Travel to Pai

Place to visit in Pai

Pai is a small tiny town halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son

Pai located among the mountain road makes a winding descent into a large green valley carpeted with rice paddies and fruit groves. Mountains rise on all sides and butterflies flit along the streets. Here you'll find a tiny town called Pai, named after the river that runs through the valley.

Pai a speck of a place with main roads (all four of them) offers you a rich bohemian atmosphere where you can collect your thoughts and commune with nature.
In Pai, every day is a lazy Sunday. And if you're ready for it, Pai offers you a wide palet of activities. Never a dull moment.

This site is intended to help you in finding your way in and around Pai. in North Thailand, between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son on Route 1095. The surrounding district is Amphoe Pai. Both are named after the Pai River.

Pai is a predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveller & backpacker scene. In early 2006 a sudden boom in guest-house and bar construction has resulted in a great deal of spare capacity - capacity that is partially taken up by an increase in Thai people visiting after Pai was featured in a romantic Thai film.

You can get here by motorcycle, bus, plane, train

Route 1095 which connects Pai with Mae Hong Son (50km as the crow flies, but approx. 110km by road) and Chiang Mai (135km) is a very scenic route through the mountains which takes several hours (but worth it). It's a steep and windy drive, with lots of curves, so take a plastic bag and some motion-sickness pills if you need them.

By motorcycle

Route 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. 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. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and being on a bike makes you feel like part of the mountains. The locals will think you're crazy, and the construction crews get really excited when you come through. 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 [1] offers one way rentals from Chiang Mai to Pai (or vice versa) with luggage delivery.

By bus

Buses and minibuses go to Chiang Mai (Arcade terminal) and Mae Hong Son. Regular public buses take around 4 hours and charge about 80 baht; minibuses take around 3 hours and tickets (sold by travel agencies) cost about 160 baht. One strategy is to get to Pai using the public bus so that you can get an idea as to how winding the road is and then you can decide if you want to splash out and get the mini bus back to Chiang Mai.

To feel less travel sick and save some money take the regular public bus. The scenery is lovely and the winding roads are much easier on one's stomach if you take things slowly.

By plane

The nearest domestic airport is Pai. It now has daily service from Chiang Mai. Tickets can be bought at Aya Services in Pai, or from the ticket office in the Chiang Mai airport. It's near the Air Asia office, on the far end. Chiang Mai to Pai - SGA departs daily from Chiang Mai at 10:55am and arrives in Pai at 11:30am. Return flights are at 11:45am arriving at Chiang Mai at 12:20pm.

the nearest domestic airport accepting flights from Bangkok is Mae Hong Son Airport, which has direct flights to/from Bangkok (Thai Airways and PB Air).

The nearest international airport is at Chiang Mai.

By train

The nearest train station is at Chiang Mai.

Take sight seeing and get around

The town itself is best explored on foot. For exploring further afield, bicycles (40-100 baht/day) and motorbikes (from 100 baht/day) can be rented from many agents along the main street.

Motorbike taxis are also readily available.

The town itself has no special sights; most people come simply for the relaxed atmosphere. Nearby attractions include hot springs and waterfalls, and a hilltop temple. There is also a wonderful canyon which provides the perfect spot for a sunset. This is a great spot to visit after seeing the WWII bridge built by Japanese-held POWs.

Rent a bicycle or motorbike and visit one of the nearby waterfalls and hill-tribe villages. Pai is also a major starting point for organized trekking tours which are offered by every guesthouse and travel agent.

Whitewater rafting trips abound and there are numerous elephant camps. Additionally there are several hot springs in the area.

Visit Cave Lod, approximately 55km from town on the road towards Mae Hong Son, 9 km from Soppong. About an hour and a half on motor bike, or join a tour. Visit just before sunset (3pm-6pm) and see the thousands of birds descending into the cave for the night.


* Mae Yen - 7 kilometers out of town with no bikes allowed for the last 6km of that. Head East over the bridge heading out of Pai and follow the signs.

* Pam Bok - on the road to Chiang Mai before Pai Canyon. Nice secluded waterfall with high cliffs surrounding it, making this a very cool place to escape the heat. Go for a relaxing bathe in the shade during the dry season.

* Mo Paeng - West of the city past Santichon (Chinese refugre Village). 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.
The Pai River traces its source to a mountain range far to the north in Myanmar. The river flows through North Thailand in Mae Hong Son province for approximately 180km, then follows its course back into Myanmar.

Between the district of Ban Nam Khong and Mae Hong Son town, the river flows through the Mae Surin wildlife sanctuary.

South of Mae Hong Son town, a flat section of the river runs all the way to the border village of Ban Nam Pieng Din. A boat trip can be taken down the river, starting from Ban Huai Dua, Tambon Pha Bong, about 6kms south of town. It's possible to charter local "long-tail boats".

The border village of Ban Nam Pieng Din is also home to some "long neck hill-tribe" people. We do not organize or recommend visits to this village.

Shopping place

Take a look at some of the hill-tribe members selling handcrafts.

Pai has an abundance of bookshops, some of which carry harder to find titles. Many are along the bus stop road, past Aya services.

