PaiMae Hong Son Province, Northern Thailand. It is a major stop on the Mae Hong Son Loop, which takes Rte 1095 from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, then Rte 108 back to Chiang Mai. The city is named after the Pai River.
Set in a large picturesque valley north of Chiang Mai, Pai is tourism-oriented, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a vibrant tourist and backpacker scene. The town's permanent residents are a seemingly harmonious mix of common Thai folk, with an admixture of Western hippies and Thai rastas thrown in, which gives the place a unique vibe which may be appealing to some and off-putting to others. Pai is now sometimes referred to as the "Khao San Road of the North".
A sudden boom in guest house and bar construction from 2006 onwards has resulted in a great deal of spare capacity in the off-season. There has been a large increase in Thai people visiting after Pai was featured in a romantic Thai film, Pai in Love. It can be hard to find a room during the busy season (Oct-Feb). There are now around 350 guesthouses and hotels in Pai, and the city centre has transformed into a tourist warren of Western-style restaurants, souvenir shops, live music venues, tattoo parlours, and bars that cater largely to the now significant influx of tourists and package tours. Recently, there has been a large influx of mainland Chinese tourists and they now sometimes outnumber the western backpackers in Pai.
While the growth of Pai has been rapid and more or less every farm in the valley seems to rent bungalows, development so far has been largely tasteful and the town remains relatively serene during low season. That said, be prepared for large crowds of tourists and even traffic jams during the higher seasons.
By roadRte 1095 which connects Pai with Mae Hong Son (50 km as the crow flies, but approximately 110 km by road) and Chiang Mai (135 km) is a very scenic route through the mountains which takes several hours. It's a steep and winding drive, with lots of curves, so take a plastic bag and some motion sickness pills if you need them. Police report that an average of two accidents a day happen on the Chiang Mai-Pai road, and more in the rainy season.
By motorcycleRte 1095 isn't as bad as people make it out to be. There isn't much traffic and you can hear the cars and trucks coming. The downside is the road is crappy, but not uniformly so. But because you never know what lies around the next bend, you're forced to drive conservatively. If you're a little adventurous, rent a motorcycle in Chiang Mai and make the ride up to Pai. You can stop at the waterfalls and small towns along the way, and you'll really enjoy the trip, as opposed to being motion sick in a bus for hours, and being forced to stop at the driver's friends restaurants. Make sure to take some warmer clothing on your bike, as it tends to get a bit chilly in the higher portions of the ride. As a novice rider, expect the trip to take around 5 or 6 hours, including stops at sites and restaurants along the way. aYa Service offers one way rentals from Chiang Mai to Pai (or vice versa) with free luggage delivery for 300 baht (Sep. 2017) depending on the motorbike. They will keep your passport and send it along with any baggage to aYa in Pai.
Pai Bus StationAs of 2017 September, Prempracha is the only transport provider into Pai with Minivans (THB150) that leave hourly from Chiang Mai (Arcade terminal) and Mae Hong Son between 5:30 to 17:30. There is also once daily fan bus (actually songthaew for 80 baht) running, but foreigners are usually refused to take them. The trip takes some 3 hours and can be gruesome cramped in a minivan in mountainous road, but there is a comfort stop at the small half-way village of Mae Sae (food, water, toilets ). You can reserve a seat at Prempracha website., although their reservation system is not up-to date (you need to wait for a reply by email and to pick up a ticket 45 min before departure). Alternatively, aYa service provides direct minivan to guesthouses/train station/airport in Chiang Mai. Most guesthouse in Chiang Mai will book the ticket for you, but its schedule and cost depends on the season and who you book with.
Pai AirportServed by Wisdom Airways, which operates daily flights between Chiang Mai and Pai. Flight time is 25 minutes.
Motorbike and 4WD taxis are also readily available.
Suggestions in guidebooks that Ban Santhichon and Lisu Village might be reached on foot are optimistic.
