PAI once a quiet village is now a thriving town, situated between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai and offers so much for the intrepid traveler due to its landscape boasting waterfalls, hot springs, and many mountains.
Many backpackers flock to Pai due to its stunning scenery and culture along with its many hill tribes and elephant camps.
Pai is north-west of Chiang Mai and only 150km from the Myanmar border and lies on the river Pai, its last known population count was less than 2,500. Originally Pai was a quiet market village highly influenced through Burmese culture however today is a completely different story.
Traveling through Pai you will notice many guest houses, shops, and restaurants all catering for the many tourists that flock there. Many resorts have also utilized the hot springs and feed hot water directly into their luxury villas and bungalows and even public swimming pools. No longer is it unusual to see 7-11s and beer bars most of which playing live music, however saying that it doesn’t seem to have affected the people or their culture and overall I would say this place is a peaceful, welcoming and a highly interesting place to visit.
Speaking to the locals you get a real sense of their love and commitment to their home many talks of past sufferings and previous problems with flooding and landslides due to Pai’s location but in talking it’s always turned back to their resolution and how together they have rebuilt their homes, houses and their Pai.
Pai previously was somewhere adventurous foreign tourists may travel but now you see many Thai tourists, locals inform me this is due to some popular Thai movies being filmed in the area and during their high season the town is bursting at the seams with many Asian visitors.
Pai Canyon is one of the many things to see and it really does showcase the surrounding countryside and is a beautiful place to watch the sunset due to its stunning backdrop.
Trekking through Pai you will see many hill tribes and villages one of which is the Chinese Village which roots exists from settlers who escaped communist rule in their homeland setting up shops selling Chinese tea and health aids, its well worth a look.
Pai is also home to Huai Nam Dang National Park and many temples including Wat Klang which is situated close to the bustling night market.
Be sure to check out one of its many waterfalls, in particular, I recommend Mo Paeng, it’s a little easier to get too and during the dry season the upper section of the waterfall becomes a natural water slide as the rocks here are smooth.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous Pai still has a lot to offer with the likes of tubing, rafting, and zip-line adventures and after all that you can relax in one of its many hot springs like Tha Pai Hot Springs and as long as you get there before 18.00 you can relax and enjoy until after sunset.
For me Pai has quite a bohemian feel to the place may be due to its travelers passing through also and the market areas seem to have a hippie-influence with many local handicrafts on offer.
After the sunsets, there is no need to sleep early as Pai also boasts many restaurants and cool bars playing live music with many reggae style places providing the perfect setting to relax and end your day.
By Paul Johnson