by Catherine Vanesse
Small town in northern Thailand, halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, Pai is a quiet little town in the heart of the mountains. Because of the beauty of its landscapes, its pleasant climate and the many traditional villages around it, Pai is worth a look, sometimes risking staying longer than expected.
1. Testing the Craziest Road in Thailand
With its 762 turns on a little less than 130 kilometers, the road that connects Paï and Chiang Mai is considered the wildest of the kingdom, but also one of the most beautiful. If most people travel by bus, allow 3 hours minimum travel time and possibly plan some pills against travel sickness for the most sensitive.
For the more adventurous, it is possible to rent a scooter in Chiang Mai and leave it in Paï, agencies even take care of your luggage in charge, so no need to lug your bag on the back. By motorcycle it is necessary to foresee 4 hours of road, to which you will certainly add a few stops to appreciate the sight.
2. Enjoy a movie set
The films “Pai in Love” (Thailand – 2009) and “Lost in Thailand” (China – 2012) shot, all or part of the scenes of their film in Paï, two films that in their respective country popularized the small town. It is necessary to say indeed that the landscape is magnificent in the region with the river that crosses the valley and around which articulate the city and the surrounding mountains. Be sure to check out the views of Paï. Early in the morning, go to the “Pai in Love” cafe, 5 km from the town, the best spot to observe the summit of the mountains that emerge from the mist while for the sunset, the temple of Mae Yen is more adequate.
3. Hot days and cool nights
Want to sleep rolled up in a big blanket and sleep without a ventilator or air conditioning? With its more contrasting temperatures between day and night, Paï is a perfect destination for those who would like to enjoy a little coolness with temperatures that can drop below 10 degrees at night in December and January while during afternoon, it’s about 25 degrees, which is nice, but not too hot. The air is also much drier, far away from the damp heat of Bangkok. And if the mornings are a bit too fresh for you, go for a ride to Tapai hot springs, a delight. As the climate is different, there is also a choice of fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, avocados or apples.
4. A return to nature
Treks in the jungle, afternoons at the feet of waterfalls, hot springs, canyon, descent of the river on bamboo boats, yoga, meditation … In Paï, no shopping malls, cinema or discotheques (which does not stop you from partying in one of the many bars). Here what predominate is nature, unpolluted air and a clear sky which at nightfall invites you more to observe the stars than to dance all night. The possibilities of walks in the area are unlimited, on foot, by bicycle or by scooter, lose yourself in the small paths or take the more secure option with a trek organized in the jungle accompanied by a guide.
5. Budget friendly
While tourism in Paï continues to grow, prices remain very soft for your wallet because even in high season it is possible to find a bungalow near the river for 200 baht per night without booking in advance. The clothes and other souvenirs offered on the Walking Street vendors’ stalls are affordable (more than at Khao San Road for example), similar to food, especially Western food, a huge portion of Lasagne at 100 baht, who could not be tempted?
Text by Catherine Vanesse