Chinese villageVillage settled by Yunnanese hill-tribes who crossed the border in the middle of the 20th century to escape Communist rule. Shops selling different Chinese teas with varying health properties, and other interesting oddities include a human-powered Ferris wheel. Well worth a look, even as a brief stop on the way to Mo Paeng waterfall
Pai CanyonSomewhat optimistically described as Pai's answer to the Grand Canyon, it could more accurately be described as a narrow red ridges with steep-sides valleys either side filled with pine and dipterocarp forests. The steep 50m drop either side and stunning views over the surrounding countryside are impressive, but you'll need to be careful here - the path is extremely narrow in some places and requires a scramble in others. A set of steps up to a viewing platform provides the safest way to admire the scenery and the canyon makes the perfect spot for a sunset
WWII Memorial BridgeThe original bridge here was built by the occupying Japanese. The current steel truss bridge which sits alongside the present main road was assembled in its current position rather more recently, but as with Pai's "canyon", the bridge invites very loose comparisons with the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai.
phone: +66 53 698 152address: 205 Moo 1, Mae Hee, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Thailand, 58130Located less than 5-minutes from the center of Pai, the Village Farm offers the chance to experience a unique world of fruits, flowers, animals, including the star attraction, a lovely pair of Alpaca known as Rosemary & Aron. You will also enjoy local coffee and snacks as well as a souvenir shop. The Village Farm is the perfect scenic opportunity for the most memorable photos of Pai.
EventsPoi Sang Long is a famous Buddhist ordination of children festival, especially in Mae Hong Son. Thai Yai cultural dance show can be seen at the temple fair in the evening.
WaterfallsKnowing the word waterfall in Thai language can be helpfull when following directions: น้ำตก / namtok.
Mo PaengA little more accessible than most of Pai's waterfalls, this multi-tiered waterfall flows through a verdant green valley and is popular for its pools to swim in. The upper section of this waterfall is a natural water slide during the dry season. The rocks are smooth, just find a small section and slide on down like the locals do.
Pam BokNice secluded waterfall with high cliffs surrounding it, making this a cool place to escape the heat. Go for a relaxing bathe in the shade during the dry season.
Pai is also a major starting point for organized trekking tours which are offered by every guest house and travel agent.
Go off-road through the mountains of Pai on an off-road motorbike tour. Here there are better off-road possibilities and better prices than in Chiang Mai. Ask your guest house where to book.
Elephant TrekFor several years now, travellers have enjoyed riding an elephant and concluding the trip with a romp in the Pai River. For this adventure, take as little as possible, you'll be enjoyably wet as the elephant is encouraged to shower you. Some operators, and there are several, are willing to take photos of you while you enjoy the elephant antics in the river.
Isara Garden's Cookery School and Restaurantphone: +66 85 6230091address: 94 Moo 1 ViengnorUnique Asian fusion organic cookery class, run by Muk, a former restaurant manager and bar manager of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. The school is in an eco-friendly, atmospheric open air studio, designed by the owner itself and in the middle of Isara Garden`s organic veggie garden with a good view over Pai valley.
phone: +66 53 699 326address: 28 Moo. 3 Chaisongkram RoadFamily-owned and -operated eco adventure company that specializes in white water rafting, jungle trekking, jungle survival, and caving. They offer 1- and 2-day rafting adventures as well as 1- to 3-day trekking adventures.
Sor Wisarut Muay Thaiphone: +66 86 1826483address: 259 Moo 1, Mae HiManaged by a friendly Thai/Italian couple, this camp offers professional training. Not far from town centre, the camp is surrounded by mountains that present a breathtaking view. Two sessions a day (morning, evening) with reasonable prices and accepting trainers at all levels.
Tha Pai Hot SpringsBathing here is supposed to have therapeutic properties, but you'll want to save it for a cool day. Sulphuric water bubbles out of these hot springs at temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius and simple baths have been created where the springs meet a stream which cools temperatures to bearable levels. A short, marked forest trail takes you through the compact national park more noticeable for its smells than its sights. Last entry to the springs is at 18:00. You can also bathe in a mineral pool in the nearby Aroma Pai Spa or Pai Hotspring resort for much more reasonable price of 80 baht, and as it is open later, enjoy the hot water after sunset as it gets cool. The price for government run hotspring is
TubingFloating down river on an inflated rubber tube has long been a favourite pastime of SE Asian backpackers, and the gentle current of the Pai River and attractive scenery make this a good spot to try. Unlike the more famous Vang Vieng in Laos, the Pai River isn't lined with raucous bars playing loud music, which some may consider more a blessing than a curse.
