Once upon a time, I decided that Thailand wasn’t my favorite place ever, but I decided to give it another go and since I’d heard only great things about Pai I thought I’d throw it on the itinerary. Well, I’m here to report back that Pai didn’t excite me, but it wasn’t terrible either. It is a little backpacker town boasting some serious happy hippie vibes and the main reason people love it is because it’s a chill mountain town that is unbelievably luscious and green. While it’s true that Pai is a chill mountain town, I can’t attest to it’s lusciousness and greenery because at the time it more closely resembled an assortment of browns ranging from crisp-light-brown-grass-in-desperate-need-of-rain to wow-that-is-a-really-ugly-shade-of-poop.
Fun fact: April is the hottest month in Thailand. Did we know this before hand? Of course not. Be smarter than us and don’t come in April.
Luckily, getting between Pai and Chiang Mai is cheap and for 150 baht (~$5) we hopped into a non-descript van where I immediately channelled my inner napping superpowers and promptly fell asleep. Twenty minutes later I gave a new meaning to “fall asleep” when the van suddenly jerked to the right and I almost fell out of my seat. I didn’t even have a chance to right myself because the van immediately jerked back to the left and I nearly hit my head against the window. A few seconds later and we were thrown again to the right and then back to the left. I’ll spare you the super compelling details of what the next 3 hours entailed, but it was the curviest road of my life.
Fun fact: The road between Chiang Mai and Pai has 762 curves. Did we know this before hand? Of course not. Be smarter than us and bring Dramamine.
When we finally got to Pai, with my stomach surprisingly still intact I might add, we set off to find our sweet little bungalow in the middle of town (Ever Green Guest House, $12/ night). It was a nice and cozy place, but with only one fan pointing in a predetermined area, it was a tad bit toasty, though to be fair, the entire city of Pai falls under the category of “a tad bit toasty.”
So congratulations to us for making it, now exactly what is there to do?
THINGS TO DO
The people of Pai hide exceptionally well during the day and then magically pop out after the sun comes down. At first you think there are barely any tourists in Pai and then you get to the night market and BOOM! there they all are. Thailand is well-known for its markets and it’s always the best spot to grab dinner; not only is the food made right in front of you, but it’s also cheap and delicious. For under $2 each, you can snag pad thai, veggie wraps, crepes, ice cream and snacks galore!
FLUID SWIMMING POOL
This pool was an absolute heaven during the unrelentingly hot days in Pai and is apparently the answer to the mysterious, “where is everyone hiding?” question. It is a cool, clean pool in a fun atmosphere with food, umbrellas, coconuts and solid music. Like I said, heaven. Only thing missing? Floaties. Floaties make everything better.
EAT MORE FOOD
Being a little hippie town there was naturally an abundance of vegetarian options, making me one happy camper. The best place, hands down, was Om Cafe, which was a solid 10 of an establishment. If you’re a carnivore, fear not, there’s lots for you too in Pai. (Also for the carnivores out there: go read Eating Animals, one of my favorite books, and you’ll come to the dark side soon enough, and don’t worry we have plenty of leafy greens to share).
Not highly recommended by yours truly, but if you’re into stair climbing in saunas, large Buddha statues and mediocre views then you may like it more than myself.
As every TripAdvisor review can attest to, the split isn’t all that phenomenal (I mean, personally, I thought it was cool…) but it’s the people that own the land that make the trip worth it. They were so sweet and offered us free roselle juice and snacks, all grown with love from their little farm. We expected only to get a small bowl of goodies and instead they gave us a feast and we thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of their labor (pun intended). They don’t have any fees and it is all donation based.
We rented a scooter for the day and drove to this awesome sunset spot. It is a large (and largely tourist populated) canyon where you can walk along its precarious edges and take in the sweeping views from above.
FIND THIS CAT THAT’S WAY TOO COOL FOR YOU
And don’t even think about grabbing an I Love Pai sticker from under it’s belly unless you’re prepared for the kitty death stare. Oh, and heads up, if you feel compelled to go in for a pet or two it won’t hiss at you, but it will act like it’s in absolute dire pain from the mere touch of a dirty human peasant.
THINGS NOT TO DO IN APRIL
PAM BOK WATERFALL
Two words: dry season. One more: brown. We walked about 100 meters to a mini-canyon to see a super mini-waterfall (as in barely any water), and is also where we saw a mini-snake, which was cool but gave me a mini-panic attack.
Turns out that rice fields are not fun when they are an ugly brown, who knew? To make up for it, there were some water buffalo to say hi to and who doesn’t like water buffalo? Definitely more of a rainy season activity.
THINGS NOT TO DO EVER:
Prior to coming, I’d read on blogs about the hoards of people walking around Pai in white bandages from motorbike accidents, but it seemed too outlandish to be true. I recall thinking to myself that certainly not that many people crashed in this one city more than anywhere else. It’s not outlandish, people, it’s real. It seemed as if at least 50% of the tourists in Pai were wounded, which didn’t really make sense to me because Thailand, and Pai specifically, have some the calmest roads I’ve seen in all of Asia. My guess is that tourists hop on scooters without knowing how to work them, go fast, drive after some beers or while high and crash. Please be smarter than this. I started to document all the bandaged people but after one day I had accumulated waaaay too many pictures and gave up. Seriously, I’ve never seen a more injury prone city in my life. Maybe we all need to slow down a little bit (myself included) and pay better attention.
TO WRAP THIS ALL UP…
To pack Pai into a neat little package for you: don’t visit in April, do bring Dramamine, spend 100% of your time eating food, take an occasional food break if you must to go to the canyon for sunset but don’t die using a scooter on the way there. Also, read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Speaking of animals, and to end this on a happy note, here’s what a cat on a glass table with smooshed little paws looks like. You’re welcome.
PIN FOR LATER: