Pai Travel Guide: 14 Awesome Things to Do in Pai

In this guide, we share our list of favorite things to do in Pai, each offering a piece of this charming town’s essence. Whether you seek adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a peaceful retreat, Pai has experiences that resonate with every kind of traveler.

Things to do in Pai

In the northern reaches of Thailand lies a small town surrounded by rolling hills and endless fields of green. Pai, a haven of tranquility and natural beauty, draws travelers seeking an escape from the bustling city life. This charming town was our sanctuary for ten unforgettable nights.

During our stay, we delved deep into the heart of Pai, uncovering its hidden gems and popular spots, all of which contributed to making it our favorite destination in Thailand.

Here, we present to you our ultimate Pai bucket list – a compilation of our experiences that showcase the very best of northern Thailand!

14 Awesome Things to Do in Pai

Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in Pai- and for good reason. This beautiful canyon offers incredible panoramic views and is arguably the best place to enjoy the sunset in Pai.

The structure of the canyon is unique, featuring narrow passageways that, at points, only allow for one person to pass at a time. This can create a bottleneck, especially during sunset when the canyon turns into a bit of a zoo due to its popularity.

Sunset at Pai Canyon is a spectacle, drawing crowds to admire the changing hues of the sky. However, the narrow passageways are not for the faint-hearted. Many visitors opt not to walk on the skinny trails, which can feel death-defying with sheer drops on both sides. But if you’re up for a bit of adventure, these trails are your ticket to escaping the crowd and finding a quieter spot to enjoy the view.

We had the opportunity to visit Pai Canyon both at sunset and in the morning around 10:00 AM.

Our preference leans towards the morning visit. It’s significantly less crowded, offering a more peaceful experience. The views are spectacular at any time of the day, making Pai Canyon a place you can visit repeatedly without ever getting bored of the scenery.

If you plan to stay awhile and soak in the beauty of Pai Canyon, consider bringing a blanket to sit on, and perhaps a book for leisure. And just a heads-up, it’s not uncommon to find people enjoying erm… “nature’s delights” in this relaxed setting.

How to Get to Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon is a 15-20 minute motorbike ride from the town of Pai. The fastest way to get there is on Route 1095, but if you’re looking for a more chilled, back road experience then you can also take Rural Road 4080 to skip most of the main road.

When you pull up to Pai Canyon, park on the right side near the vendor stalls. During sunset, you can also park on the left side of the road since it tends to get quite busy.

From the parking area, there is a staircase just past all of the stalls that goes to the canyon. It’s only a 5-minute walk up the staircase and you’ll be at Pai Canyon.

Sai Ngam Hotspring

  • Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily
  • Cost: à¸¿400 THB per adult, ฿200 THB per child
  • Parking: à¸¿30 THB per motorbike, ฿60 per car
  • Location: ðŸ“ Sai Ngam Hot Spring – Google Maps

Our visit to Sai Ngam Hot Spring was the highlight of our trip to Pai. Getting there is an adventure of its own. Located about 30 minutes by motorbike from the city center, the journey can stretch to around 45 minutes if, like us, you prefer to take it slow and steady.

The route initially follows a highway, but as you enter the park area, be prepared for what feels like a rollercoaster ride! The hills are surprisingly steep, and there were moments when we doubted our motorbike’s ability to conquer them. With both of us on the bike, we even found ourselves leaning forward to redistribute the weight, and let’s just say our brakes got a workout when going back down those hills!

Now, let’s talk about the hot springs themselves. There are three tiered pools with temperatures ranging from warm to warmer, each offering a unique experience.

The pool at the far back, which is the largest and deepest, quickly became our favorite spot. It has a comfortable log to sit on and relax. The water temperature hovers around 25-30 degrees Celsius, a little warm and not too hot. It’s basically at a temperature where you can sit in there for hours without feeling like you’re overheating.

What struck us the most was how sparkling clean the water was, allowing us to truly enjoy the baths amidst the natural scenery surrounding us. And a pleasant surprise: the water here doesn’t have a strong sulfur smell, which is often a characteristic of hot springs.

Timing is key when visiting Sai Ngam Hot Spring. We recommend arriving right as they open at 8:00 AM to beat the crowds. This strategy worked perfectly for us, as we only shared the baths with six other people until about 10:00 AM when larger groups started to arrive.

After 10:00 AM, the place can get quite busy with tour groups and late risers. So, for a more serene and intimate experience, it’s best to get there early. There’s something truly magical about enjoying the hot springs in relative solitude, surrounded by nature’s beauty.