Whitewater RaftingSome of Thailand's most spectacular rapids are found between Pai and Mae Hong Song, and a few operators offer both one- and two-day rafting trips.
phone: +668 12366644address: 412 Moo 8 Wiang Tai PaiThe Spa's name means means "comfort" or "living to be happiness". The spa package combines both Thai and Chinese medical backgrounds. The signature treatment is the 4-element hot oil massage which high quality essential oil. For women, there is the Queen of Sapaiya gold and organic honey facial mask.
Some of the hill tribe members sell handicrafts in the local market, although what's on offer here pales in comparison to the range available in Chiang Mai.
Pai has an abundance of bookshops, some of which carry harder to find titles. Many are along the bus stop road, past aYa Services.
Art in ChaiBeautiful place built by an artist, Otto. Warm cosy atmosphere with great chai and cakes and cookies. Nice atmosphere for playing your instrument. Free Wi-Fi.
Boomelicious CafeSome of the best breakfasts/brunches food in Pai. Great Australian coffee.
Burger HouseOwner Nat and husband, Matt, offer 12 different real beef burgers, chili, sandwiches, specials, dinners, pork chops the size of a Clive Cussler novel, beer, wine.
Charlie & Lek'sThe vegetables used in the cooking are grown fresh on their own farm and the bar has a wonderfully relaxed and romantic atmosphere. They also offer cooking classes for 750 baht a day.
Fat CatIn a community focused on organic and healthy eating, Fat Cat is Pai's best kept secret. Almost all ingredients used are from their organic permaculture farm. If you order a salad, you can literally pick your own ingredients from the soil. Specialties include homemade yogurt, kefir, and pure kombucha. Great sandwiches and baked goods, all baked in their mud oven. Permaculture farming and mud oven building classes available.
Na's KitchenNa still works in the kitchen everyday, serving northern food to tourists and Thais. She speaks great English, and will even teach you a bit of Thai if you ask nicely. Na's is always a favourite of the long-stay travellers and the ones returning for a second, or third go at Pai.
No NameThe Thai local restaurant of choice. Very few Westerners to be found, but the menu is in English. Excellent Thai salads and sticky rice.
Nong Beer RestaurantFamily-owned restaurant that serves "fast Thai food" (food is already cooking and comes straight from the pot). Very good food and very cheap.
Peace of Paiphone: +66 89 9554548 or +66 82 1822383Home grown organic food is served here but the main attraction is the postcard-perfect view from the upper floor terrace. Hemp clothing is sold downstairs, which may or may not fully explain the prominent THC signs.
TTKaddress: 8/10 Moo 4Nice outdoor dining area, friendly staff, attached guesthouse. Great Israeli food. Their falafel might be the best in Thailand.
phone: +66 91 878 3860address: 412 Moo8 WiangTai Pai Maehongson 58130Toast office is a Thai snack style,serving whole wheat bread toast with butter with many style and First Soy milk cafe in Pai.The place so relaxing and comfortable also free high speed wifi. wooden decoration style surrounding by an unique beautiful building.
Chew Xin Jai Restaurantaddress: 222 Moo 4Classic Thai/Taiwanese-influenced vegan restaurant. Two mains from a buffet and rice cost 35 baht at lunch. Delicious and favored by many expats. Dinner is a la carte.
Good LifeServes organic and vegetarian foods at decent prices. Rice (including brown) dishes with vegetables starting at 40 baht. Breakfasts from 100 baht. Has a good selection of tea.
Kin JThis little vegetarian restaurant between the main traffic light and the afternoon market serves a selection of purely vegetarian food daily. Get there early, as it's mostly sold out by mid-afternoon.
Bamboo Baraddress: Raddamrong RdBamboo-floored venue perched on the riverside next to the other late night venues. Open until late, cosy atmosphere and good food.
