Planning to explore Pai? Learn about the 10 best things to do in Pai.

Introduction to Pai

Introduction Photo Pai

Pai is a small and tranquil town tucked in the Mae Hong Son province of northern Thailand. It is located about 135 km from Chiang Mai and can be reached via bus or a minivan. Part of the charming appeal of this town is its remote location. Many tourists and expats visit this place to find refuge whenever they get bored by the mundane urban life of big metros.

For the longest time, Pai has been a sanctuary for hippies and backpackers. The reason being that living and exploring this small village is affordable, even for those on a shoestring budget. Upon exploring, you would find natural hot springs, nature trails, markets, quirky cafes, rivers, and scenic mountains that elevate the beauty of this place. So if you have been looking for an offbeat place in Thailand to explore, check out Pai and read this guide to know the best things to do in Pai.

1. Explore the Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon

The Pai Canyon, or Kong Lan, is a spectacular place resulting from a geological phenomenon of rock erosion. It is one of the most visited places in Pai, partly because there is no entrance fee or strict timing. The other reason is that it provides breathtaking and tranquil views of the sky, the sun, and the nearby landscape. Visiting this place during the sunrise is one of the best things to do in Pai. You can easily reach here by renting a scooter. Once you reach here, you’ll observe the sleek and long stretch of rocks and dust-covered red ridges created by thousands of years of erosion. Also remember that you won’t be alone, as many tourists like to come here, especially during sunrise and sunset. Many people call it the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Thailand; whether it’s grand or not, it’s for you to decide.

Travel Tip: The ridges of Pai canyon are slender therefore it’s important for you to wear sturdy shoes. It will help you make a firm grip while walking.

2. Eat and Shop from Pai Night Market

Walking Street

As the sun goes down, the Pai night market gets lit up with numerous lanterns, vendors put up their stalls, and the street buzzes with locals and tourists. Once you step into the street, the aromas, sounds, and sights delight your senses. You will discover stalls selling typical bohemian jewellery, souvenirs, and other knick-knacks. And when it comes to food, you will find all kinds of dishes, from sushi to dumplings to Pad Thai noodles, sticky mango rice, and smoothies. Almost all tourists explore this market during the evening, so the street looks like a kaleidoscope of diverse individuals all coming together from different places and backgrounds. You, too, can satiate your hunger with delightful food or buy some souvenirs from the market with a little bargaining. The market remains open every day of the week from 5 PM to 10 PM.

3. Walk on the Bamboo Bridge

Bamboo Bridge 2

The Bamboo Bridge was made for monks who wanted to reach the temple using a shorter route. But nowadays, this slightly elevated walkway is used by everyone. Located amidst scenic and lush green and yellow paddy fields, this bridge is an ideal place for morning and evening strolls. The clean blue sky, the mountainous landscape, and the fresh air quality are quite opposite from what one experiences in a big city such as Bangkok. Everyone visiting Pai must experience its ethereal beauty in its pristine form. Make sure to click on many photos of this beautiful area. Along the way, you will see many different photo spots, swings, and, of course, the temple at the end of the bridge.

The entry fee is 30 THB per person and the best time to visit this bridge is during the months of October and November.

4. Ride a Scooter to Pam Bok Waterfall

Pam Bok Waterfall

Pai is home to beautiful and gushing waterfalls, and Pam Bok Waterfall is one of them. It is just a short scooter ride away from Pai. Enjoy the scenic trails leading up to the waterfall. Once you reach the waterfall, park your scooter here, and within a walking distance of five minutes, you will see the waterfall. Remember to take the metal bridge instead of the old wooden one to reach it safely. The rocks surrounding the waterfall could be slippery, so be careful and check the depth of the water in the basin before jumping in. The water is mostly cold, and the best time to visit the waterfall is during the rainy season in May and October. Please note that this is a seasonal waterfall and gets recharged during the rainy season. If you visit in the off-season, chances are you will not see little to no water in the waterfall.

5. Don’t Miss Out on Mo Paeng Waterfall

Mo Paeng Waterfall

Another famous waterfall in Pai, which is also a buzzing tourist attraction, is Mo Paeng Waterfall. This waterfall lies in the vicinity of Pai and has unparalleled beauty. Cascading from a stellar height of 15 metres, it has a width of approximately 10 metres. Unlike Pam Bok, Mo Paeng waterfall remains open throughout the year. The lush natural landscape of Mo Paeng, with its mountainous views and many small pools, gives ample opportunity to soak in the natural beauty of this place. You can take a dip and relax in one of the pools surrounding the main waterfall. You can easily spend 3–4 hours just soaking everything in and experiencing the best of nature. The opening hours of the waterfall are from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM with no entrance fee.

