Set within a tranquil countryside setting, the small town of Pai is a hippie backpackers heaven.
The bike ride from Chiang Mai alone is enough to win you over. With 762 corners and steep roads, the ride is as exhilarating as it is picturesque.
Pai itself has nothing for miles around and the peaceful surroundings is certainly a welcome break. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do, though, as there’s hot springs to explore, bamboo bridges to walk over and a canyon to climb.
Bike Ride from Chiang Mai
The journey to Pai is long. With uncountable corners along undulating mountain roads, the ride would be hell in a car, but on a motorbike it’s brilliant.
Unfortunately the weather in Northern Thailand is very temperamental, so we got soaked on our journey from Chiang Mai. Despite this, it was still an unforgettable ride and we managed to get much better weather on our return. Besides, biking in the rain is certainly better then being thrown about in a bus!
Sai Ngam Hot Springs
Although this may sound like a crazy idea in such a hot country, the climate in Northern Thailand is much cooler, so the Hot Springs were very much welcomed. Although it was packed with tourists, it was still relaxing and we spent hours chatting in the bath-temperature waters.
In 2009, a farmer on the outskirts of Pai awoke to find his farm land split in two. An overnight earthquake quite literally halved his fields, rendering them useless.
Ingeniously, he turned it into a tourist attraction. Asking for just a small donation, you can explore his land and see for yourselves this natural phenomenon. At the end of the tour, the ex-farmer will also bring you tea and snacks.
Originally built so monks could cross the rice paddies to a temple, the Bamboo Bridge now draws visitors who want to explore this unique pathway.
The charm of these bridges is easy to see, as the ground cracks as you walk and you can even see where people’s feet have fallen through.
There’s also a cafe where you can sit back, relax and take in the tranquil rice paddies.
Only a short scooter ride from the centre, the canyon is a must visit. It’s undisputedly the best place in Pai to catch sunset, as it offers 360 degree views of the beautiful countryside.
The canyon itself is spectacular. After a short walk up a dusty track, a magnificent vista is revealed. You can venture out from the main viewing platform along the canyon on extremely narrow, slippery paths. We wore sensible footwear (flip-flops) and were consequently sliding all over the place.
Pai Town Centre
Another reason Pai is so popular with backpackers is everywhere in the town is easily walkable, meaning your stumble home from the bar isn’t too far. After bustling Chiang Mai, the centre of Pai felt tiny, but this is certainly part of its charm. Restaurants, shops and bars fill the small streets.
Every evening, a food market takes to the street offering incredible, cheap street food. Items include tender meat skewers, gyozas and pizza. If this isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of cheap restaurants to feast in.
The street party continues into the plentiful bars, flooded with thirsty backpackers making the most of drink deals. We had some epic nights out in Pai and met heaps of other likeminded travellers.
Numerous travellers recommended to us Common Grounds and we can see why. Right in the centre of town and full of friendly backpackers, we had an incredible stay. Every night, they organised nights out and there was a great relaxed atmosphere.
We also spent one night at Paitopia, as we wanted to spend some time in the amazing countryside. Our cabin was very basic, but the views from the room were phenomenal.