What to see in Pai – Avocado toast

We live in the age of comfort, in the age of the here and now. Every day we travel farther and farther, but wherever we go we hope to have everything we have at home at hand. And to do that, we transform the world and let the world transform. And so, day by day, we’re all a little bit more alike. Reflections awakened by this route through Pai, a province that I liked as much as it made me think. But let’s go by parts.

En un mirador en el cañón de Pai (Tailandia)

En un mirador en el cañón de Pai (Tailandia)

The last time we spoke, we had just spent a few days in Chiang Rai, the province of North Thailand which is much more than its white temple. Chiang Rai was the first stop on this journey through northern Thailand, but not the only one. Pai would be our next target.

Index of contents

How to get to Pai

First of all, tell you that Pai is one of the most fashionable towns in these parts, so you will not lack options to get there. The best starting point to face this stage will be Chiang Mai, from where you can find taxis, tours … even airplanes! in this direction. But if you prefer something cheaper, then take advantage of the minivans that depart every few hours from the Chiang Mai Arcade bus station.

View transport from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Estación de Minivans a Pai en la Chiang Mai Arcade (Tailandia)

Estación de Minivans a Pai en la Chiang Mai Arcade (Tailandia)

From 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with frequent opening hours, vans from the Prempracha company depart for Pai. The trip takes about 3 hours and the road is an infinite succession of curves, but the reality is that, both to the outward and to the return, thanks to the surprising delicacy of our drivers, it was not necessary to lament dizziness. Plus, halfway through, you’ll make a sanitary stop. In this way we arrived at Pai around noon, with enough energy to begin the search for accommodation.

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Minivan en la ruta de Chiang Mai a Pai (Tailandia)

Minivan en la ruta de Chiang Mai a Pai (Tailandia)

Where to sleep in Pai

Round about the same idea: Pai is a VERY touristy town, so despite its size, the supply of accommodation (and gastronomy) is immense. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything booked because you will find it (there are more than 300 hotels in the area), although if you prefer to leave it tied up, here are some good options:

In the meantime, it is to be understood that Airbnb also has a lot to say. If you like to stay in local houses, here’s a suggestive discount.

25 € gift at Airbnb

If you settle for a shared room in a hostel, 7€ costs the bed in Baan Mai Sak accommodation.

See hostal Baan Mai Sak

A more intimate option to go with your partner is the Pai Country Hut, where for about 25€ a night you will sleep in idyllic bungalows by the river.

View hotel Country Hut

If you are more than a restaurant, about 100 euros costs the double at The Oia Pai Resort. A very unstable hotel.

See The Oia Pai Resort

The truth is that, with all the beauty we saw out there, we were not too good in our choice, so I preferred to recommend more contrasted options. Accommodated, it seemed like a good time to go out and see Pai.

Los bungalows son una de las mejores opciones de alojamiento en Pai (Tailandia)

Los bungalows son una de las mejores opciones de alojamiento en Pai (Tailandia)

The locality of Pai

If you’ve been to Indonesia, maybe you’ll understand if I tell you that the village of Pai reminded me a lot of Ubud. If you haven’t been to Indonesia, then I’ll tell you that Pai is a town with charm but little personality, one of those towns that Asians make so that any tourist in the world can feel comfortable.

Turistas paseando por la calle Weing Tai (Pai, Tailandia)

Turistas paseando por la calle Weing Tai (Pai, Tailandia)

Although the province of Mae Hong Son “drove me crazy”, the village of Pai left me a strange aftertaste. And it is that, although it is beautiful, it is well cared for and has a tourist offer for all tastes, I feel a certain impotence to see how we all go in the same direction to the detriment of the essence of the places.

Opinions of romantic traveler on the sidelines, Pai is today one of the backpacker destinations par excellence in Thailand, a place where tourists, locals dedicated to tourism and a deep-rooted hippie community coexist.

Una moto por una de las calles comerciales de Pai (Tailandia)

Una moto por una de las calles comerciales de Pai (Tailandia)

The best thing the village has to offer is a walk along the river of the same name and the bridges that cross it…

… as well as a market on the main street which at night is filled with food stalls. Try lasagna and avocado toast, first warning.

Mercado nocturno (night market) de Pai (Tailandia)

Mercado nocturno (night market) de Pai (Tailandia)

Dinners where you have dinner, dinner well, because another of the plans to do in the town of Pai is to party. If it suits you, come to this area at night, where you’ll find plenty of leisure options until 12 AM. If you want more, the Don’t Cry bar is open until 3 AM. It’s not that I’m a nightlife lover, but in places with such a mix of culture it’s always fun.

Noche de fiesta en la discoteca Don't Cry de Pai (Tailandia)

Noche de fiesta en la discoteca Don't Cry de Pai (Tailandia)

But, as I said, the best thing to see in Pai is not Pai, but Mae Hong Son, the province in which it is located. So get on a motorbike and go around.

