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Overview

Pai is a small town (pop. 3000) 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 one of the best 9 destinations in Thailand by BangkokPost in 2009.

Pai


Years ago Pai was a quiet market village, mainly inhabited by Shan people, but nowadays it thrives on tourism thanks to its arrival on the ‘backpacker map’ of Northern Thailand. Pai is the predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveler & backpacker scene. In early 2006 a sudden boom in guesthouse and bar construction has resulted in much spare capacity - capacity that is partially taken up by an increase in Thai people visiting after Pai was featured in a romantic Thai film. There are now around 200 guesthouses and hotels in Pai, and the city center has transformed into containing western style restaurants, souvenir shops, and bars that cater largely to the now significant influx of tourists and package tours. There are also frequent music festivals held in Pai including the Pai Reggae Festival.

How to get there

By road

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 be 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 5 or 6 hours, including stops at sites and restaurants along the way. aYa Service offers one way rental from Chiang Mai to Pai (or vice versa) with luggage delivery for additional 500 baht.

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 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.

From Chiangmai: Local Bus from Chiang Mai to Pai leaves the Arcade Bus Station, five trips during a day (07:00, 08:30, 10:30, 12:30, 16:00). The trip takes about 4 hours and there is a comfort stop at the small half way village of Mae Sae (very good Northern sausages and traditional chicken curry noodle soup available as well as other necessities food water toilets et cetera). Bus trip costs about 80 Baht.

Minibuses and Small passenger truck (song taew) carrying a dozen people also leaves from the bus station as often as there are sufficient passengers or full paying passenger. (cost of private hire is about 1200 or share for about 150 Baht). The rear seats about 10 people and is open air. The view and wind in your face is pleasant, but not the occasional exhaust fumes.

By plane

The nearest domestic airport is in Pai. SGA Airlines(codeshared by Nok Air ) operate one or more daily flights between Chiang Mai and Pai, depending on the season. Flying time is 25 minutes. Passengers can make reservations and purchase tickets through the airlines' websites, their call centers or with a travel agent.

By train

The nearest train station is at Chiang Mai.

Getting 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.

What to See

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.

What to Do

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 Tham Lod cave, about 55km from town on the road towards Mae Hong Son, 9 km from Soppong ( Pangmapha ). 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.

Waterfalls

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 refugee 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!

What to Buy

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

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

What to Eat

For such a small town, there's an astonishing number of restaurants, most of them catering for needs/tastes of foreign travelers.

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.

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.

Curry Shack - Order a curry served in a coconut!

Charlie & Lek's - 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!

What 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 300 meters behind the police station, customers can choose the music, very lively atmosphere, and best of all FREE ALCOHOL! Drink 10 large Beers in three hours or less and get them for FREE! Also take the shot challenge and do your nation proud! On 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)

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 push 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 drums. Live music every night sometimes provided by the customers - feel free to bring along your own instrument!

Where to stay

There's the 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 available and there are now even luxury hotels, such as The Quarter.

At the bus station there is a 2008 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).

Bura Lumpai Resort, Mae Hong Son
91 Moo 10, Thung Yao district,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 08 9955 5400, 0 5306 5776-7
Fax: 0 5306 5726
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.buralumpai.com
Accommodation : 8 rooms
Room Rates : 2,200 - 7,400 THB


Phu Pai Art Resort, Mae Hong Son
92 Moo 1, Mae Na Toeng district,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 0 5306 5111-13
Fax: 0 5306 5115
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.phupai.com


Baan Suan Rim Pai
108 Moo 3 Tadsaban 1 Rd., Wiang Tai,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 08 9433 4377, 0 5369 9677, 08 6195 7877
Fax: 0 5369 9688
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.baansuanrimpai.com
Accommodation : 13 rooms
Room Rates : 1,200 - 2,700 THB


Pripta
99 Moo 3, Mae Hi,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 0 5306 5750
Fax: 0 5306 5737
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.pripta.com
Accommodation : 8 rooms
Room Rates : 3,400 - 7,000 THB


Pura Vida Resort
65 Moo 3, Wiang Nua,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 08 9635 7556
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.puravidapai.com
Accommodation : 8 rooms
Room Rates : 1,300 - 3,000 THB