How to Get to Sai Ngam Hotspring

Take Route 1095 north out of Pai until you reach the turn-off for Sai Ngam. You will see signs as you approach the turn so it’s hard to miss.

Immediately after turning on the turn-off, you will encounter a guard shack where you pay the entry and vehicle fees, so bring cash for these.

After paying the entry fees, drive slowly down the windy road to Sai Ngam Hotspring. You’ll eventually come to the hot spring where you park on the left side of the road, then enter the hot spring after signing in at the booth on the right side of the road.

Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge

Our adventure to the Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge in Pai was not just fun but also quite an eye-opener.

The bridge itself has an interesting origin. It was initially constructed by locals as a practical solution for navigating their rice fields. Instead of building roads through the fields, they built bamboo bridges right over them. This clever adaptation not only preserved the fields but also added an element of charm to the landscape.

Over time, the Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge gained popularity among tourists, transforming it into a sightseeing destination. As a result, visitors now pay a modest entrance fee of 30 baht. This contribution helps in the maintenance and preservation of the bridge and its surroundings.

While most visitors prefer to explore the Bamboo Walk during the day, we chose to visit in the evening to catch the sunset. It’s important to note that the sunset here occurs about an hour earlier than the actual sunset time due to the mountains. The ambiance during this time is simply magical.

The area around the bridge has evolved to cater to the influx of tourists, complete with quaint spots perfect for photo ops. There are also a couple of cafes and a restaurant, making it an ideal spot to unwind for a few hours.

If you visit during the dry season, as we did, you’ll notice the absence of the lush green fields often depicted in photographs. Instead, you’ll find brown, dry fields. However, this might soon change. During our visit, we spoke with a monk who informed us he was assisting local rice farmers in transitioning to growing rainbow rice. We saw patches of this vibrantly colored rice near the bridge’s entrance, indicating that this transformation is already in progress.

How to Get to Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge

The best way to get to Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge is by motorbike. The journey there involves navigating one of the trickiest roads in Pai. A word of advice: take it slow on these roads, and you should be fine.

After passing the Pam Bok Waterfall, the road gets a lot steeper, so be careful and drive slowly. We even witnessed another couple getting into an accident along the way. Thankfully, they were fine.

We recommend setting your navigation to the Ko Ku So Bamboo Bridge Parking location, which will take you right to the free parking lot.

Big Buddha (Chedi Phra That Mae Yen)

The Big Buddha is one of Pai’s main attractions and a landmark that’s visible from nearly every viewpoint in Pai.

This large, white Buddha statue is not only a spiritual icon but also a vantage point offering some of the most spectacular views of Pai Valley.

The journey to the Big Buddha begins with a striking entrance: two large three-headed dragon statues that seem to guard the staircase. Climbing to the top involves ascending 353 steps. These steps vary in width, allowing you to take a break from climbing if needed.

Reaching the top of the staircase, you’re greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of the massive white Buddha statue. Remember to remove your shoes before approaching the Buddha, as a sign of respect.

For those who may not be dressed appropriately for a temple visit in Thailand (where arms and legs should be covered), there’s a convenient stand where you can rent sarongs.

How to Get to Big Buddha

Big Buddha is very close to Pai, almost inside the town itself. You can even walk to Big Buddha from Pai town, though we wouldn’t recommend walking since it is up on a hillside.

Wat Sri Don Chai Temple

This temple isn’t commonly on the radar for those visiting Pai but it’s well worth the visit!

Wat Sri Don Chai Temple, considered the first temple in Pai, is an often-overlooked 700-year-old temple that is a blend of Burmese and Lanna architectural styles.

The temple itself is stunning. It features a maroonish exterior with gold trim, but the most captivating aspect is the mural at the back of the building, set against a backdrop of palm trees – a picturesque scene that embodies the essence of a tropical temple.

We visited this temple twice, once in the middle of the day and then again at sunset. Both visits offered unique perspectives and atmospheres.

The temple grounds offer plenty of shade, which is a blessing on hot days. You can also donate and receive a temple offering that’s based on your zodiac sign. And if you’re looking for another fun activity, you can buy fish food to feed the fish in the large pond on the property.

The monks here are incredibly friendly and approachable. During one of our visits, we had the opportunity to chat with a monk, and he was extremely welcoming and happy that we came to visit his temple.