How to move around Pai

A motorcycle? Yes, I imagine you already know, but if you don’t know, in Asia in general and in Thailand in particular it’s almost as easy and cheap to rent a motorcycle as a bicycle, and in Pai’s case it’s an almost obligatory option. And it is that, despite the curvilinear road that leads there, once you get to Pai, the surrounding roads are quite decent and there is little traffic, so even if you do not have much or no experience on two wheels, you can get it.

Would you rather go by car? Rent it on this website

Ruta en moto hacia las Sai Ngam Hot Spring, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

Ruta en moto hacia las Sai Ngam Hot Spring, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

And as proof Amaia, who without having hardly taken a motorcycle in her life, spent two days enjoying the possibilities that a vehicle like this gives in a place like this. About 7 euros, including gasoline, cost us each of the bike days we rented at Pai. Plus the 12 of the fine.

The ticket? Yes, the fine. You may not know it, but there is one thing called an international driver’s license that you are sometimes asked to rent a car abroad. In Thailand they don’t ask for it, since you can take the motorcycles without any control, but there are “random controls” of police for this reason. Controls curiously located at the exit of Pai, right on the way to the gas station (motorcycles are usually delivered without gasoline), a point where you have to pass YES or YES to start your route.

Motos repostando en una gasolinera a la salida de Pai (Tailandia)

Motos repostando en una gasolinera a la salida de Pai (Tailandia)

Come on, a tourist trap. Up to 20 foreigners gathered at the same time at the police station to pay for the touristada. It was so much fun, that even the police laughed with (us). We found everything so absurd and funny that it didn’t even hurt to pay the fine, although we lost a lot of time for this reason. If you want to avoid it, get an international card. If you don’t do it and it’s your turn to support, the police will give you a paper that you can theoretically use as a temporary card in Thailand for a week.

By the way, the motorcycle is, without a doubt, the funniest option to visit this province, but NOT the cheapest if you are going to visit all the typical places. And it is that, the tours of day in van by the zone cost 600 baths (approximately 20 euros) and include the entrances. But if on your own you visit all those places paying the entrance, besides the bike, you get even more expensive. Now, being able to go your way and stop wherever you want… is priceless.

Are you going to take a motorcycle? Don’t forget travel insurance

Recorriendo en moto las carreteras de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

Recorriendo en moto las carreteras de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

What to see in the surroundings of Pai

Put in context, I go already with my list of recommendations of everything you can do in Pai, which is a lot. If you do the route on a motorbike, keep in mind that long journeys can make you heavy and that moving at night is not recommended, so think carefully about your movements. To help you with your homework, I’m going to try to organize your route as best I can.

Tham Lot Cave

I start with the first thing we visited, which is also the furthest away from Pai, about 50 km (about an hour and a half by motorcycle). A considerable effort, but it’s worth it. I would lie if I told you that I have visited many caves in the world, but I admit that this one impressed me greatly. Not for nothing Tham Lot is Thailand’s LARGEST cave, 1700 meters long. So immense is that place that there’s even room for a river inside.

La cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

La cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

450 Baths (about 14 euros) costs the entrance for three people, including a guide and his lamp, and the boat ride for each trio. If you go in groups of more or less or people, don’t do like us and join other tourists to not pay more.

Oficina de Tickets para entrar a la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Oficina de Tickets para entrar a la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Despite the considerable outlay, the four of us enjoyed the walk through that immense cave full of stalactites, stalagmites and bats. It was amusing to see how the guides were taking out reasonable resemblances to all the rocks we came across, although sometimes it was necessary to give too much imagination.

Estalagmitas en la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Estalagmitas en la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

My favorite part was the mini-trip in a bamboo “gondola” along the Nam Lang river that runs through the cave, an absolutely crowded river of fish of more than considerable size. Maybe the only predator they have around is the wild tourist.

Recorriendo en barca la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Recorriendo en barca la cueva de Tham Lot (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Important, if you see the cave during the evening (you can hire roundtrip tours in the afternoon), you can attend the change of guard: the moment when the bats go out to eat and the birds go to sleep. All in all, one of the places to see in Pai.

Sai Ngam Hot Spring

Go ahead as they are not the only hot springs in this area, but we chose to pay the just over 200 Baths (6 euros) per person it costs to access the Sai Ngam Hot Spring. I imagine you have ever been in a thermal water, but if this is not the case, tell you that it is a natural pool of hot water.

Sai Ngam Hot Spring son unas termas cerca de Pai, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

Sai Ngam Hot Spring son unas termas cerca de Pai, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

The road to there is beautiful (they are inside a natural park), and I really wanted to get lost on one of those trails.

