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9 Amazing Things to do in Pai, Thailand

9 Amazing Things to do in Pai, Thailand

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There are tons of things to do in Pai, Thailand. In fact, you might be surprised that such a tiny little place has quite so many activities and attractions. 

Pai has a reputation for partying backpackers, which makes other travelers wonder is Pai worth visiting.

However, the mountain town in the Mae Hong Soon province of Northern Thailand is surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery including waterfalls, hot springs, and plunging valleys blanketed in forestry.

Furthermore, you’ve got cultural attractions, massage parlors, and incredible cafes.

There’s something for everyone, making this boho town a worthy stop on any Northern Thailand itinerary.

Best time to visit Pai

The best time to visit Pai is from November to February when the climate is cooler. 

April through June are the hottest months, with the town becoming almost stifling.

It’s also quite busy, with a lot of younger backpackers. Marking the end of the rainy season, September and October are still prone to the heavy rainfall that starts in May but do have the perk of being two of the quietest months. 

Avoid traveling between late February and early April, as this is “burning season.” Local farmers burn off their remaining crops for the year. This leads to a lot of pollution and makes it uncomfortable. 

Note that evenings in Pai are surprisingly chilly year-round; you’ll need a hoodie or sweater once the sun sets.

things to do in pai thailand include getting out into the rice fields and mountains like this

Things to do in Pai, Thailand.

How many days in Pai, Thailand?

With two nights in town, you can visit most of the Pai attractions. 

However, the main charm of this hippy town is its laid-back atmosphere. If possible, try and book at least three nights so you can have some downtime.

If you love wellness activities, you could spend a week in Pai without tiring of the health-forward cafes, yoga classes, and massage spas.

The following list of things to do will help you figure out exactly how many days in Pai, Thailand, you need.

How to get to Pai

You can get to Pai from Chiang Mai, the nearest large city in Northern Thailand. 

Buses depart from the Chiang Mai Minivan Station in the east of the city. This is separate from the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, but if you get lost, there are tons of small printed signs guiding you that say something along the lines of “bus to Pai.”

Buses usually leave every hour and cost 180 THB ($5) each way.

You can buy tickets at the bus station, or ask your accommodation to arrange them for you in advance. This is recommended during the high season when buses fill up fast. Check out our guide to costs in Thailand here.

If you are confident driving a scooter, you can rent a motorbike and drive to Pai from Chiang Mai. The road is paved and in good condition but it has a lot of hairpin curves (762, to be specific). Therefore, it is only advisable if you have experience driving. 

You will need to rent a scooter from a company that permits you to drive it to Pai and you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit as well as your standard license. Without this, your travel insurance is invalid if you have an incident and the Thai police can fine you.  

Check out Aya Service which offers motorbike rentals and offer a luggage transfer service.  

town of Pai in Thailand with lanterns hanging

Pai, Thailand.

How to get around Pai

If you stay in the center of Pai, you can get around the restaurants, cafes, and markets on foot.

However, most of the things to do in Pai, Thailand, are actually outside the town. Therefore, you’ll need to rent a scooter in town or arrange for someone to drive you around. Your accommodation can help you if that’s the latter. 

Otherwise, you can hop aboard songthaews (little pick-up trucks) for short, economical rides around the town. Just tell the driver where you need to get off.

Where to stay in Pai

Pai comprises backpacker-friendly hostels, peaceful guest houses, and a small supply of luxury hotels. 

The Countryside Pai is a rustic affair with bamboo huts, each with an en suite bathroom and your choice of a fan or air-con. The resort has a swimming pool and mountain views. 

Alternatively, you can stay super central at Medio De Pai. Modern rooms have private bathrooms and the pool is almost a necessity in the hottest months of the year. 

For a fancier experience, you can check into Pai Cherkaew Boutique House. Top-tier rooms have a balcony and a lavish bathtub.

Map of Things to Do in Pai

Things to do in Pai, Thailand 

This list of activities and attractions will help you determine how many days in Pai, Thailand, you need. 

