Oh Pai. Where to begin?
To say that I loved Pai is an understatement. This lazy town is beautiful in personality and scenery. We were sat in our favourite cafe in Chiang Mai when we got chatting to a travel addict and she strongly recommended that we visit Pai whilst we were in North Thailand. If that wasn’t enough, a couple that we became really close to whilst in Chiang Mai were also visiting Pai and that was more than enough to convince us to visit. The 762 hair pin bends bus journey introduced us to the sheer beauty of Pai’s picturesque countryside backdrop and I immediately fell in love before we had even arrived in the small town.
Minutes from stepping off our mini van we bumped into a Scottish couple who kindly ushered us towards Breeze of Pai. A lonely planet recommended accommodation spot on the side of the sleepy river banks and close to the hustle and bustle of Pai’s walking street. At 500THB (approximately £12) a night, we were sold and very quickly offloaded our bags from our tired shoulders and went to explore the beautiful Pai. Our location couldn’t have been more perfect if we’d spent the entire day hunting for the best spot. We spent a total of 5 days in Pai and here are some of the amazing things that we got up to.
We hired and fueled a moped for a measly few pounds and ventured out to find some waterfalls. Mo Paeng was pretty damn amazing. After climbing down a few steps from the car park we were greeted with locals and tourists chilling out on the rock banks of the waterfall reading books, enjoying the sun, drinking a beer and generally just enjoying life by the water. If you didn’t fancy laying around and relaxing, there was a natural slide formed in between the falls that locals were excitedly skidding down into the cold plunge at the bottom. Obviously tourists began to follow suit and I happily perched myself at the bottom, with my feet dipped into the refreshing water admiring the beautiful views. This is the best waterfall we saw whilst in Pai and I would strongly recommended a visit if you are in Pai.
Beautiful view points are pretty common around Pai but this one in particular was breathtaking. I think we paid around 50THB each (approximately £1.20) and were presented with a free pot of Thai green tea on entry. Money well spent I’d say. We rapidly drank our tea so that we could continue to explore the view point and admire the breathtaking views as the sun was setting in the mountains. The beautiful oranges and reds of the setting sun only made Yun Lai a more amazing photo opportunity. The view point overlooked Pai’s main town and much of its surrounding countryside and it was such a perfect way to end our first full day here. Yun Lai also housed a beautifully unique memory tree on which people hung heart decorations stating the date of their visit or other messages that they felt appropriate. Of course we purchased one and added it to the tree. I love things like this and have never had an opportunity to participate before so I jumped at the chance. It also gives me a good excuse to re-visit in a few years time to find it again.
Introducing our absolute favourite place in Pai. So good that we visited twice. The beautiful Sai Ngam hot springs are located within a national park which you pay to enter – 20THB per person & motorcycle, totalling approximately £1.40 for 2 of us with 1 moped. A steal if you ask me. After following the bendy, windy road for another 10 minutes you arrive at Sai Ngam Hot Springs and although it doesn’t look much at first, your opinion will soon change once you’ve lounged in the springs for a while. I think these springs are up and coming and builders were working on a second pool whilst we were there, extending to cater for the high influx of tourists and locals. The springs are like stepping into a nice warm bath and with the smell of incense in the air it is heaven on earth. What made this experience unique was the extraordinary display of dragonflies. If you visit the springs whilst the sun is shining on them you might be lucky enough to catch a dragon fly on your finger as they bask in the sun. Seeing everyone in the springs with their fingers sky high, eagerly awaiting the landing of a red dragonfly is an experience not to be missed. It made my day and my week to say the least.
If you’re confident enough with a moped to drive an hour or so out of Pai’s centre then Tham Lod cave should be one of your top priorities. On arrival you will pay for a guide at 450THB (approximately £11). This may sound a lot at first but if you are splitting this cost between a few people then it becomes very resonably priced. You will soon understand why you need a tour guide because Tham Lod cave is astoundingly large and very dark without the guides lamp. It’s great to see the history in the cave and it’s wierd and wonderful rock formations. The highlight for me was jumping onto a bamboo raft to cross the caves water and being swarmed by hungry fish. I’m talking hundreds, thousands of fish. Some of the steep stair climbs in Tham Lod are not for the faint hearted but are well worth the sweat to see the bats and stalagmites at the top. We had the choice of walking back through the first cave entrance or getting a boat through its other entrance. We chose to explore deeper into the cave and take the boat out of the other entrance which was well worth it. There is a small trek back to the car park but we saw much more of the cave and our first water snake and we wanted to get the most out of our tour guide.
If sunsets are your thing, then this is the place to see one in Pai. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen clearer and more beautiful sunsets into the sea in my life but the sunset at the canyon is special in its own right. Firstly, you are in a beautiful place surrounded by lovely people and the canyon itself is quite the tourist attraction. But what makes this spot unique are the colours created by the sun setting behind the mountains and casting shadows onto the orangey sand banks of the canyon. This is a perfect photo opportunity and you’ll find that people hang around long after the sun has set taking in the beautiful red sky and picturesque clouds left behind.
Our time in Pai was very action packed and it would take me forever and a day to give it all in depth coverage. Those above are my favourite parts of Pai however pretty much everything we did here was impressive in its own rights. Pai will not disappoint!
Here are a few brief mentions that you might want to look further into;
The land split – the highlight of the land split isn’t the split itself but the hospitality of its owners and the food they present you with upon arrival. All free of charge. Win win.
Edible jazz – this is a really cool laid back bar that has live music every night. We spent pretty much every night here chilled on a hammock or sat by the fire drinking samsongs (local rum). You must go here!!!
Queen falafel – just outside edible jazz there is a lady suitably named as queen falafel because her falafal pittas are insanely good! I’m talking heaps of fresh salad, houmous, falafel, all the works!
Do you get the impression that I loved Pai? You would be absolutely correct! I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t. It’s beautiful, has good food, good people, good music and cheap drinks. What more can you ask for? Don’t even consider visiting north Thailand without going to Pai. You won’t regret it.