Alrededores de Sai Ngam Hot Spring, unas termas cerca de Pai, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

Alrededores de Sai Ngam Hot Spring, unas termas cerca de Pai, en la provincia de Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

But just taking a dip in that pool and relaxing a little was also a good plan. If you will allow me some advice, try to go to the hot springs as soon as possible because with the passing of the day it is full of tours.

Mo Paeng Waterfall

As there are several hot springs, there are also many waterfalls to see in Pai, although Mo Paeng is one of the most renowned. Its price is 100 Baths (3 euros) per beard, but as we did not feel like soaking again, we took advantage of the trip there to eat in the area. And what a success. 5 minutes from the entrance of the waterfall is this garage where the food was as good as the views and the price. Even if we dispense with the waterfall, none of us miss it.

Santichon Village – The “Chinese” People

Back in the days of Mao Tse-Tung, a few Chinese fled the repressions of their country and tried to seek life in other countries. Some arrived in Thailand, and a small part of that group settled here.

Paseando por el pueblo chino de Santichon Village, muy cerca de Pai (Tailandia)

Paseando por el pueblo chino de Santichon Village, muy cerca de Pai (Tailandia)

Now, although the history surrounding this town may be interesting, get used to the idea that today Santichon Village has become a theme park for tourists. Let’s go that more than a traditional Chinese village reminded me of the Chinese area of Port Aventura. So, from my point of view, interest has zero, it is saved that barely 10 minutes separate him from Pai…

Castillo en el pueblo chino de Santichon Village, muy cerca de Pai (Tailandia)

Castillo en el pueblo chino de Santichon Village, muy cerca de Pai (Tailandia)

… and that nearby is a decent viewpoint, the Yun Lai Viewpoint. Otherwise, in my opinion, one more than expendable stop.

Pai Canyon – Kong Lan

If I tell you that the Chinese people are expendable, I’ll tell you that Pai’s cannon is just the opposite. What a wonderful place!

Caminos del cañón de Pai, Kong La (Tailandia)

Caminos del cañón de Pai, Kong La (Tailandia)

Although the surroundings of Pai are a continuous succession of purely Asian landscapes, the canyon surprises precisely because it is completely different. Free of charge (for now), this Kong Lan (in Thai) is one of the best sunset viewpoints in the area.

Sol de atardecer en el cañón de Pai (Tailandia)

Sol de atardecer en el cañón de Pai (Tailandia)

However, do not be blinded by its spectacularity and attractiveness: the security measures in this place are 0, something that in a place like this with so much tourism seems to me a recklessness. Any false step in the canyon could be the last thing you do. So, please, common sense, don’t play for any photos and always travel insured.

5% discount on your travel insurance

Mother’s advice on the sidelines, enjoy it, because it really is an exceptional landscape. One of the best places to see in Pai.

Paseando por el cañón de Pai, Kong La (Tailandia)

Paseando por el cañón de Pai, Kong La (Tailandia)

The bamboo bridge – Boon Ko Ku So

To finish this route through Pai, as much as we liked the bamboo bridge, another of the attractions of this North Thai region. Although it is also a common destination between tours, if you are going to go by motorcycle do so with special care. And it is that, although all the routes that I have presented to you until now have more than acceptable roads, the final stretch that takes you to the bamboo bridge is something more complex, with enough slopes and an asphalt in not very good conditions.

That said, once you’re there, you’re gonna love it. In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about our time at Boon Ko Ku So… is the little time we were able to devote to it! For travel matters, we were barely an hour touring him, though I could have thrown him out all morning.

Recorriendo el puente de bambú cerca de Pai (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Recorriendo el puente de bambú cerca de Pai (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Behind the tourist usufruct that now has the bridge, the reason for its existence is none other than to allow the monks of the most remote temples to go to the towns in the area.

Caseta en el puente de bambú cerca de Pai (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

Caseta en el puente de bambú cerca de Pai (Mae Hong Son, Tailandia)

The bamboo bridge itself is as amazing (I am flip-flopped by the resilience of this material), as is the landscape on which it rises. The Boon Ko Ku Su is not there for fluvial reasons, but it flies over the rice fields planted there. Beautiful picture!

By the way, the Bamboo Bridge is not the only famous bridge to see in Pai. There is also the Memorial Bridge, a bridge bombed during World War II that is also tourist meat. We didn’t have time to visit him, but many recommend him.

Puente de bambú en Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

Puente de bambú en Mae Hong Son (Tailandia)

This bamboo bridge was the last thing we stepped on in this route through Pai and surroundings. A locality that, despite the aforementioned tourist transformation it faces, still conserves in its surroundings the essence of a unique continent. Our next stop would be Chang Mai, a city that surprised us with the beautiful Loy Krathong Light Festival. But that’s what we talked about in the next post, okay?

More useful information in our travel guide to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore

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