6. Tubing in Pai River

One of the best things to do in Pai is tubing in the Pai River with fellow travellers or backpackers. Tubing, or tipsy tubing, is a unique activity that you can experience and try in Pai. You rent a floating tube and bottle of alcohol (although not mandatory) to enjoy this activity. You will meet at least 50–80 backpackers or tourists along the river Pai who are preparing to partake in tubing. It is a great daytime experience to have in Pai as you beat the heat of northern Thailand. There is something inexplicably fun and exciting about tubing in the Thai countryside. Place yourself in the donut-shaped tube and float across the river. You may bump into fellow travellers and exchange a few friendly words. You can complete the activity in 1 to 2 hours, depending on your floating speed. Make sure to add tubing to the list of Pai activities that you must do. Also, a word of caution: don’t try this activity in the rainy season, as the Pai River might overflow.

7. Relax in Pai Natural Springs

Pai Natural Spring 2

Another activity in Pai that you must do is visit the Tha Pai Hot Spring. It is located 7 kilometres south of Pai and is easily accessible. A cool trickle of water cascades over hot rocks to create a soothing pool of heated water surrounded by beautiful and dense foliage. To enjoy nature’s jacuzzi, make sure to visit here in the cooler season. The cooler season in northern Thailand is when you will be able to enjoy this warm water, as it eases your muscle tension and calms your nerves. Spending time here is a healing experience. But don’t think that you will be here alone. This is a pretty popular tourist attraction, so you are likely to bump into other backpackers, which gives you a chance for social interaction and making new travel buddies. The other hot spring you can enjoy in Pai is the Sai Ngam Hot Spring, which is located north of Pai.

8. Visit the Wat Phra That Mae Yen

Wat Phra That Mae Yen

Pai activities are not just limited to hiking on nature trails or soaking in springs. There are also religious sites that one can explore, one of which is Wat Phra That Mae Yen. The Wat Phra That Mae Yen is also known as the White Buddha on the Hilltop. The white Buddha nestled on the hilltop is quite visible from most parts of the town, much like the one in Phuket. However, the former isn’t as giant as its Phuket counterpart. It is perhaps the only Buddhist site that gives a panoramic view of this village. A distance of 2 km out of Pai town, and you will see a way to reach the hilltop. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes because you will be climbing a total of 353 steps to reach the top. Once you reach the White Buddha, you will get to see ethereal views of Pai that are unlike any others.

Travel Tip: The best time to visit the Big Buddha is at sunset. It’s when you can see orange and red hues in the sky, perfect for taking Instagram-worthy photos. Also, make sure to cover your knees and shoulders to show respect to Buddha.

9. Experience Nightlife in Pai

Nightlife in Pai

Some tourists are dismissive of Pai, thinking of it as one of the many small towns in Thailand’s countryside. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Pai surprises its visitors with a quirky and exciting nightlife scene, which is highly unexpected for most newer tourists. The place has enough bars and clubs for you to dance the night away and keep you hooked. The most famous bar where you’ll find most backpackers is the Boom Bar. Tourists flock to this bar for their cheap drinks, table games, and thumping music. If you’re on a budget and still want to experience clubbing in Pai, head straight to Boom Bar. Other popular bars in Pai to enjoy good music and drinks are Jazz House and Almost Famous Bar.

10. Click Photos at Yun Lai Viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint

Located 6 kilometres from central Pai is a fantastic viewpoint called the Yun Lai Viewpoint. It is an approximately 15-minute drive that you can take on a scooter, which you can rent for 150 THB. If you do not have a scooter, you can also take a songthaew to reach your destination. Right from the drop-off, you can follow a carved pathway that will lead you to the viewpoint. Wander through this pathway and admire the dense foliage on either side. Once you reach the viewing deck, you will see plenty of people already standing to see the sunrise or sunset. But don’t let this overwhelm you; find yourself a nice spot and wait for the sky to change its hues. It really looks like a scene straight out of a fairy tale. Visiting this postcard-perfect place is definitely the best thing to do in Pai. The entrance fee for this viewpoint is 20 THB, and it remains open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Wrap Up

In Thailand travels, earlier, Pai was seen as a remote, off-beat place only fit for robust travellers and explorers. But nowadays, Pai is gaining popularity and traction among tourists who want to explore northern Thailand. Along with Phayao, Pai has emerged as a hot backpacking destination for travellers. So, if you too have been wanting to visit Pai, make sure to do the best things in Pai, as mentioned in this guide, to make it a memorable trip.