What to do in Pai, Thailand? 12x The Best Tips!

Pai is a small village in the far north of Thailand that many travelers fall in love with. It has a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere, and the surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful. Outside the center of Pai, you’ll find vast rice fields, simple wooden houses, and friendly locals waving at you. In Pai, it feels like stepping into a Conimex advertisement directly. Whether you’re looking for coziness, nature, tranquility, or a sporty experience, Pai has something for everyone. Curious about what you can do there? Read all my tips for Pai!

How to get to Pai?

Almost everyone travels from Chiang Mai to Pai. This road is 130 kilometers (80.8 miles) long and has a whopping 762 curves. The landscapes along the way are beautiful! There are two different ways to get there.

By minivan from Chiang Mai to Pai

Minivans operate multiple times a day between Chiang Mai and Pai. This journey takes a total of three hours, and it’s advisable to take a motion sickness pill beforehand as the large number of curves can make you feel queasy. It’s a good idea to reserve a seat in advance because the minivans are often full.

By scooter from Chiang Mai to Pai

Are you an experienced scooter rider? Then it’s a fun adventure to ride from Chiang Mai to Pai on a scooter. Set off early and make sure you arrive in Pai before dark. The curves can be quite sharp, and you’ll need to concentrate. Fortunately, the road is well-maintained, and you can make frequent stops at beautiful viewpoints and restaurants along the way.

There are many rental companies in Chiang Mai where you can rent scooters. If you rent a scooter from Aya Service, you can return it in Pai. They can also transport your luggage to Pai on the same day, so you don’t have to carry it on the scooter. Unfortunately, the reviews for Aya Service are mixed. A rental company that has a good reputation is Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai. It’s best to leave your backpack or suitcase at your hostel in Chiang Mai and travel to Pai with a small backpack.

Tip: About halfway along the route to Pai, you’ll come across the Mork Fa Waterfall, which is 60 meters (196.9 feet) high. It’s a beautiful waterfall worth visiting. The waterfall is signposted along the road, and there’s a small entrance fee to pay.

What to do in Pai?

Despite being a small village, Pai offers plenty to see and experience. Below you’ll find all the tips for Pai.

Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Pai Walking Street

Pai Walking Street is the main street of Pai, where it’s always lively in the evening. Every night, there’s a night market with numerous stalls selling street food, souvenirs, jewelry, and clothing. You’ll also find many restaurants and cafes with live music until late hours. Pai Walking Street is the place where everyone gathers in the evening, and you definitely shouldn’t miss it.

Tip: To prevent food poisoning, it’s best not to buy pre-cut fruits. If you order something with meat from a street food stall, make sure to watch it being prepared so that you’re certain it’s properly cooked.

Ultimate relaxation at the hot springs of Pai

There are many hot springs around Pai, and the most beautiful ones are the Sai Ngam Hot Springs. Located about 25 minutes’ drive from Pai, Sai Ngam Hot Springs offer crystal-clear water at the perfect temperature. The hot spring is surrounded by beautiful trees and consists of three levels. It’s best to go there in the morning and start your day in a state of pure relaxation. Keep in mind that the entrance fee for the hot spring is quite high, so make sure to allocate a few hours for your visit.

Visit the lovely Lod Cave

Lod Cave is an impressive cave located just over an hour’s drive from Pai. The journey to the cave itself is spectacular, with beautiful landscapes along the way, but once you reach the cave, you’ll be amazed. You can explore Lod Cave independently, and at the entrance, you’ll be assigned a guide. Together with the guide, you’ll visit three different caves. Although most guides don’t speak fluent English, they will do their best to share interesting information about Lod Cave. In between the caves, you’ll also take a bamboo raft ride on the water. It’s a unique experience in Thailand!

Tip: After visiting Lod Cave, have a meal at Noodle Soup House Ban Jabo. It’s a good restaurant with a fantastic view, although you’ll need to take a detour. It’s about a twenty-minute drive from Lod Cave.

Witness the sunset at Pai Canyon

Do you dare to balance on the edge of a cliff? Just outside Pai, you’ll find the impressive Pai Canyon, the most popular spot to watch the sunset in Pai. The view over the valley and the winding paths is breathtakingly beautiful. Wear sturdy shoes and be cautious as some paths are quite narrow with cliffs on both sides.

A great time to visit the canyon is during sunset when it’s pleasantly busy. Bring a picnic blanket, some drinks, and snacks because it’s a lovely spot for a picnic. Arrive early so you can take a stroll and then find a nice spot before it gets too crowded. There’s no entrance fee for Pai Canyon.

Tip: If you want to enjoy the view without the crowds, go during sunrise.

Walk across the Memorial Bridge

The Memorial Bridge is similar to the famous Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. Both served as a strategic route for the Japanese to invade Myanmar during World War II. After the war, the bridge was burned down by the Japanese, but it was reconstructed because it played a significant role in the daily lives of the local people. The Memorial Bridge is located on the way to Pai Canyon, so you can easily combine these two attractions. It’s not necessary to make a special trip from Pai just for the bridge.

Tip: Every day, there’s a photographer present at the Memorial Bridge. Have your picture taken, and it will be printed on a polaroid as a lovely souvenir!

