Pai is one of those tours that are definitely worth a visit if you are staying in Chiang Mai. I had a weekend there recently and I particularly enjoyed it.
From Chiang Mai the road is relatively long. You can take a red cab from the Arcade bus station for a mere 70 baht ride. If you have the possibility it is better to rent a car to circulate a little around once at destination. The road is long and especially tortuous, Pai being nestled in the middle of the mountains. It is also one of the few places where it can be cold winter in Thailand. In October however, no need to bring a sweater!
A small town that looks like a big village
The city itself is nice, compact enough to be walked on and rather quiet. The panorama is particularly attractive. The surrounding mountains are all opportunities for escapades. In the evening for example, the view is superb from Pai Canyon. It’s packed with tourists, but superb. Many hot springs provide an ideal setting for a pleasant break by splashing in sulphurous hot water. This type of activity would be ideal at night but the only option to bypass the opening hours is to rent a bungalow with its own private hot spring.
A bungalow in the center, quiet, in a small corner of nature, 300 baht for a person 400 for two. It is a perfect option for a quiet night in the heart of the city. Obviously at this price it is not the luxury but for a short stay is perfect.
We eat very well in the North of Thailand and Pai confirms it. The offer of vegans is particularly provided. Gluten allergic people will also find a wide selection of dishes to their liking. These regional specialties are of course adapted to Pai’s clientele: cool neo-hippies, authentic ones that have survived hidden here for 60 years, white rastas (a species almost extinct from the rest of the planet), gurus, converts … In short there is a way to laugh. For breakfast, if you like croissants, I recommend the Pai Paris French Bakery.
A well-developed nightlife
Start the evening with a little tour at the night market. It is a nice tourist market with food stands for Westerners and typical souvenirs of Pai: djembes, didgeridoos, shiloms, water pipes, harem pants, Bob Marley or mushroom that makes you laugh t-shirts… not to mention the classic elephant trousers . The most advanced are already equipped with several accessories found in one of the many thrift stores in Chiang Mai. Once dressed in local attire, these soul-seeking souls are looking for spiritual elevation, usually heading to a bar, like Backpackers Paradise, for example. This bar really bears his name. A few clusters of Western youth gather under the pale glow of white neon lights. They are not weak-eyed petty-bourgeois who need a subdued light like that found in just about every other bar. They have the courage to slummer in a bar where concrete and neon predominate. What matters most to them is the sense of community. Moreover, in a perspective of sharing and love of art some English-speaking customers with cleverly crafted looks gave us a little demonstration of hip-hop. That’s when I started to wonder if it was school holidays and whether their parents knew where their offspring were. Should I take one or two photos and alert their families? But no, after all I too am open-minded!
A good option for a digital nomad?
Yes, outside of the winter which is too cold and the burning season which is worse than everywhere else, since it is precisely in the surrounding countryside that the fires are lit. On the other hand, the relaxed life and the bucolic setting are particularly enchanting. For a few months it is a city that can be much more pleasant than Chiang Mai for example: more nature, less noise, a fun local population … and all the advantages of the city: good internet coverage, food and accommodation easy and cheap.