Pai, the hippie village of the North.
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
Pai is a hippie village in the north of Thailand. About 130 kilometers north from Chiang Mai. There is really only one right way to go, leave your backpack in Chiang Mai, rent a scooter or motorbike, and let the fun begin. The last 80 kilometers consists of 762 bends, so enjoy it. Fortunately the roads are quite quiet so nothing to worry about. The most beautiful views, jungle, and even cows in the middle of the road make this route unforgettable.
I recommend that you stay at least 3 nights in Pai as there is a lot to experience.
We stayed in "the Countryside Pai" in the middle of the rice fields, so a very pleasant environment to relax. This is necessary, as Pai is known for its hippie and backpack culture, so a night out is almost inevitable. The most fun way for us was to go tubing during the day. This way you will meet fellow travelers and afterwards you can go to the bar together. Tubing is very cheap but not necessarily one of the best tubing experiences in Asia. But for 150 Baht (2022) it is the ideal opportunity to meet fellow backpackers.
The central point of Pai is Chai Songkhram Road. Here you will find many bars, restaurants, cafes and there is even a nice market every evening with eateries and souvenirs scattered across the street. We found the big advantage of Pai that the prices are nice and low compared to other cities in Thailand, which makes backpacking very enjoyable.
Fortunately, in addition to the nightlife, there is more than enough to explore in and around Pai. However, it is recommended to visit this with your own scooter as the hotspots are not close to each other. Some of our favorite hot spots were as follows:
Bamboo Bridge (Boon Ko Ku So Bridge):
We loved this place. It was wonderfully quiet and a perfect place to admire farm life such as the rice fields from the 800 meter long bamboo bridge. Depending on the season, the colors can of course vary, we were there at the end of the dry season, so unfortunately the rice plants were not as green as they could be. But still a pleasant place, and very well suited for an insta-worthy photo :). Entry costs 30 Baht and guarantees a beautiful walk across the fields.
Pai Canyon (Kong Lan):
The Pai Canyon, also known as Kong Lan offers a beautiful high canyon right through nature. The most beautiful panoramic views will amaze you, and in my opinion this is the best place to admire the sunset. The Canyon can be visited approximately 8 km south of the village center.
You can take a long hike over the 30 meter high canyon walls, but beware: running shoes are a must and then it is still only suitable for the real adrenaline junkies. Enter at your own risk. Free entrance makes it a must see though. And the first part is safe for everyone to visit after a short 5-minute hike.
Tham Nam Lod Caves:
Tham Lod is a cave system with a length of 1666 meters, and can be reached from Pai in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. And believe me, the ride alone is worth it. beautiful views, blooming nature, and the real Thai farm life are clearly visible here.
The most important thing to keep in mind are the seasons. Because we went at the beginning of the rainy season, most of the cave system was flooded and therefore not accessible. This resulted in the fact that we could only visit a cave under the guidance of a sweet Thai woman with a hand lantern. Beautiful caves, and extra special knowing that the caves were already inhabited by the Hoabinhian tribe is 9000BC to 5500BC. The caves are open from 9am to 6pm, and the cost for our guide was 150 Baht.
Sai Ngam Hotsprings:
On the way back from the caves you will pass these hot springs, and it offers you a wonderfully relaxing moment after the scooter ride. Water temperature is very pleasantly warm and the water very clean. It is certainly not one of the prettiest hot springs, but it is guaranteed to provide a very relaxing moment. Since the hottsprings are located in a natural park, you are forced to pay an entrance fee for this national park, which is 200baht per person. There is 20baht on top for the scooter.
Pai Memorial Bridge:
This bridge is on the way back to Chiang Mai in the vicinity of the canyon so if you do pass by, please take a look. Especially interesting for those who are interested in war history. The bridge was built in World War II by the Japanese soldiers to reach Burma in their war campaign. The bridge is huge, especially considering that the wooden construction was dragged out of the jungle by elephants at the time. After the war, the Japanese destroyed the bridge, but since it was of great economic importance, it was later rebuilt by the Thai population.
Finally, there are some waterfalls to visit in the immediate vicinity of Pai. We visited some of them, but since the rainy season has only just started and there had been no water for a long time, they were not very special this time. But, depending on the season, it may still be worth it.