Enjoy a cup of tea at Yun Lai Viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Pai area. There’s a café at the viewpoint where many people get a pot of tea and relax in one of the many chairs. You also have the option to purchase a symbolic heart-shaped pendant for a small fee, on which you can write something. You can then hang it on a large tree at the viewpoint. Yun Lai Viewpoint, especially during sunset, is a popular and busy place.

Note: If you arrive by taxi, you’ll switch to another taxi just before going further up the mountain. A small fee is required for the remaining part of the journey. If you arrive by scooter, this fee is not required.

Swim in the Mor Paeng Waterfall in Pai

Looking to take a refreshing dip in a waterfall? About a fifteen-minute drive from Pai, you’ll find the Mor Paeng Waterfall. It may not be the most spectacular waterfall, but it’s certainly enjoyable to swim in and seek some relief during the hot afternoons. Climb up the rocks and slide back down through the waterfall into the pool.

Yoga in Pai

Pai is the perfect destination in Thailand to join a yoga, meditation, or breathwork class. At Bodhi Tree Yoga Pai, they have a weekly program where you can join one or more yoga classes.

Take a stroll on the Bamboo Bridge in Pai

Characteristic of Pai are the vast green-yellow rice fields with occasional wooden houses in between. A great place to admire the rice fields is the Bamboo Bridge. This unique 800-meter- (2624.7 feet) long bridge is, as you may have guessed, made of bamboo. The bridge serves as a connection between the road and the temples located in the rice fields. You’ll often come across monks here. If you visit early in the morning, you’ll encounter monks engaged in alms rounds. During this practice, the monks go from house to house with their rice bowls, collecting food and donations. Monks rely on alms and the Thai people believe that giving brings good luck.

It’s nice to grab a bite to eat at Jaey Café after visiting the Bamboo Bridge. If you arrive before 11:00, Jaey Café will still be closed, so Pambok Coffee is a great alternative. Pambok Coffee opens at 08:00. Both cafes offer a beautiful view of the rice fields in Pai.

Note: As you can see in the photo below, most of the rice fields were unfortunately dry and brown during my visit to Pai. I was there in mid-February. During the rainy season, the rice fields are lush green, which occurs between the months of June and October.

Tubing in Pai

Floating down the river on a rubber tube with a drink in hand, enjoying the surroundings of Pai. That sounds like a fun afternoon, right? Tubing can be booked everywhere in Pai, and there are two different tour options. The “normal” option is to go tubing with a small group, peacefully floating down the river. If you’re in the mood for a party, you can also join Tipsy Tubing. This option is available only on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you’ll be tubing with a large group of people. It’s a big party with DJs, drinks, and good vibes.

Visit Wat Si Don Chai Temple

A remarkable temple in Pai is the 700-year-old Wat Si Don Chai Temple. This beautiful temple is the first ever built in the Pai province. It’s not large, but it’s filled with intricate details that make it worth a visit. Wat Si Don Chai is open daily from 06:00 to 19:00.

Take a walk to the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha, also known as Wat Phra That Mae Yen, is impossible to miss in Pai. This enormous Buddha is located on higher ground, overlooking the entire Pai area. You can spot it from miles away. Climb the 353 steps if you’re up for a nice workout. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Pai.

Best Restaurants in Pai

Eating out in Pai is a delightful experience because there are numerous excellent restaurants to choose from.

Two Sisters – In this small family-run restaurant, you can enjoy delicious local food.
Bom Bowls – Don’t miss this place when you’re in Pai. Located amidst the rice fields, you can indulge in mouthwatering and beautifully presented smoothie bowls.
Cafecito – This Mexican restaurant is perfect when you’re in the mood for something other than Thai cuisine.
Two Huts Pai – Enjoy delicious food while taking in the great view of the rice terraces. It’s also recommended for grabbing a drink.
Granita Cafe – A vegan restaurant where you can easily get your daily dose of vegetables, prepared in a delicious way.
Om Garden Cafe – This is a popular breakfast and lunch spot. You can sit in a beautiful garden and choose from a menu with many healthy dishes.
Charlie & Lek – Here you can savor delicious Thai food at a very friendly price.
Spirit Bar – For a fun evening in Pai, head to Spirit Bar. The entrance to Spirit Bar alone is spectacular. You’ll walk through a blacklight tunnel and find yourself in a cozy hippie bar. There’s often live music, and they serve tasty cocktails. There’s also a small shop selling beautiful jewelry.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Pai

Located in a peaceful area amidst the rice fields, you’ll find The Countryside Pai. Here, you can stay in a charming bungalow for an affordable price, and some even have a small rooftop terrace! If you prefer more comfort, choose a bungalow with air conditioning. There’s a lovely swimming pool where you can enjoy a few laps in tranquility. For those looking for a social hostel, UP2U Guesthouse is a top choice. It’s also beautifully located by the river and amidst the rice fields. You can stay here at a very reasonable price, and in the morning, you’ll even get a tasty breakfast and can join a yoga class for free. If you have a more generous budget and want a unique accommodation experience in Pai, Pai Village Boutique Resort is perfect. It’s located in the heart of Pai, yet provides a peaceful environment. You’ll stay in a beautiful bungalow surrounded by a lovely garden, and there’s a delightful pool with comfortable sun loungers. Pure luxury!