Throughout my travels in Southeast Asia, I kept hearing about this place called Pai in Northern Thailand. I had done quite a bit of research on Thailand and had never came across Pai so I was surprised to hear such high praise for it.
But after enough recommendations to go there, I decided I would head up from Chiang Mai for a long weekend and see what all the chatter was about.
The journey up there is this crazy bus ride over the mountains that includes twists and turns 726 times. Yes, someone counted them and yes, there is a good chance someone will get sick on your bus (a lady did on mine).
The bus ride is an adventure in and of itself.
Once you get there, there is much to see and do and I have compiled a list of what I think are 8 must do’s while you’re there.
This is undoubtedly the highlight of Pai. Not 15 minutes from the town is this cool canyon that is a perfect place to catch a sunset. Some will tell you to catch a sunrise here as well but don’t bother. Pai is in the mountains and the mornings are usually cloudy and misty. You’ll have better success during sunset.
Get there an hour before sunset and enjoy the many hikes that Pai Canyon offers.
Pai to Lod Cave is about about 30 miles but the ride via motorbike will take you a good hour and a half. But the ride is very much worth is. You go up and over the mountains and around many twists and turns. Be careful though, I saw many people in town with bandages and most were because they were going a bit too fast around those bends. Safety first.
After the ride there, you’ll get to Lod Cave, which is the really cool cave complex that you could spend all day exploring. You pay for each chamber you see (there are 3 main ones). All in all, a very fun bike ride and an awesome cave.
Rent a Scooter
I’ve said it in many other posts. Renting and riding a scooter is the best way to see places, especially in Southeast Asia.
First, it’s very affordable, usually $5 or less per day. Second, it gives you the ultimate freedom to do as you please. Third, they are fun to drive.
Pai is especially fun as the surrounding countryside offers up some great rides and views.
Pai Land Split
This is a rather interesting/strange site. Apparently, a couple years back a farmer felt a tremor in the ground and went to see what it was. Upon further inspection, he noticed a huge gap in his now split farm. Naturally, he turned it into a tourist attraction.
As you arrive the farmer greets you and even offers you some phenomenal juice made from the fruit that’s grown on his farm.
He doesn’t charge anything to view his property but he does accept donations. For gods sake, don’t be cheap and give the guy a couple bucks to trespass on his property.
A couple miles outside of town there is a cool White Buddha Temple. In fact, you can see the temple from town, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost.
Note that as you drive up the mountain, there is a place that says parking. Ride past this parking lot as there is a spot to park further up. It will save you a good 200-300 steps. I didn’t know this until I had already labored up them.
Once you get to the top you’re rewarded with a great view of the town below.
Pam Bok Waterfall
On the same road as the land split (further down) is Pam Bok Waterfall. There’s a cool little hike and shallow pool to explore as this waterfall sits in a small canyon.
Worth the visit since you’ll be able to knock out the land split and the waterfall on the same trip.
Mo Paeng Waterfall
This one is optional. I went during dry season so maybe that’s why I wasn’t too impressed. Apparently, you can slide down the waterfall like a natural slide but it was way to shallow to attempt this.
Also, on the ride up there, these girls were shouting at me while I was driving by on my scooter. I thought they were telling me to stop because of my good looks. Not so much. They wanted to sell me hard drugs. Everything from opium to cocaine, these gals had it all.
As I drove further, there were probably 5 other instances of ladies yelling at me, all trying to get me to stop and buy some of their product.
Not a necessity to visit but I could be wrong if you can indeed slide down the falls.
Explore Pai Night Market
The Pai Night market is a great place to grab food, buy souvenirs and people watch. It happens every night in downtown Pai and is very popular with locals and tourists alike.
Afterwards, you can head out with the backpacker crowd as there are a couple places that stay open into the morning.