The view of Pai Canyon close to sunset. Photo Credit: Yone L
The view of Pai Canyon just before sunset. Photo Credit: Yone L

 

Here’s a little bit of random curiosity for you, “Pai” in Brazilian Portuguese means Father!

But in Thailand..Pai (Thai: ปาย) is a small town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, near the Myanmar border, about 146 km northwest of Chiang Mai on the northern route to Mae Hong Son. Guess I’ve been in Chiang Mai or rather in Northern Thailand long enough that eventually this was a trip that needed to happen. When meeting other travellers/backpackers/transients I often got asked if I have ever been to Pai. I did get a lot of mixed reviews about it but one general consensus was that it is;

  1. Very very chilled out
  2. Hippy-esque (yes that is a word. Museflux says it is)
  3. Hipster in other moments

Luckily as again fate would have it another friend that lives in Chiang Mai has never been to Pai! I joked and said that perhaps we should plan to go together and see. Reconnecting with nature seems like a great option and I guess because it was just so unplanned the trip I felt it might be a great way to reinvigorate myself. I currently have some new opportunities & ideas coming to me and a new ambience might help stir the thought process up a bit!

 

So off for a weekend in Pai…

My friend and I were also always throughly amused by the nu bossa/jazz covers of pop songs at some of the cafes we went. if you really pay attention to certain lyrics of some songs there are some wacky lines out there. Walking around town (not high season yet) wasn’t too crowded and we found accommodation easily inside the town. For a first trip we opted to stay closer to the main road. At a cozy new guesthouse called Chill Lom.

Quick facts:

          • Pai is 3.5 hours away by mini-van. I got my tickets at Chill Inn Guesthouse inside the Old City for 160 THB. Pick-up was at 7-7:30am and we arrived around 11am. Found out later that the minivan company is actually Aya Transport!
          • The road to Pai though has 762 curves it was also pretty well maintained from what I saw! I don’t get motion sickness so if you do, pack a motion sickness pill!
          • The return ticket for Chiang Mai to Pai was 150 THB. I also got it at Aya Transport office on the main road
          • Motorbike rental starts at 100 THB for 115cc, 200 THB for 125cc. !Please! if you choose to rent a motorbike wear your helmet! Your passenger as well..I saw a fair number of people with bandages or splints…it’s not worth it!
          • This little city is a lovely starting point before going to the surrounding area for nature treks.

 

Here is a bit of a rundown of what I did over the weekend to perhaps give you an general idea about what is Pai.

Things to do..(should you have only a weekend):

          • Eating..a lot..Pai knows good food! Western food and Thai food galore for all budgets
          • Massage, massage, massage…1 hour Thai Massage the cheapest we found was 150 THB and then a Oil Massage is the cheapest was 250 THB
          • Chill…OUT. What is lovely about Pai is that it had all the basic conveniences around and to just get lost in the natural beauty of wild Thailand was just a short walk away
          • Hiking and admiring the green sloping hills. Appreciating nature is a must. Feels good to reconnect and ground!

 

 

Sights seen:

On day 1 we went to Pae Mok Waterfall + Pai Canyon by taxi. It was 400 THB in total for the round trip. We thought this would be a safer choice then risking riding the motorbike uphill and the cost was going to be the same..as motorbikes are 200 THB per day. On day 2 we woke up early in the morning and hiked from the town to the White Buddha.

 

 

 

 

 

      • Pae Mok Waterfall The next day I slept in, got some work done before going into nature exploration mode. I had done a quick search the night before about the waterfalls in the area and a few bloggers had mentioned that the Pae Mok Waterfall was less crowded and more interesting to visit. This is definitely the better choice if you are looking for to just chill out by the waterfall to swim, wade, meditate or read a good book to the soothing sound of the water flowing. One thing that I liked a lot about visiting the waterfall is that it was kept pretty clean..it’s so disheartening going to see some sights and they are spoiled by rubbish that is left behind. Tip: There is a side trail from the waterfall that goes up and around. There are better pools to swim and chill at. Just be careful not to slip, I would recommend using better hiking shoes.
      • Pai Canyon According to one of the tour agencies on the main strip in Pai said that the canyon is more a place to go check out the sunset. To be fair it was but just walking around the canyon itself is like a newbie parkour’s dream I imagine! Getting there a little earlier, around 5pm for the sunset is definitely worth it to walk around and enjoy the sweeping panoramic views. Wear proper shoes and be careful not to slip! I slipped twice and ironically it was on flat ground. Safer eh? I did have a lot of fun trying to navigate through the crags of the canyon though. Reminds me of when I did the 2 day trek in Vang Vieng, Laos.
      • Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) & White Buddha The Buddha might be the very first thing that you spot when looking out at the vista from Pai. But there is also a temple on the top! Again we opted to hike up to the White Buddha as it was only 2km away. Plus the scenery on the way was just so captivating it was much more enjoyable to just soak all the charm at a slower gait. From the base of the temple gate it’s about another 20-30minute walk up the steps to which you can choose to do it on a power run or better yet take it as a walking meditation. At the top of the steps you will no only see the beautiful white buddha but all an awesome panoramic view of the area. From the mountains in the distance to the rice fields and the small houses.

 

 

Where to eat/drink:

There are many places to share but for now I will only share the places that I’ve been to. For more places check the map I have posted on the bottom.

 

 

  • NIGHT MARKET…this one is a no-brainer. Especially after hiking around all day if you walk around the night market there are just so many goodies on the way that it is irresistible to not indulge in more than one snack. Really from beef lasagna (120 THB) to biryani chapati (90 THB) to an avocado with tomato bruschetta (40 THB). We were slightly spoilt for choice on what to eat.
  • Charlie & Lek – Thai food and they also offer cooking classes! I recommend trying the Papaya Pad Thai and the Stir Fried Sunflower Sprouts.
  • Art in Chai – great cake and Chai tea! On Tuesday’s they offer live music as well.
  • Carrot on the Moon – a must go place for brunch and even cake!
  • Earthtone Vegetarian Food – I LOVED THIS PLACE. The ambience and the food! I’m not a vegetarian but I totally enjoy the food options here, don’t fret something on their diverse menu will peek your appetite.
  • Top 5 Café – Great place for brunch, dinner or work even. Had a delicious mushroom pesto baguette here..YUM…
  • Spirit Bar – Located on the main strip, it is down a very small alleyway so to find it keep an eye out for a right-triangle shaped sign saying “PM Spirit Shop Jewelry and Gemstones”

That’s a wrap for Pai! Hopefully this info is of use or to even give you a few extra reasons to visit Northern Thailand.

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