Bebop BarOffers a range of live music. Amazing Saturday night show starts 10:30. Variety night 9pm on Wednesdays. Great talent friendly atmosphere.
ChillaxThis chill out joint is for you if noise isn't your thing. The only place to enjoy a single malt whisky (or any other good liquor) with Thai cuisine.
Don't Cry Baraddress: Raddamrong RdMostly open-air bar with fire shows, reggae music, and pool table. One of the only bars open after 12 but usually deserted before then, kind of expensive
Edible JazzVaried live music in the evenings in a relaxed atmosphere.
Reggae BarThis hard-to-find bar is the place for hippie hang-outs. Look for the people sitting around a camp fire with acoustic guitars and djembe drums. Live music every night sometimes provided by the customers. Feel free to bring along your own instrument!
Yellow Sun BarGreat hangout with good selection of reggae music, a pool table, and friendly owner. A pre-night popular hangout with most of the travelling crowd.
MojosBlues and jazz bar, open every night but Monday. Live music 7:30-11pm.
At the bus station there is a map of Pai. Get this as it will show you the location of most of the guest houses (>100 places). There is also a discount for motorbike rental.
If your accommodation is far away from the two main streets of bars, be careful if walking alone of the packs of dogs that roam the empty streets at night. They do get territorial and intimidating, so if you come across them then remember to keep a safe distance away and make noise to scare them away.
For accommodation with lots of character try out a bamboo hut on the river. Head east from the bus station and either take the first left or continue straight. Either way you'll reach a bamboo bridge. Across the bridge you'll find plenty of cheap accommodation (about 200-400 baht per night).
Funhouse PaiThere are three beautiful wooden buildings and often complimentary reiki, yoga and tai chi workshops. You are given free access to a fully equipped kitchen, where there are often communal meals. They also offer very cheap weekly and monthly prices for people who want a longer stay in Pai.
Abodaya GuesthouseCosy, clean wooden rooms with attached bathrooms and fan. Nice hot shower. Front porches attached to most rooms with couches and cushions provided. Rustic environment coupled with the convenience of location. Both 7-Elevens are less than 5 min walk away, and to the activities on the main road. Friendly and helpful staff.
Baan Pai VillageA friendly Thai family offering luxury bamboo bungalows with hot water private bathrooms, mosquito nets and small terrace. Central relaxing location with lovely surroundings and a popular restaurant.
phone: +66 89 5596267Gorgeous views over Pai, river and mountains with restaurant, swimming pool, pool table, campfire, sunset in the hammocks, hot shower, free Wi-Fi/computer, towels, bed linen. Free pickup.
Eden Guest HouseRooms are a clean, bungalow-style with private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi and hot showers. Beds can be a little hard but just ask for another mattress or quilt. The owner is friendly, offering discounts for people staying long-term and rides into town on the back of her motorbike if you are staying there alone. The garden is well-maintained and beautiful with a relaxing common area. A good place for those wanting privacy and solitude.
Ever Green Guest Housephone: +66 82 6191390address: 220 Moo 4 Wanchalerm RdWooden Thai-style housing in central Pai. Reasonably priced rooms with hot shower and fan. Free Wi-Fi.
Happy House Guest HouseLarge clean rooms. Free pool table. Free Wi-Fi. Stove and dishes for cooking your own food. There is a bar down stairs with a sociable atmosphere.
phone: +66 86 1805998An unpretentious, peaceful guest house with gorgeous views overlooking Pai. Video room, bar and free entrance to Fluid Swimming Pool & Gym. Bungalows with Western bathrooms and hot shower. Free Wi-Fi. Camping available.
Noon Housephone: +66 53 699383Quiet. Rooms have TV with plenty of channels. They rent a motorbike for 120 baht per day. The street in which the guest house sits has any number of restaurants in the opposite direction to which you came in, and there is a 7-Eleven nearby.
Phi Chi"Phi Ch(a)i" is Thai for "older brother". Quiet, clean, hot water showers, Western toilets, some rooms have TV, and is close to everything.