1. Walk across the Bamboo Bridge

One of the most unique Pai things to do is to visit the Bamboo Bridge (Boon Ko Ku So).

Spanning 800 meters and crafted entirely from bamboo, this bridge stretches over rice fields on the outskirts of the town.

Once you pay a small fee, you can walk across the bridge and take photos. While there are a couple of Instagram-style photo spots, the main appeal is seeing the mountains around the field. 

The landscape around the Bamboo Bridge is at its greenest during the rainy season. As the bridge is open to the elements, try and visit early in the day before the sun gets too hot and day trippers arrive.

bamboo bridge over a muddy river.

Pai, Thailand.

2. Catch the sunset at Pai Canyon

Located directly off Route 1095 on the road into Pai, the Pai Canyon (Kong Lan) is one of the area’s favorite natural wonders. Pretty self-explanatory, the canyon isn’t as huge as what you’ll find in the US, but it’s an interesting place to stop by. 

Once you park up near the little shops and cafes, you will follow a short flight of stairs up to the rim. From there, you get incredible views of the valleys and mountains in the region. 

You can’t climb into the canyon and there isn’t much in the way of hiking, so there’s no need to wear hiking boots.

Visiting Pai Canyon is one of the best things to do in Pai, Thailand, at sunset. Consider taking a couple of snacks and grabbing a spot around the edge where you can watch golden hour.

Just bear in mind, you won’t be the only traveler to have this idea! However, there’s plenty of space so you can grab a secluded spot.

mountain and rice fields

Pai, Thailand.

3. Visit one of Pai’s waterfalls

Swimming in the beautiful waterfalls around town is one of the most fun things to do in Pai, Thailand! These are best visited during the rainy season when there is more water.

Pam Bok Waterfall

One of the more easily accessible falls, Pam Bok Waterfall gushes out of a forested canyon south of Pai.

There is a clear route through the trees which brings you to the swimming area where you can hop in for a swim, with some patches deep enough to jump into during the rainy season.

Access to the Pam Bok Waterfall is via a road just off Route 1097 (after the Pai Canyon when heading to Pai).

You’ll pass it shortly before reaching the Bamboo Bridge. The road is rugged in parts so take care while driving yourself and wear proper shoes as the area around the waterfall is slippy.

Mo Paeng Waterfall

Mo Paeng Waterfall is another swimmable waterfall, this time north of the town. Therefore, it makes sense to visit Mo Paeng Waterfall in tandem with Santichon Village. 

The waterfall tumbles out of the forest and has a series of natural slides and swimming pools. It’s always busy, and equally popular with Pai residents as tourists.

You’ll need to pay 100 THB ($3 USD) to access the waterfall. 

road through greenery

Things to do in Pai, Thailand.

4. Photograph the Pai Land Split

Also known as the Pai Land Crack, the Land Split occurred in 2008 during an earthquake. The shudder caused a split in the land of a Pai farmer, registering a depth of around 11 meters and a width of 3 meters at its widest point.

As a result, the farmer opened up the land split as one of the quirkiest Pai attractions.

You are welcome to visit and wander around the base and rim of the fissure. You’ll find a little spread of fruits, nuts, and fresh juice at the entrance which you can help yourself to and leave a donation in Thai baht in the honesty box. 

In fact, if the farmer is around, he usually stops for a chat. The land split isn’t always open to the public, but seeing as it’s on the way to the Bamboo Bridge and Pam Bok Waterfall, you can chance it.

5. Wander around Santichon Village 

Santichon Village is a recreation of a traditional Chinese Yunnan village. The complex features a lawn surrounded by clay-built houses, ornate archways, decorative lanterns, and a wooden Ferris wheel for kids to ride on.

There are places to pick up Chinese food and souvenirs, making this a great option for lunch during your Pai visit. Plus, you can also walk up to the Yun Lai Viewpoint for a scenic view across the Pai region. 