How to Get to Wat Sri Don Chai Temple

Like most places in Pai, the best way to get to Wat Sri Don Chai Temple is by motorbike. The temple is located in the village of Wiang Nuea, a short ride north of Pai. All of the roads are paved and it’s a chill 10-15 minute ride to get there from Pai.

Wat Sai Khao

Nestled near the Bamboo Bridge, Wat Sai Khao stands out with its vivid color scheme, featuring a blue hue complemented by gold trim.

One of the most enchanting aspects of Wat Sai Khao is its entrance, adorned with multiple dragon heads and large teeth protruding from the stairwell, creating an ethereal ambiance.

The temple grounds are more compact compared to Wat Sri Don Chai Temple, which allows for a quicker visit.

During our visit, we had an unexpected experience. The temple’s interior was full of monks performing a ceremony, which we decided not to intrude upon. While the ceremony limited our exploration of the temple’s interior, it provided us with a memorable moment since we were able to witness the temple in its spiritual essence.

How to Get to Wat Sai Khao

Wat Sai Khao is located in the Mae Hi area of Pai, in a peaceful area surrounded by rice fields. If you’re on your way to Pai Canyon, you can visit Wat Sai Khao on your way there, then cross the Bamboo Bridge on the way to get to Pai Canyon.

Pai Night Market

A visit to Pai is incomplete without experiencing its night market, a bustling hub of activity that springs to life every evening. The great thing about Pai Night Market is its daily occurrence, allowing visitors to dive into it any night of the week.

As dusk falls, the streets in the market area close off to car traffic, transforming it into a lively pedestrian (and motorbike) zone. The atmosphere is filled with a mix of tourists, locals, vendors, and an array of smells and sounds.

The market is essentially divided into two main sections. On one side, you’ll find stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, and various trinkets — perfect for those looking to take a piece of Pai home with them.

The other side of the market offers an array of restaurants and street foods. As you venture further, the market gradually transitions into a more festive atmosphere, where you can find bars serving alcohol and “medicinal herbs”.

What makes the Pai Night Market appealing is its versatility. Whether you’re in the mood for a relaxed evening with a leisurely meal and some people-watching, or you’re up for making new friends and enjoying the party vibe, the market has both. It’s a place where the essence of Pai’s laid-back yet vibrant culture truly comes to life.

Rent a Motorbike

  • Cost: ฿150~300 THB per day

Exploring Pai on a motorbike turned out to be not just a convenient mode of transportation for us, but an adventure in itself — and easily one of our favorite activities in the area.

We loved getting lost on the country roads in Pai and made a point to do it every day. From encountering adorable water buffaloes to stumbling upon secret local swimming spots in the river and even finding lesser-known places to watch the sunset, a motorbike allows you to experience Pai in a way that’s both intimate and exhilarating.

For our motorbike rental, we chose Dragonfly Pai, and had no problems at all. We opted for a Honda Click, a slightly more upscale choice among motorbikes, at a cost of ฿300 THB per day. The bike was in excellent condition, almost brand new, and it handled the diverse road conditions around Pai extremely well.

When renting a motorbike in Thailand, you need to leave some form of collateral. This is usually either your passport or a cash deposit of around ฿2000-3000 THB.

Bamboo Bridge

Unlike the Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge, this bamboo bridge is less scenic and more utilitarian. It serves as a handy way to get across the Pai River, and you’ll see plenty of locals motorbiking across the bridge while out on their daily activities.

You can use the bridge yourself, as we did when driving back from Pai Canyon to Pai on the backroads.

How to Get to Bamboo Bridge

The bamboo bridge is located near Wat Sai Khao, just off of Rural Road 4080. If you’re heading to Pai Canyon from Pai, you can take a scenic route out of Pai and use the Bamboo Bridge to get to Pai Canyon.

Tha Pai Memorial Bridge

One of our unplanned discoveries while exploring Pai on our motorbike was the Tha Pai Memorial Bridge.

This historical bridge holds an interesting story, rooted in the events of World War II. Originally built by the Japanese to facilitate better access routes during the war, the bridge was dismantled after the war ended. However, the local community rebuilt the bridge since it served as an important route to get across the Pai River.

Today, the bridge is no longer in use and a new one has taken its place for traffic purposes. However, the old bridge remains as a historical point of interest.

When we visited the bridge, we were surprised to find that much of its old wooden baseboards remained, some even showing signs of rot. Despite being safe, there’s an element of thrill due to its slightly sketchy nature.

If you’re concerned about crowds, you’ll find that most visitors tend to gather at either end of the bridge, and only a few actually cross it. This makes it relatively easy to find a spot to take a photo, especially if you venture a bit further from the entrances.

One thing to note is the lack of shade on the bridge, so it’s essential to come prepared with sun protection. The open structure means you’re fully exposed to the sun’s rays.

There are also street vendors on both sides of the bridge entrances if you’re looking to support the locals or buy a quick snack. Additionally, there’s even a camping spot available for rent right next to the bridge, providing a unique overnight experience.

How to Get to Tha Pai Memorial Bridge

Tha Pai Memorial Bridge is south of Pai town on Route 1095, past Pai Canyon. We recommend using a motorbike to get there since it is quite far from Pai.

Mo Paeng Waterfall

During one of our motorbike explorations around Pai, we had the pleasure of stumbling upon Mo Paeng Waterfall, and it was nothing short of phenomenal. This multi-tiered waterfall is an ideal spot for relaxation and enjoying the beauty of nature. The pools at the waterfall provide a perfect setting for a refreshing dip, basking in the sun, or just enjoying the serene ambiance.

One thing we regretted was not bringing our swimsuits. The clean water was incredibly tempting. We were also surprised by the well-developed trailways leading to the waterfall, which made accessing the waterfall a breeze.

For travelers looking to connect with others, Mo Paeng Waterfall seems like the perfect place. The atmosphere is friendly with everyone enjoying their time in the sun and water.

This visit to Mo Paeng Waterfall was a teaser for us, and we’ve already decided that on our next trip to Pai we’ll come fully prepared with our swim clothes to fully enjoy ourselves there.

How to Get to Mo Paeng Waterfall

Mo Paeng Waterfall is located far west of Pai, past Santichon Village. We recommend using a motorbike to get there because of its distance from the rest of Pai.

Santichon Village

Santichon Village in Pai offers a distinct and memorable experience, showcasing the cultural heritage of the Yunnan people who have settled in the Pai area.

This Chinese Cultural Village is a blend of history, tradition, and fun, making it a worthwhile visit if you’re looking to explore the cultural diversity of Pai.

When we visited Santichon Village, the first thing we did was try our hand at archery by shooting some arrows. It was fun to have a little activity to do even if it was a little gimmicky.

Our highlight was riding the Chinese swing, which, while seemingly precarious, added an exciting thrill to our visit. It’s not every day you come across such a unique thing, and it was exciting to step out of our comfort zone.

If you’re looking for a photo op, you can also dress up in traditional Chinese warrior or princess attire, adding a touch of historical fantasy to your visit.

How to Get to Santichon Village

Santichon is located in Wiang Tai, west of Pai. It is located near Yun Lai Viewpoint, so you can visit both Yun Lai and Santichon on the same day since they are so close together.

Yun Lai Viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint is a spot that often pops up on the list of must-visit places in Pai, especially for those who love panoramic views. However, our experience there was a mix of awe and slight disappointment. While the views are undoubtedly expansive, offering a broader vista than the Big Buddha, the commercial feel of the place might not appeal to everyone.

The viewpoint has been developed extensively, and some might find it a tad commercialized, reminiscent of certain tourist spots in Bali. Despite this, there’s no denying that the views are impressive, spanning across the landscape surrounding Pai.

While Yun Lai Viewpoint wasn’t our favorite spot, we felt it was necessary to visit at least once. We actually found more enjoyment in exploring the roads in the surrounding neighborhood, which offered a less crowded experience.

Yun Lai Viewpoint is said to be an excellent location for sunrise. We didn’t catch the sunrise this time but might consider giving it another try in the future.

Besides the views, the viewpoint offers a few amenities like camping facilities and a café that serves drinks. You can also purchase a heart-shaped token to hang on a tree to add a bit of romance to your visit. During our visit, there weren’t any food options, but cold drinks were available.

So, if you’re ticking off must-see places in Pai, Yun Lai Viewpoint is worth a stop, especially for the views. Just be prepared for a more commercialized experience compared to other natural attractions in the area.

How to Get to Yun Lai Viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint is located in Wiang Tai village, west of Pai. It is located just past Santichon Village, so you can visit both Yun Lai and Santichon on the same day since they are so close together.

Two Huts Pai

Two Huts is a charming cafe nestled on the “backroad” route to Tha Pai Memorial Bridge. The cafe has some of the best panoramic views of Pai’s mountains and valleys. It has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the best spots for watching sunsets in Pai, right up there next to Pai Canyon.