Place to Eat

For such a small town, there's an astonishing number of restaurants, most of them catering for needs/tastes of foreign travellers; just choose the one that suits you best.

* Burger House - The owner Ed & wife Jec offers 12 different real beef hamburgers, chili, sandwiches, specials, dinners, pork chops the size of a Clive Cussler novel, beer, wine, etc. Located 100 meters east of the traffic light on the main road.

* FUBAR - delicious Thai food, the best English chips in Pai with malt vinegar, superb sunset views over Pai valley

* Drop Inn - offers gigantic versions of Western dishes for 120-150 baht.

* Good Life - Veggies and vegans will love this place. It serves organic and vegetarian foods at decent prices. It's not half bad either. The delicious breakfasts are great value. Best fresh coffee in Pai too!

* Kin J - This 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. It's only 25 baht for brown rice and two dishes.

* Na's Kitchen - Debatably some of the best Thai food in town. Na still works in the kitchen everyday, serving delicious 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 favorite of the long-stay travelers and the ones returning for a second, or third go at Pai.

* <Unknown> - The Thai local restaunt of choice. Find it directly opposite the Pai District Office. Very few westerners to be found, but the menu is in English. Excellent Thai salads and sticky rice.

* Curry Shack - Order a curry served in a coconut!

* Charlie & Lek's - Quite simply the best Thai food in Pai (and that's according to more than one local I've spoken to!). The vegetables used in the cooking are grown fresh on their own farm and the bar has a wonderful relaxed and romantic atmosphere. Located on the road to Chiang Mai, just before the police station. Look out for a sign with the restaurant logo - We Love Lettuce!

Place to Drink

There are many Western-style bars, especially along the main street that leads to the Chiang Mai bus stop. There are also many tea and coffee shops, including herbal brews.

* Bebop Bar is famous for live bands.

* Re-Tox Bar just passed the police station, customers can choose the music, very lively atmosphere, and best of all FREE ALCOHOL! Drink 10 large Beer Changs in three hours or less and get them free. Also take the shot challenge and do your nation proud! Upon finishing the 3-shot, 5-shot, 12-shot, or 18-shot challenge, points are added to the country of your origin. England currently holds the lead. (Mar 2008)

* FUBAR is slightly out of town and stays open till very early, playing excellent music and great food, free pool table. The best late night bar by far. Allegedly an acronym for "F***** Up Beyond All Repair, it has since been fixed up and is now thriving.

* Phu Pai is a popular hang out. Live music, great atmosphere. Go along and say hi to Siam who brews his own rum. Cocktails with his rum in it are some of the cheapest around (100 baht). Phu Pai translates to "Pai Mountain".

* Reggae Bar is on the road to Chiang Mai, just pust Ting Tong. This hard to find bar is the place for hippie hang outs. Look for the people sitting around a camp fire with acoustic guitars and jembi drums. Live music every night sometimes provided by the customers - feel free to bring along your own instrument!

Hotel in Pai for your accommodation

There's an abundance of guesthouses in Pai, most of them in the budget range (a bungalow goes for around 100-500 baht depending on amenities included). Mid-range options are rare and there's no top-end hotel. But Pai is not a package-tour-place.

Heading out of town there are swarms of bungalow setups.

At the bus station there is a 2007 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.

For cheap 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).

Other accommodation:

* Pai Klang Na, just 1 km (0.6 mile) from Pai unique walking street. "Upmarket Lanna huts in a paddy field" - only seven thatched-roof cottages available in the middle of its private paddy field. 5 Deluxes and 2 standards - all with private bathroom...Free WIFI throughout the premise. All rates including local breakfast or ABF +66-(0)83-304-3300.

* Phi Chi, East past the main traffic light, past Burger House on the right. 'Phi Chi' is Thai for older brother. Approx. 300 Baht per night. Quiet, clean, hot water showers, western toilets, some rooms have TV and close to everything.

* Rim Pai Cottages, 99/1 Moo 3; +66-26730966 (fax. +66-22119656) is one of the more "upmarket" options in Pai and offers several kinds of wooden cottages starting at about 500 baht (double) including breakfast, which is served on a nice open terrace overlooking the Pai river. (closed for renovations from 01. April 2008 until 31. May 2008)

* Mountain View Guesthouse+66-841711486 - Located at the top of the hill, opposite Bebop. An unpretentious, peaceful guesthouse with gorgeous views overlooking Pai.

* Pai River Corner Resort, tel/fax +66(0)53699049. A small upmarket boutique resort 300m east of the bus station on the river with luxury guest rooms in secluded gardens, river and mountain views and modern amenities including A/C, cable/sat TV, free wireless internet, jacuzzi, restaurant, bar, petanque and swimming pool.

* Pai Laguna Tel +66 (0)81-7339055 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Located to the west of the City about a 10/15 minute walk from the center, the Pai Laguna offers excellent individual bungalows for two people with a separate bathroom, and balcony overlooking the lagoon and with exquisite mountain views. Prices range from around 500-900 bahts a day, with reduced rates for those looking to stay on a longer basis. Shh! You will also find discount vouchers for Pai Laguna if you eat at Charlie & Lek's restaurant (see Eat above).