What To Do In Pai
The thing we noticed about Pai is that it is all about doing, or not doing, whatever you want. Whether it’s going on a paid tour, exploring around Pai on your own, or just staying close for the day, it all works. Pai’s casual vibe was a welcome respite from the faster-paced Chiang Mai where we stayed for the majority of our time in the north of Thailand. Aside from finding great food in Pai, there are several other attractions we think are worth seeing while in Pai.
Since we had driven our scooter from Chiang Mai to Pai we already had transportation covered. If you took a bus, or another method for getting to Pai, not to worry, there are scooter rentals, bicycle rentals, taxis and tour options available. Just be conscious of the going rate and competitive pricing and bargain if possible.
Natural Attractions in Pai
Oftentimes, when travelling the tourist traps and attractions overshadow the natural beauty of a place. Sometimes, natural attractions are all but eliminated in order to make way for tourism. Pai, while being a popular and well-travelled tourist destination, amazingly still retains much of its natural state. Bright green rice fields, waterfalls, hot springs, picturesque mountain-scapes and even a canyon, Pai is a perfect place to escape and enjoy some of the most incredible natural attractions Northern Thailand has to offer.
While we were unable to spend a great deal of time at the canyon due to a fast-approaching thunderstorm, we managed to take a brief walk along the canyon’s treacherous looking paths after climbing the cement stairs to the top. Although it didn’t look like what one would think a typical canyon should look like, it was just as much of a heart-stopping view. Narrow paths winding through the tree tops with thousands of years of erosion causing some fairly dangerous looking areas with 100 ft drops on either side. With no rails or handholds at all, this is definitely not for the faint of heart and most certainly should only be attempted by the most sure-footed. We ended up taking a short walk along a less dangerous looking path with several feet of space between us and the edges. Carolann’s innate sense of survival (which she adamantly denies as being fear) prevented any attempt at the narrow paths, especially with the incoming storm.
It is definitely worth a visit, to take in the view from the canyon and even to check out the paths that are clearly still utilized. It’s only a short scooter drive from the walking street and the drive takes you through some beautiful scenery. With no admission fee, and only a short staircase to the top, it’s an interesting attraction and another one of the amazing natural views of Pai.
With scooter and bicycle rentals readily available, and at a decent price, one of the best things to do in Pai is simply explore the natural beauty surrounding the town. A bike ride will take you past rice paddy fields where you can see people working the fields of lush green vegetation. The mountainous backdrop adds to the beauty of the view and we enjoyed taking drives amongst the rice fields and through the mountainous roads around the center of Pai.
On one drive we decided to make our way to one of the waterfalls known to be in the area. We drove Northwest and found our way to Mor Peang Waterfall. The drive was a bit rocky and winding but we passed through several small village areas with locals as well as some beautiful natural scenery. It was mid-afternoon and pretty busy but it was still an interesting place to walk and visit. Though we didn’t go in the water, there were many people swimming and climbing the rocks of the waterfall. Additionally, there is Hua Chang Waterfall just east of Mor Peang, Pam Bok Waterfall near the canyon and the Pai Hot Springs to the Southeast of the town. For those looking for more of an adventure, Mae Yen Waterfall, located within the forested jungles of Pai, can be accessed only by foot. About 2km outside the centre of Pai (by scooter), the trek takes approximately 3 ½ hours and takes you to a rarely visited, pristine looking waterfall.
There are various marked trails to viewpoints accessible via motorbike. Some, like the viewpoint near the Chinese Village, require an entry fee around 20Baht. Others, also well-marked, are free. We decided to go on one of our adventures and find our own viewpoint. We climbed a rather steep hill a short ways away from the Mor Peang Waterfall and looked out. The over 180 degree view was stunning. A panorama of mountains, fields, vegetation and skyline. We highly suggest making your way to a viewpoint, marked or unmarked.
Other Attractions in Pai
Wat Phra That Mae Yen
Although we didnt’ get a chance to visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen, the temple on the mountain, it was difficult not to see the giant Buddha statue marking it’s location. From nearly any place in Pai the Buddha is visible on the distant mountain and we were fortunate to be able to learn more about it and see photos through our friends, the Wagoner’s blog post “Perfectly Pai Photo Essay”.
Pai Walking street
We mentioned the walking street when we discussed where to stay in Pai. Set up daily around 6pm, vendors line the man street in Pai with stands of food, souvenirs and goods. The smells of the food cooking wafts through the streets enticing those passing through and although the same vendors appear to pop up night after night, there seems to always be something new to see. While this is the main highlight of the night, you’ll definitely be far from bored exploring the stands each night and popping into different restaurants, cafes and bars as you go.
WWII Memorial Bridge
We decided to visit the memorial bridge on our way out of Pai. Located off Highway 1095, the route into and out of Pai from Chiang Mai, the memorial bridge serves as a reminder of the Japanese occupation in World War II where it was used by soldiers to transport goods across the border to Burma/Myanmar. The iron and wood bridge is now only for foot traffic for tourists visiting and provides an interesting historical landmark worth a quick visit while in Pai.
Enjoy & Relax
Like we mentioned, Pai makes you feel as though you should be doing, or not doing, whatever you want. On one of the days we were in Pai, we found ourselves relaxing. We strolled along the streets in the day time, stopping into a coffee shop for a quick break, continuing on for meals and exploring the centre of town. We relaxed on an outdoor patio for dinner and then headed to the walking street for another leisurely stroll amidst the vendors. It isn’t fast paced in Pai, despite the growing tourist economy there, and one of the benefits of this is the ability to just enjoy your surroundings and relax.
After reading our three part series on where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Pai, would this be a place you’d consider visiting? Comment below and let us know what you think!