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10 Great Things to do in Pai, Thailand

Why You Have to Visit Pai, Thailand

I’d never heard of Pai before visiting northern Thailand. I first heard of it while chatting with a few friends in my hostel in Chiang Mai. It seemed that Pai had become all the rage recently.

The common thing I heard about Pai was that you’d “go for two days and stay for two weeks.” I hardly knew anything about this secluded village in the mountains. I doubted I would actually be around that long. However, I soon discovered there were so many things to do in Pai that I could hardly leave!

So, I went to Pai for two days, then I stayed for two weeks, as so many travellers ended up doing. I motorbiked the region, explored the best waterfalls around Pai, hiked the canyon, chilled out in a great jazz bar, and found some epic mushroom.

My friends were right, Pai was a stunning place to visit. Now I’m going to share a whole heap of my experiences with you so that you get the absolute best experience!



Things to do in Pai, Thailand


Things to do in Pai, Thailand

Pai is like no other place I’ve found in Thailand. It is backpacker friendly, yet really authentic. It is hardly talked about, yet so well known. It is a small town with nothing to do, yet has so much to explore.

Pai has stunning waterfalls, great northern Thai food, an obscure canyon, and really friendly people. Here is my list of things to do in Pai.


1. Explore the Waterfalls in Pai

One of the best things to do in Pai is to get out and explore the waterfalls. The waterfalls in Pai are some of my favourite in all of Thailand. They are only moderately sized but secluded in the jungle with some fantastic swimming pools. It’s a great way to escape the heat.

My favourite waterfalls in Pai are; Pam Bok Waterfall, Mor Paeng Waterfall, and Mae Yen Waterfall.

These three waterfalls are actually located a bit further out of Pai’s town centre. You will need to hire a motorbike to visit them. Motorbikes can be hired for about 150 THB (USD 5) per day from one of the many shops around the centre of town.


Waterfalls in Pai
Mor Paeng Waterfall – Pai, Thailand


Pam Bok Waterfall has a great 3-meter ledge which you can climb up the side of. The water is deep enough that you can jump off the ledge and into the waterfall below. This waterfall is a bit more difficult to get to due to the poor quality winding road, however, it is still located just 8km from the town of Pai.

Mor Paeng Waterfall is the easiest waterfall to reach from Pai and has the most people. The waterfall has a few levels to explore over a short hike. The rocks are slippery so beware. There is actually a big rock which you can slide down and into a cold freshwater pond at the end. Warning: slide down sitting up to avoid hitting your head. The Mor Paeng Waterfall is about 12km north-west of Pai and is easily accessible by motorbike.

Mae Yen Waterfall is the most difficult waterfall near Pai to visit. There is a 2.5hr jungle hike each way to and from the waterfall. Get your hiking shoes ready. When you arrive there will be hardly any other people around, and the swimming hole there is fantastic! This is one of the most adventurous things to do in Pai.

If you love waterfalls be sure to check out the Erawan National Park and Kratengjeng in Sangkhlaburi


2. Visit Ethnic Villages Near Pai

The area surrounding Pai is home to ethnic villages in the mountains. The people out here are from the Shan culture (From Myanmar) or Lisu culture (from Yunnan).

If you want to visit an ethnic village but avoid the tourist traps, you should hire a motorbike and continue west along the road past Pam Bok Waterfall. I’m not sure of the village names, but you will come across the ethnic cultures out this way. The further you get from Pai, the better.


3. Go Hiking in Pai Canyon (Kong Lan)

Pai Canyon is one of the most popular places to visit in Pai. Some compare Pai Canyon to the Grand Canyon, however that is probably overstating it. Nevertheless, it is still a stunning attraction to visit.

There is an easy walking trail which leads around the top of the canyon. Here you will see the steep 30-meter cliffs which drop down to the bottom of the canyon, and get a nice view looking over the countryside. There are some more adventurous hiking trails which lead down into the canyon. I suggest wearing some sturdy shoes if you plan to explore further.

While the Pai Canyon is open all day, the best time to visit is around sunset. It makes for a great way of wrapping up a day exploring the waterfalls in Pai.

Pai Canyon is located just 15 minutes north-west of the town. The canyon itself is only a 5-minute walk from the carpark which is located along the main road.


How to Get to Pai Canyon
Hiking in Pai Canyon


4. Eat Khao Soi

Khao Soi is the famous creamy, spicy, crunchy, chicken noodle soup from the north. However, in Pai, it is just that much better. Get a bowl at one of the many local restaurants in town for about 80 THB, and you will probably order a second.

A bowl of Khao Soi comes with a few condiments such as onion and chili. Be sure to add these in to bump up the experience.

When you’re done, make sure you wash all that creamy soupy goodness down with a cold bottle of Leo. This is my favorite beer in Thailand too!


5. Visit the WW2 Memorial Bridge

The WWII Pai Memorial Bridge is no longer the original, that was destroyed by a huge flood back in 1973. However, historically the WWII Pai Bridge was a significant transport route for the Japanese in their invasion of Myanmar. While visiting the bridge you will be able to read further historical information about its use.

The bridge is also a great viewpoint over the river which runs through the outskirts of Pai. We were fortunate enough to see a farmer cross the river with his herd of buffalo.