Pai Nam Now Guesthousephone: +66 93 039 4548Very cozy, clean organized bungalows with real walls, doors and windows. Good double beds with mosquito net and silent fan. Every room with own bathroom, real flushing toilet, and hot shower and a veranda with a hammock. The owner (Tom) is incredibly friendly, happy and helpful. Very good room for the price
phone: +66 85 2119467Call for pickup or ask at aYa mini-bus centre when you arrive. Note, is likely to be full in peak season.
phone: +66 86 1123504Simple bamboo bungalows in an organic forest. Knowledgeable owner will teach you about sustainable living and farming at daily classes. You will be invited to participate in farm life and to cook in the communal kitchen. Food picked from the farm costs 15 baht/meal. Free pickup at bus station. Free Wi-Fi.
phone: +66 81 9010346Cosy accommodations.
Mr. Jan's Guesthousephone: +66 53 699554Amazing garden with aromatic herbs. Centric, but away from the main street noise. Free instant coffee.}
phone: +66 53 065099address: 99 Moo 5, Mae KongSeven eco-friendly adobe houses and 3 dormitory rooms set in beautiful gardens with a wonderful view over the valley and mountains. Fan-cooled rooms (air-con unnecessary due to the natural building style), TV and Wi-Fi in all rooms. Laundry service and very clean rooms. Pool table. Restaurant with Thai and European food. The owners speak English, German, and Thai. Free shuttle service (the bus station will call for you).
phone: +66 53 400361address: 183 Baan Mae Yen, Moo 1, Mae HeeTwelve cottages and bungalows with contemporary furniture. Double fan-cooled rooms, double and triple air-con rooms with hot showers and cable TV in all. Overlooking the valley and mountains. The owners are English speakers.
phone: +66 81 7339055Excellent individual bungalows for two people with a separate bathroom and a balcony overlooking the lagoon and with exquisite mountain views. You will also find discount vouchers for Pai Laguna if you eat at Charlie & Lek's Restaurant.
Rim Pai Cottagesphone: +66 26 730966address: 99/1 Moo 3One of the more up-market options in Pai. Offers several kinds of wooden cottages. Breakfast served on a nice open terrace overlooking the Pai River.
Baan Nong Taophone: +66 81 3283431address: 136 Moo 6 Ban Huaypoo, ViengtaiCosy and comfortable houses with a eye-catching mountain view and warm atmosphere. Tent rental and rafting along the Pai River is also available.
address: 108 Moo 3, ViengtaiAir-con bungalow in Pai town.
phone: +66 53 698116address: 117 Moo 4 ViengtaiPeaceful location close to town and tourist attractions. Bungalows and rooms (fan or air conditioned). Wi-Fi. Offers guided motorbike tours.
Butterfly Homesphone: +66 53 115270A teak private 3-villa connected compound and 3 mud houses for daily or weekly rental. Right in town just up the road from Pai Hospital and walking distance to the evening walking street. All made of teak with 2 of the villas serving as bedrooms with king-size beds and the large villa is the living and lounge area. Bathrooms in all villas have outdoor showers in both bedrooms. Staff on-site to provide daily cleaning. Hin, Din, & Sai are 3 mini-mud villas in a creative cob-style built from the soil, sand, and stones of the local area. Resort in same compound serves and delivers authentic delicious Thai food. A fantastic option for anyone interested in chilling with privacy yet right in town.
phone: +66 53 699539address: 99 Moo 3, Viengtai
phone: +66 53 69949address: 94 Moo 3, ViengtaiClose to everything, on the river, with 8 rooms in a garden setting. Has on-site sports bar, Red Chang Bar.
phone: +66 53 698 152address: 88 Moo 3, Vieng TaiSmall boutique resort, consisting of natural bamboo cottages surrounded by lush gardens and equipped with free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and hot water showers. Beautiful design, peaceful atmosphere and friendly service.
phone: +66 53 699423address: 245 Moo 1 Chaisongkram Rd, Viengtai
Wang Chang Puek Resort18 rooms, fan and air-con bungalows in Pai town, 50 m from the Pai River.