Before leaving on this trip, I asked for advice from all my friends who had ever travelled to Thailand. There was one specific place that every single one of them said I had to go. Some of them even said this place changed their lives. They were talking about the little mountain valley town of Pai, in northern Thailand.
The most common way to get to Pai from Bangkok is to take an overnight train to Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand. If we had more time we would have spent a few days exploring Chiang Mai, but we wandered the city for half the day and then caught a shared shuttle ride to take the winding 3 hour road to Pai. A friend had told us to rent motorbikes for the journey, but several people on the train had lifted eyebrows at us when we told them that was our plan and asked “have you ever seen this road before?” We decided to error on the side of caution, especially since we didn’t get beds on the night train and I was running on about 2 hours sleep. When we experienced the extreme winding turns and steep grades of this road, we were really thankful we didn’t rent the scooters!
We got out of the van and any nausea caused by the drive was instantly overpowered by my excitement for the extreme quaintness of the town. We walked down the main “walking street” and passed by adorable little restaurants, craft shops, and bars. It looked like a little exotic fairy-tale village. We were planning on staying at the Pai Circus School Hostel but didn’t exactly know how to get there. A friendly guy working at a restaurant asked if we needed a ride and insisted we hop in his vintage WWII era motorbike with a sidecar. We accepted and puttered up the hill with him to our hostel, where we were welcomed by a green field with a pool and a little village of bungalows. All around us young travelers were engaged with AcroYoga, juggling, and sun bathing. The average age looked to be about 21. I felt old at my mature age of 24! ;)
Over the next few days we rented motorbikes and explored as many beautiful destinations as possible. In the evenings we’d walk around the town and meet other friendly travelers. It was amazing to turn any given corner and hear 3 or 4 different languages. Pai is a buzzing hub of young travelers. Though the downtown area of Pai seemed extremely touristy to me, the creative atmosphere and friendliness of the community made up for it. So did the beautiful landscapes surrounding the town that are a short scooter ride away. Here are some of my favorite things to do or places to see in Pai!
Rent A Scooter and Drive to Mor-Pang Water Fall
Witness the entertaining nightlife and listen to all the different languages!
Visit the Treehouse Hotel
Make friends with an elephant!
Hike the high, narrow paths in The Canyon.
To sum it all up, Pai is a little hippie wonderland in the mountains where young travelers flock to explore and meet one another. Though increasingly touristy, Pai has a special creative and relaxed vibe that you don’t find in most other travel destinations. It’s a beautiful little place that will stand out in your memory. Definitely a must-see if you go to Thailand!
Have you ever been to Pai? Heard of it? Comment below!