Pai WW2 Memorial Bridge
Pai Memorial Bridge


6. Chill out at some really cool bars in Pai

One of my favourite things to do in Pai is to just to chill out in one of the cool local bars. You can find daily live music sessions at Edible Jazz, watch some awesome fire shows at Don’t Cry, or just kick back and enjoy the amazing sunsets at Sunset Bar Pai.

Another cool spot is the Pai Circus School. Some afternoons the guesthouse throws a barbecue with cold drinks. It is an awesome place to watch the sunset from up on the hill.


7. Hang out at a cafe

There are quite a few cool cafes around town where you will find backpackers lazing about and digital nomads working during the day. With good food and good coffee, there’s no better reason to take a lazy day in true Pai style. Check out Cafecito for good coffee and Latin food, and the Pedlar for good coffee and bakery products.

Found another great cafe in Pai? Please let me know in the comments section below!


8. Motorbike the road to Chiang Mai

The road from Pai to Chiang Mai, route 1095, is known as the road of 762 turns. This 120-kilometre route, which winds its way through the mountains, is a paradise for motorbike adventurers.

After leaving the highways surrounding Chiang Mai, the road to Pai passes rice paddies for a while, then makes its way into the mountains and through the forest. The ride from Chiang Mai to Pai is a great way to see a stunning part of Northern Thailand. An area which seems to be endlessly green.

The ride from Chiang Mai to Pai (or vice versa) takes about 5 to 6 hours one-way.

Note: it is best to motorbike the road from Chiang Mai to Pai in the dry season. During the wet season, it can rain quite hard out here.

Love motorbike adventures? Check out my huge Vietnam Motorbike Route

9. Eat Mushrooms in Pai (if you are looking for this)

I will not label what type of mushrooms these are, but they are great. Some of the best you will find in Asia.

Mushrooms in Pai grow in abundance in piles of Elephant poo. Ask around and you shall find the source. Having a few mushrooms while lazing out on the grass in Pai is an incredible experience. However, take my advice and don’t do it at night.


Pai Mushrooms
Shrooms in Pai


Don’t end up in Pai Hospital 

With all these things to do in Pai, there must be a few accidents along the way. Be careful, don’t end up in the hospital like I did.

During my trip to Pai, there were so many hospital incidents. The hospital in Pai must be one of the busiest in Thailand I had come across on my travels. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • I was bitten on the eyeball by some bug. The bite got infected overnight after scratching it. The next day I spent 3 hours in the hospital with a hose under my eyelid flushing out the infection
  • A friend had a bug crawl down his ear and make a nest. Back to the hospital to flush it out with water and tweezers before there was a colony of bugs down there.
  • A mosquito bit an elderly woman at our guesthouse and gave her with Dengue Fever. She blackout and collapsed while walking and ended up in the hospital for a week to recover.
  • Another friend crashed a motorbike while it was raining and cut his right eye open. Stitches and two days in the hospital


Given how dangerous Pai seems to be, I recommend getting some travel insurance. Check out World Nomads for a free quote. You can customize the cover to suit your trip including your destinations, duration or cover, and activities.


How to Get to Pai

The best way to get to Pai is from Chiang Mai. Most people take a minivan from the Chiang Mai van terminal. At the time of writing, a ticket cost 150-200 THB (USD 6) per person one-way. Be warned, the minivan has been known to make many travellers vomit along the way.

Adventure travelers might consider hiring a motorbike in Chiang Mai for a week or more, then riding out to Pai. The road to Pai is one of the top motorbiking roads in Thailand, and an experience you will not forget.


Where to Stay in Pai

There are plenty of cool guesthouses are Pai. I personally stayed at the Pai Giant Guesthouse. The private wooden bungalows are on the budget end. Rooms are basic with a mattress on the floor, mosquito net over your bed and a hammock out the front. There is a great outdoor community kitchen where travellers can enjoy hanging out.

Another unique option is the Pai Circus School. This guesthouse is located up on the mountainside overlooking the village. It has a great sunset view, often throws fun communal barbecues and has cool circus equipment if you want to learn a few new tricks like fire spinning. You don’t have to be a circus geek to stay here!


Where to go after Pai?

There are some stunning destinations to visit in the north of Thailand. Head back to Chiang Mai and explore the ancient temples throughout the city. Otherwise, you could get further off the beaten track and explore Chiang Rai in the far north. Be sure to read my huge 5000 words article with loads of tips on what to do in Chiang Rai!

If you want to explore further around Thailand, then be sure to check out my huge Thailand travel guide also. This gives a great overview of the whole country with loads of useful resources.


3 thoughts on “10 Great Things to do in Pai, Thailand”

  1. Great tips and great encouragement. Sometimes hearing or reading, “Keep at it… It takes time…The first year is the hardest,” is what a newbie really needs to hear. I’ve enjoyed your site for awhile and love your tagline. Thanks again!

  2. Hi
    I and my husband and my brother want to go Thailand in the June for two weeks.
    We want to stay in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son.
    How many days enough for staying each of them?

    1. Hi Samaneh,

      Two weeks sounds like a good amount of time to cover these destinations quickly. As a rough itinerary, I’d suggest; 3 days in Bangkok, 3 days in Chiang Mai, 4 days in Chiang Rai, 4 days in Pai / Mae Hong Son.

      Check out my guide to Chiang Rai for some awesome destinations around the province. I’d suggest hiring a car and driving up the mountains for a couple of days:

      It is best if you can plan your trip to visit Bangkok on a weekend, there are plenty more markets open.

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