Shan Guesthouse
86 Moo 8 Chaingmai-Pai Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel: 0 5369 9162
Price Rates : 150 - 1,000 THB *
Number of Rooms : 15 rooms


Blue House
36 Moo 3, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9401, 08 7175 6715
Price Rates : 150 - 700 THB *
Number of Rooms : 10 rooms


Pichai Guest House
30 Moo 4 Rangsiyanon Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9388, 08 1387 2313
Price Rates : 200 - 400 THB *
Number of Rooms : 10 rooms


Pai In The Sky Guest House
114 Moo 3, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8145, 08 1952 2515, 08 4174 6157
Price Rates : 200 - 900 THB
Number of Rooms : 12 rooms


Maripai Resort
97 Moo 11, Thung Yao,
Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand
Tel: 0 5369 9658, 08 6430 2385, 08 5020 3951
Fax: 0 5369 9658
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.maripai.tk
Accommodation : 22 rooms 0 Unit
Room Rates : 1,200 - 3,500 THB


Baan Pai Village
88 Moo 3 Tedsaban Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8152, 08 1827 7047, 0 2937 0181
Website : http://www.baanpaivillage.com
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 200 - 2,000 THB
Number of Rooms : 26 rooms


Pravee's House
95/1 MOO 3, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9368
Price Rates : 200 - 1,200 THB
Number of Rooms : 13 rooms


Tamarind House
125/4 Moo 8 Chiang Mai 1095 Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8111, 08 9371 8111
Website : http://www.tamarindhouse.9nha.com
Price Rates : 250 - 1,000 THB
Number of Rooms : 10 rooms


View Pai Hotel
143 Moo 8, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58000
Tel : 0 5369 9174
Price Rates : 300 - 500 THB
Number of Rooms : 30 rooms


Suandoi Resort
84 Moo 1 Ban Maeyen-Wiang Nuea, Tumbon Mae Hi, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9801, 08 9854 5294, 08 9192 6766
Website : http://www.suandoiresortpai.com
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 300 - 2,500 THB
Number of Rooms : 20 rooms


Pai Lin House
5 Moo 1 Khet Khelang Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9058
Price Rates : 300 - 900 THB
Number of Rooms : 5 rooms


Pai Highlands Resort
67 Moo 1 Baan Maeyen, Tumbon Mae Hi, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9316, 08 3573 2105, 08 9955 1359
Website : http://www.paihighlands.9nha.com
Price Rates : 300 - 1,800 THB
Number of Rooms : 16 rooms


Banana House
212/ Moo 1, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 08 963 57793, 0 5369 8149
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 400 - 1,000 THB
Number of Rooms : 13 rooms Unit


Pairadise Resort
98 Moo 1 Ban Mae Yen, Tumbon Mae Hi, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8065, 08 9431 3511, 08 1595 4974
Website : http://www.pairadise.com
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 400 - 1,250 THB
Number of Rooms : 17 rooms


Ban Sipsong Panna
60 Moo 5, Tumbon Wiang Nua, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8259, 08 1881 7631, 08 3579 9209
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 400 - 1,500 THB
Number of Rooms : 7 rooms


The Sun Hut Guest HOuse
28/1 Moo 1, Tumbon Mae Hi, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9730, 08 1301 3443
Website : http://www.thesunhut.com
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 450 - 1,350 THB
Number of Rooms : 11 rooms


Pai Valley
63 Moo 5, Tumbon Mae Na Toeng, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 08 9432 4015, 08 1390 3939
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 430 - 600 THB
Number of Rooms : 4 rooms


PS Riverside Guesthouse
115 Moo 4, Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8095, 08 5624 8769
Price Rates : 200 - 2,000 THB
Number of Rooms : 17 rooms


Paivimaan Resort
73 Moo 3 Tedsaban 1 Rd., Tumbon Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 9403, 08 1700 0996, 0 2864 0521-3
Website : http://www.paivimaan.com
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 1,500 - 8,000 THB
Number of Rooms : 17 rooms


Bulun Buri Resort
55 Moo 1, Tumbon Wiang Nua, Amphoe Pai, Changwat Mae Hong Son 58130
Tel : 0 5369 8302-3
Website : http://www.bulunburi.com/maehongson
Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price Rates : 1,850 - 4,200 THB
Number of Rooms : 11 rooms Unit




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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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