Located just a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai, Pai is a cozy and sleepy little town amidst the mountains in Northern Thailand. Pai has gained tremendous attention over the last few years, and is a destination that is trending both amongst the locals and tourists. I recently visited Pai and I’m not lying when I say this… I fell in love. It felt as though I was navigating through a box of crayons, or maybe a giant paint party. It is that quirky and cute. If Pai was a person, I would give it a big tight squeeze. I’m not insane, I swear, but If you’ve been following my Instagram Feed, you’ll know I LOVE vibrant colors.
Although Pai is known to be a sleepy town by day, at night it comes to life. The walking street is bustling with pop-up stalls selling local food, clothing, artifacts, and vintage collectibles. The party scene is pretty great too! Surrounding Pai are a number of activities and day trips possibilities. If you’re looking for a place for both a relaxing and adventurous vacation, Pai is the place to be.
Below you will find everything you need to know about Pai including Getting There, Places to Stay, and Where to Eat.
By Minivan: There are several ways of getting there, however I chose to fly into Chiang Mai at night, and take the mini-van, which costs 150 THB one way to Pai. Unfortunately, (because no trip is complete with some misadventures) because it was the long weekend, even though we arrived at the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal at 8am, also known as the “Arcade”, all the mini-buses were already booked out! This meant, we had to get creative with how we were going to reach Pai. We decided to charter a Private Taxi to take us to Pai, which cost 2,500THB in total. Yes, yes, quite expensive, however we split it amongst 3 people, and got to make little pit stops along the way, so it wasn’t all too bad. Gotta look at the positives!
We were smart about our way back and booked the mini-van in advance this time. I’d definitely recommend making a mini-van booking to Pai a couple days in advance. I figured I could just pull my usual impromptu lack-of-planning and it would be fine. Oops, big mistake.
Be prepared for the ride through the 762 curves. It’s not a fun one for the stomach, and vomiting or motion sickness are a high possibility. To prevent this, I decided to by some motion sickness over-the-counter pills from the pharmacy and popped one 30 minutes before departing. The pill actually made me feel drowsy and sleepy, which was good because my stomach was happy, but bad because I was trying hard to stay awake (quite unsuccessfully) and watch the beautiful drive up to Pai.
By Flight: Another way of getting to Pai is by flight. The only flight that goes to Pai leaves from Chiang Mai. I believe there are only 1 or 2 flights a day, and the aircrafts are supposed to be pretty old… so, I didn’t really want to take my chances with that. However, this is a good option if you want to save some time and avoid motion sickness. The airport in Pai is just a short walk (1-2km) from the main Pai walking street. Keep in mind you’d be giving up a scenic drive to Pai with this option. Clearly I’m bias on this one!
Places to Stay
We ended up staying at Soi One Bedrooms, booked through booking.com. You could also take your chances and walk-in, and maybe you’d get a better deal. It was 2,000 THB per night, but the location and cleanliness of the facilities made it worth the price. There are obviously a number of cheaper options in Pai, so it really depends what you’re looking for. If it’s the location, I would highly recommend Soi One Bedrooms, seeing as it is situated right at the corner where the walking street meets the party street; it doesn’t get any better than this. Oh did I mention, the river is a mere 2 minute walk from this venue as well!
If you’re looking for a more luxury option, with the same location, I’d recommend Hotel des Artists which is directly across from Soi One Bedrooms; just that it’s about double the price! However, the coffee there is fantastic, so if you don’t plan to stay there, make sure to stop for a cup of coffee.
If you’re looking for an out-of-town, countryside, and luxury Pai experience then either Puripai or Riveri are great, especially for couples, honeymooners, or if you’re a solo traveler looking to relax!
Places to Eat
The brunch and coffee culture is huge in Pai. As it is an extremely sleepy town during the day, people tend to hop from café to café. Each café or restaurant has its own unique character and atmosphere. A few places I would recommend eating at are…
Boomelicious: Don’t be fooled by the name, it is by for the best brunch location in Pai, and is located right at Soi One Bedrooms (more of a reason to stay there now! Haha). I ordered the scrambled eggs on toast with pesto and avocado. Best decision ever. Boomelicious offers a variety of egg dishes, as well as healthy museli and fruit options that is sure to cure your hangover!
Nong Beer: A famous restaurant, known for its amazing Khao Soy, a local delicacy and other traditional northern Thai foods is popular amongst locals and tourists. Oh, you can also enjoy from fresh coconuts here!
Burger Queen: Probably the best burger joint in Pai. It is run by a lovely Israeli man turned Dutch (by passport). He is really friendly and makes you feel right at home at this cozy joint! Not to mention, the food is to die for.
Walking Street Stalls: I’d recommend spending an entire evening eating along the walking streets. There are over a 100 food stalls selling an assortments of things for really cheap prices, and they were all so delicious, we ended up buying over 15 items and eating at the balcony of our hotel room overlooking the walking street! Mmmm, it hit the spot for me. I’d suggest starting at the top of the walking street and make your way down by filling up your belly with whatever catches your eye! The best way to enjoy some local delicacies, in my opinion. A Small Tip: keep an eye out for Sai Oua, minced pork sausage filled with herbs and spices. Since I don’t get this in Bangkok, I ate way too much of them in Pai and Chiang Mai. It tastes especially good with some sticky rice!
That enough information overload for one post! Stay tuned for my next post that will focus on the things to do in Pai and its vicinity! 🙂