Pai: This place was a sidetrack and unplanned place to visit and we ended up loving it. Recommended by many different tourists that we spoke to in Chiang Mai they all said to visit Pai and described it as a laid back city with lots of hippy backpackers looking for a good time. They were absolutely right. Located in the middle of a dense green jungle the village Pai has a safe and true vibe buzzing around. It is also called Khao San Road The Second as it has one main walking road with tons of nice little bars filling the street with laughter and easy catchy songs. A bit more expensive than other places the food and bars are worth the stay in combination with the relaxed tempo of life here. Tip! If you plan on going to Laos, there is a posibility to arrange the entire trip here. We found out that it was cheaper here however the entire trip will take 3 days versus going your own pace.
Must Do 1
Mini Van Ride from Hell: 700+ twists and turns, fish aroma’s, Frappuccino on your bag, and 4 hours later you’ll arrive at your destination Pai. To elaborate a little bit more for 180 Baht per person (we found this little travel agency with an AviaBooking sign above it in Chiang Mai) we were picked up in a small van to then be transferred 10 minutes later into an even more smaller minivan. The journey started with hysterical laughter with us and 2 New Zealanders who also saw the humor in the whole situation. Being squished on top of each other with no room to breath or move, literally one butt cheek had to lean on the other persons leg fit in the back, we quickly got to know each other. This also meant getting to know the group of Chinese kids that opened what seemed to be a familiar bag from the 7 Eleven and sure thing the entire bus was filled with the smell of dried fish (run or barf for your life).
Then after a quick pit stop with frozen Frappuccino (or however you spell that), the ‘on the go’ part wasn’t the smartest move. After 2 minutes driving, the entire contents got spilled over my bag by the guy in front of me and the guy found guilty didn’t even bother saying sorry he just was busy cleaning the few drops that landed on his own leg: WHAT?! … But… To be honest it was a ride to remember and the 700+ turns were worth it! The lush pine needle and tropical jungle forests spilled over the mountains and the scene was a great way to get into the Pai feeling.
Must Do 2
Shopping: Looking for some authentic hippy clothes to shop while on a budget? This place has the best colourful dresses that I’ve seen yet. The patterns and style resembles those of found by locals in the different tribes and villages found near the border of Burma and Thailand. It almost resembles the patterns and colours found in Ibiza.
Sabai Bar: After a hellish minivan ride from Chiang Mai we needed something to take the edge off and we needed a WiFi spot to orientate ourselves in Pai. Exactly next to the bus station you’ll find Sabai and the amazing friendly bartender who looks just like Snoop Dogg (ironically they also played a lot of R&B and Snoop). The owner was super friendly and made the meanest and best cocktails we’ve had while traveling.
I took the Passionfruit Mojito and didn’t stick with 1, we ended up doing 3 and loved the place. At 8:30 pm they have a live band that fills the space with covers of Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and more travel tunes.
Must Eat 1
Mama Falafel: I can’t honestly say that this is a sober review as we were completely hammered when we got to this place to have our midnight snack (uhm ok so it was 9:30 pm but, it felt really late). The hummus and Tahini were really yumsters and filled with my favourite: garlic, which we remembered the next morning before we brushed our teeth.
The Falafal was different then we’ve had but it was really good and not expensive. You can also get fried eggplant together with the hummus!
Must Eat 2
Charlie and Leks: Also a cooking school, this organic restaurant made the best spring rolls and Tom Kha Gai. They close at 9 pm so be quick to get there. They had a special smoothie that day: a mulberry shake and it was the best! If you like Som Tam they also have a healthy different variety with sunflower sprouts and explain in their menu why this plant is extremely high in nutrients and vitamins.
Must Eat 3
Lemon Thyme Cafe: Save the best for last as they would say and then this is absolutely the best bite I’ve had while traveling through Thailand. Starting off with just a simple coffee break we ended up eating here 3 times and were speechless with each new round of food and the ambiance. The french details found here will make you think you’re somewhere else, with jazzy tunes of Django Reinhardt playing softly in the background and the smell of fresh baked bread in the air.
Find the world’s best guacamole on a bagel and the crunchiest bowl of muesli, yoghurt and fruit. The fruit was so colourful and sweet, they even had little oranges that you could eat with peel and all: surprisingly delicious. Oh I almost forgot, order a coconut milk cappuccino: you’ll never want normal milk again.
The shop is owned by two guys who prepare everything fresh and on the spot, so take the time when ordering and eating here. For the road, as we had 6 hours to drive, we took a fresh baked sour dough bread and rose petal jam on the go: all the other travelers were so jealous.
Must Sleep 1
Puri Pai: For 2 nights we enjoyed being pampered in this panoramic valley viewing swimming pool paradise. Yes it was a bit overpriced for the service and food (both confusingly bad), but the rooms were pure heaven and spending a few days splashing in a pool while playing chess and reading a book is something I would seriously recommend while traveling in hostels constantly. Take a moment to pamper yourself once in a while.
My sporty hunk was also thrilled with the new and equipped gym here. A small annoying aspect about this hotel is that it’s located further away from the City. So rent a scooter while you’re there, the hotel however does have a free pick up-drop off service and a shuttle that goes at 8 and 10 pm, weird times I think.
Must Sleep 2
Villa De Pai: for 450 Baht we went from our previous uptown hotel to a downtown laid back bungalow. Yes I did see a little cockroach waddle through the bathroom at 03:00 am when I had a too much to drink that night but, for that price, the awesome location, plus the warm shower and the hammock on the terrace we were just as happy here as in Puri Pai Hotel.
However, you will spot your grandmothers underwear hanging above your head, which the owner claimed was a mosquito net (yeah right, grandma just had a really wild night here). When you walk past the Bungalows you’ll find a set of swings in the back looking over the river, a perfect setting for cold beers and a sunset view.
Must See 1
Pai Canyon: Arizona? Grand Canyon? Nope you’re in Pai but the view and steep cliffs will leave you just as breathless. There are small paths that you can walk but only the true dare devils will take them. My iPhone almost slipped out of my sweaty palms when I trembled to cross a small slope with a drop of at least 50 feet on both sides. That’s why I was so happy to have another tourist volunteer as my stunt double for the picture above to get an idea of how high the cliffs were. The soil is really red here due to the high amount of iron in the ground and you’ll find dark charcoal scattered around, as there have been a few forest fires in this dry landscape.
Must See 2
Pai Memorial Bridge: If you rent a scooter you’ll definitely pass this guy when you drive around town. I have to admit that these filters on this pic makes the bridge look nicer than it is in real life and I was surprised at how small it was. We only dared to walk halfway across because a lot of the wooden boards were cracked and broken plus they started creaking underneath our feet.
Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas: Christmas is coming early this year at the temple found in the middle of the walking street. Right now it’s near the end of October but you can give me Christmas spirit any time of the year. Actually you can find me listening the soundtrack to Home Alone as early as April… or just the whole year round.
That’s all folks, next stop: Chiang Rai Thailand
For tips on other places I’ve visited check my older posts such as: Bangkok, Ayuthaya, Khao Yai National Park , & More.
Keep you updated and posted, until then Korp Khun Ka!