Two Huts sells a variety of beverages and serves food, making it an awesome spot for an evening meal or a relaxing drink. Due to its popularity, especially around sunset, it’s best to get there early if you want to secure a prime spot with the best views.

How to Get to Two Huts Pai

Two Huts is located on Rural Road 4024, quite a distance away from Pai Town. Because of its distance, it’s wise to use a motorbike to get there. Be sure to drive slowly on your way home if you stay after sunset.

Where to Eat in Pai

There is no shortage of delicious food in Pai. During our travels through Asia, I haven’t found a place where I was genuinely looking forward to every single meal… until I went to Pai.

What makes Pai’s food scene extremely appealing is the affordability and quality of the local fare. I absolutely love Thai food and it’s one of my favorite cuisines around – it’s one that I can eat at any hour of the day.

If you are on a budget, we recommend eating at the local Thai restaurants! We never spent more than $4 USD for the two of us!

Besides local Thai food, Pai is also a vegan’s dream destination. The vegan meals here are so delicious that I made it a point to start each day with a vegan breakfast, ensuring a healthy and refreshing beginning to our adventures.

To help you navigate Pai’s food scene, here are some restaurants we personally visited and recommend:

Where to Stay in Pai

Pai has endless options of where to stay from hotels to hostels to bungalows! Here are some of our suggestions:

How to Get to Pai

Traveling to Pai typically starts from Chiang Mai, a common entry point for visitors via Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).

Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, many travelers continue to Pai.

To get to Pai from Chiang Mai, there are four main transportation options available:

  1. Motorbike
  2. Shuttle Bus
  3. Private Taxi
  4. Rental Car

Motorbike

For adventurous travelers, renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai and journeying to Pai is a popular choice.

The trip takes approximately 3 hours, traversing winding mountain roads. While these roads are well-paved and wide, they can also be hazardous due to speeding cars, shuttle buses, and cargo trucks. And these twisty roads can get exceptionally dangerous if it’s been raining.

We wouldn’t recommend this route unless you have significant motorbike riding experience due to the challenging conditions and the long distance through mountainous terrain.

Shuttle Bus/Van

The shuttle bus is the most popular and, in our opinion, the best method for traveling from Chiang Mai to Pai.

The vans seat about 9-10 passengers and offer a communal travel experience alongside fellow adventurers.

Given the winding roads and the distance, we opted to use a shuttle bus for our journey and chose AYA Service since they offer hotel pickup in Chiang Mai. Our shuttle bus included a much-needed 15-minute bathroom break at a halfway rest stop.

If you’re prone to motion sickness, we recommend taking motion sickness medication when you get on the bus since the winding roads can cause discomfort.

Also, you should avoid being the last to board. The rear seats are notably cramped and offer limited views, increasing the likelihood of motion sickness. We were fortunate to get seats in the front of the bus, and the other passengers sitting in the back complained about getting motion sickness.

Once you get to Pai, the bus drops you off on Pai Walking Street. From there, you may need to walk or find another transport to your accommodation. Songthaews are readily available right at the bus drop-off point, so if you’re staying further out, you can hop in a songthaew to get to your final destination.

Best Way to Book Transportation in Thailand

When we book transportation in Thailand, we personally recommend and ALWAYS use 12Go. They offer multiple types of transportation to Pai, from buses and vans to private taxis.

Private Taxi

If you prioritize comfort above all else, opting for a private taxi is the best choice for the journey from Chiang Mai to Pai. Be aware, though, that this convenience comes at a cost, with prices typically ranging from 3000 to 4000 THB for a one-way trip.

Traveling in a large group can make this option more economical, as the fare can be divided among all the people in your group. Despite the split cost, it’s important to note that this option remains more expensive than the shuttle bus, though it offers the advantage of privacy and direct service.

Rental Car

Renting a car gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace, a significant advantage when navigating the winding mountain roads to Pai. This option allows for a more relaxed journey, with the ability to stop and enjoy the scenery at your own pace.

However, the huge drawback is Pai’s limited car-friendliness. Parking can be a challenge throughout the area, complicating plans to explore nearby attractions.

If you rent a car, it’s crucial to ensure your accommodation offers parking or to arrange a parking spot in advance. Once in Pai, consider parking your car and renting a motorbike. Motorbikes are the best method of transportation around Pai since they are easier to navigate and provide better access to sightseeing around Pai.

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