Pai, A Hidden Paradise In The Hills Of Northern Thailand
The road to Pai is famous, known for the more than 700 curves that take you over the mountains, just a few hundred KM north of Chiang Mai. The scenic drive takes just over 3 hours from Chiang Mai, and there is a mini-bus service for only 150THB per person. This sleepy little mountain village has quietly become one of Thailand's most popular tourist destinations, even more popular with Thai tourists than it is with foreigners. Pai has a unique blend of natural beauty and an artistic style that is not seen anywhere else in Thailand, and the people of Pai are an easy going bunch, much like most of the tourists that travel there.
A growing number Bangkokians have been coming to Pai to enjoy their holidays, visiting Pai has become quite trendy with Thai tourists from around the country. The walking street is filled with vendors with tables and displays selling anything from T-shirts and hats, to little trinkets and handicrafts. Without a doubt the most popular souvenir of all those available is the miniature replicas of road signs that show how many KM there are between Chiang Mai and Pai. There are several recognizable characters and personalities hanging around on walking street, there is a singing police officer playing guitar and singing and selling his CDs, There are street artists, mimes and even a Jack Sparrow look alike that is popular with the children.
Of all the activities and things to do in Pai, the most popular pastime would be a relaxing dip in the natural hot springs. There is a national park with access to a few natural pools, some of them are far to hot to actually enter. Just down the street from the national park, the Pai Hotsprings Resort offers a much more luxurious setting to enjoy bathing in the natural hot water, and the cost of entry is roughly the same, just 100THB per person for the day. They have a large hot water pool that is fed by the natural hot spring as well as two large infinity pools located right on the river bank. The beautiful setting and world class facilities make the Pai Hotspring Resort a beautiful place to spend a day just relaxing at the pool.
Other activities include river rafting, elephant trekking, nature hiking and swimming in any of the beautiful waterfalls in the area. The Mor Paeng Waterfall is free to visit, and it is a popular swimming hole for tourists as well as locals, some crazy people even ride the waterfall like a water slide, sliding down the smooth rocks into the pool below the falls. Overall the idea of spending time in Pai is that you just want to sit back and relax, and soak in the natural beauty and scenic views of rice fields, mountains and rivers.
The cost of food and accommodation is quite low in comparison to most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, there are budget guesthouses available for as little as a few hundred baht per night, as well as luxury resorts and hotels that will cost several thousand baht per night. Most of the restaurants are priced for Thais, and this is good news for tourists because the Thai price is always more reasonable. There are plenty of food vendors on walking street selling pancakes and roti, mango and sticky rice, traditional Thai deserts and various other street food.
Anytime is a good time to travel to Pai, however the high season is between November and March, when the weather is normally much colder than normal. During the off season the cost of guesthouses is even lower than usual, and there are very few people around, making it even more peaceful and relaxing than normal. Anyone traveling to Chiang Mai or around Northern Thailand will want to take at least a few days to visit Pai and relax and experience the wonderful and unique atmosphere of this funky little town.