Although Santichon Village has an amusement park vibe, it’s actually really fun and worth adding to your Pai itinerary for a different perspective on the area. Definitely one of the Pai things to do with kids – or without. 

tea with small blue cups with a view of the mountains and blue skies in Pai Thailand

Pai, Thailand.

6. Climb to the Big Buddha

Rising high above the region on a hill, the Big Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) is one of the most impressive cultural Pai attractions. In fact, you can catch a glimpse of the statue right across the valley on the road into Pai.

You’ll park at the temple at the foot of the hill before tackling the 353 steps to the base of the statue.

From there, you can follow the gaze of the buddha across the mountains. It’s one of the most peaceful places in the area, perfect at any time of day – sunset included. 

For this, you will need to cover your shoulders and knees and remove your shoes. That applies to men as well as women, so arrive prepared.

It’s not so hard to walk up the staircase but you’ll appreciate bottled water, sunscreen, and a sun hat – the essentials of any Thailand packing list. 

7. Ride the Pai Zipline

Riding the Pai Zipline is one of the most adventurous things to do in Pai, Thailand. There are three packages available, with the shortest (and cheapest) taking 30 minutes and the longest 2 hours. 

The routes twist through the forest, giving you the chance to spot wildlife while you get your adrenaline rush.

Suitable for kids and adults, safety harnesses and helmets are provided. Staff at the center speak English and will give you a thorough safety briefing before you set off on your canopy adventure. 

You can book in advance via the website if you prefer, but it isn’t generally necessary unless you are in a large group. 

woman sitting on the edge of a pool in front of a hotel

Pai, Thailand.

8. Relax at the hot springs

As if Pai couldn’t get any better, the area features a scattering of natural hot springs. Unwinding at one of these is one of the best things to do in Pai, Thailand if you need to de-stress (coupled, of course, with a massage in town). 

With sizzling pools and clay mud, these natural springs are like jungle spas, which is exactly what you need if trekking and temple hopping has formed the basis of your Northern Thailand itinerary. 

Here are two of the best and most easily accessible hot springs. 

Tha Pai Hot Spring

Located near the Pai Canyon, the Tha Pai Hot Spring complex is buried among trees and vines, creating a magical experience.

Pools vary from 93°F (34°C) to 100°F (38°C) so it’s best to bathe before the hottest part of the day to avoid feeling faint. Admission is 300 THB ($9). 

Sai Ngam Hot Spring Pai

Sai Ngam Hot Spring Pai is sited north of the town. These springs feature mini waterfalls and are not as hot as Tha Pai Hot Spring, making them a better choice if you’re more heat-sensitive or taking kids along. Admission is 200 THB ($6).

mountains and sun setting behind them.

Sunsets in Pai, Thailand.

9. Experience Pai by night 

Pai Night Market is a must in terms of things to do in Pai, Thailand, at night.

This takes place every evening from around 18:00 pm until 22:00 pm. You can pick up souvenirs such as clothes and gifts while feasting on street bites, ranging from Thai dishes to international eats such as banh mi, burritos, and crepes.

As this occurs seven days a week, you can split your evenings between the market and the countless restaurants in Pai. In answer to the question is Pai worth visiting – if the scenery hasn’t already convinced you, then the food will.

Pai is flooded with health-conscious restaurants (and cafes for the daylight hours) where you can find Thai curries and noodle dishes alongside Western food.

Smoothie bowls, fruit shakes, organic coffee, and vegan food leads the way in Pai, with eateries typically outfitted with hammocks and bohemian decor. 

As a starting point, check out Rainny Cafe and Om Garden Cafe. But, you only need to walk a yard or two to find a unique place to eat in Pai where you can easily while away an entire afternoon with a book or scribbling away in your travel journal.

Beyond eating, Pai enjoys a similar laid-back nightlife to what you find in Chiang Mai and the southern islands.

There are several bars in the town center, such as Supermoon and Jazz House, where live music and cocktails will provide you with a mellow evening.

On the other hand, there is a supply of more boisterous bars awash with neon where you can get your face painted and split a bucket or two. Pai truly has something to suit all tastes.