but if we selected it, our total for 4 people would have been $56 for the round trip bus and $2.50 for the songthaew. We then would have rented 2 scooters in Pai to get around and see the sights at 200 Baht ($6) per day each. The grand total for transport for the 4 of us would have been $71.
Fly – There are flights from Chiang Mai to Pai, but my guess it the cost would be much higher and you likely wouldn’t save much time.
Have you been to Pai? Tell us about your trip.
Do you want to go to Pai? What is it that attracts you?