Our time in Pai in Thailand was a perfect mix of relaxing and exploring, we loved trying out the small and quirky cafes for brunch which served fresh and healthy food (that you would pay triple the amount for back home), we chilled out in some unique bars to enjoy a Chang and a cocktail, and had our breath taken away by nature.
What we did…
Pai Canyon (Free):
A twenty-minute drive by moped had us pulling up to a row of stalls along the road and parking by lots of other bikes in time for a hike and to watch the sunset. The views were incredible and although the walk was precarious (with some sliding down on bums occurring) we had a fun time climbing rocks and navigating the narrow paths completing a loop where we finished at a perfect vantage point for the sunset (it is possible to watch the sunset without braving the narrow paths of Pai Canyon with no health and safety in sight but there is still a bit of a climb up some stairs to get there). We must have taken hundreds of photos as it was so beautiful and lots of people could be heard whistling the Lion King theme tune; it was the perfect end to the day.
Tham Lod Cave (450 baht per person):
We booked this through Pai Explore and we opted for the twilight trip at 3:00pm in order to see the birds flying at the cave entrance. It was well worth the money as it included pick up from the guesthouse, a long drive, as well as entrance to the cave and a guide.
There was something awe inspiring about walking through such an enormous cave knowing we were are completely dependent on the lanterns which glowed warmly chasing away the surrounding darkness and bringing sparkling rock formations into the light.
We took many pictures as we were guided through the different chambers by the local ladies, but they could not capture the cathedral like ceilings, or the gigantic stalagmites and stalactites, or the sound of chattering bats high above.
Our favourite part was rafting through the darkness guided only by the lantern of the boat ahead of us while large shadow fish swam beside us in the shallow waters and birds and bats nested high above their eyes glowing when our torch spotlights sought them out. With the sound of the poles dipping in to the water to move us along, an impressive cave opening began to emerge in the gloom where birds swarmed in and out against the twilight sky, it was a magical sight.
We enjoyed watching the birds and exploring the chambers which held old wooden funeral caskets until the guide urged us back on to the boat before the number of birds became too high and rafting back to the start of the cave would become difficult.
Tip: Bring hand wipes as the much-needed handrails can get covered by the birds and bats and you will want to wipe your hands, also wear shoes suitable for uneven surfaces.
Pai Secret hot springs (100 baht per person, extra for bikes/cars):
The journey here was very steep and this overshadowed the visit for us a bit as we were worried about the return. However, the waters were a nice temperature and it was peaceful to relax in the natural pools. You do not need long here so it would be a good option to join one of the group trips rather than contend with the steep hills. Tip: Wear your swimwear as the changing rooms have been taken over by spiders. These springs are different to the manmade hot springs which are easier to get to bust cost 300 baht to enter.
Lemon and Thyme is a small café that is constantly busy. Their brunch was so good we went back a few times. It cost 300 baht and had you sorted for the rest of the day until you can grab a cheap dinner at the night market.
- Chinese Village and View Point (20 baht pp): The road here is very steep and the view was not that impressive, there is not much to the village itself and we could have happily given this a miss.
- Night market: This opened every night along the main roads. We ate here every evening very cheaply (50-100 baht pp) our favourites being an Indian food stall and the best sticky mango rice we have had. There also lots of stalls selling clothes and jewellery etc.
- Bars: Our favourite was Spirit bar which you access through a narrow alley way off the main road to reach a courtyard with cushions and low tables to relax at while enjoying live music. Their Mojitos were delicious.
- Fluid pool (60 baht): This was a five-minute bike from the town centre (to the left of the main road up a bumpy dirt road). We spent a whole day here sunbathing, enjoying the Ibiza playlist and the food was good too – especially the fruit slushes.
- Other sights available that we did not do – manmade hot springs, waterfalls and viewpoints (due to it being dry season there was no water when we visited), climbing to see the white Buddha statue, fishing.
We booked a 4-hour minibus from one of the many travel agencies for 180 Baht pp as it was a similar price to other travel options. It picked us up from the hotel and off we set, the bus was full but comfortable and the air-con worked great (bring a jumper it got chilly).
We had read online to expect travel sickness due to the twists and turns on the way to Pai but we didn’t notice it being any worse than other journeys we had taken, so either we had a good driver or stomachs of a champion. There was one brief stop along the way and the scenery was brilliant.
A taxi from the bus station to our guesthouse on the edge of town was 100 baht (a big air conditioned truck).
The town centre was small enough to walk around but to venture further we needed transport.
Moped was the easiest way to travel about and we felt pretty safe driving a moped here for the first time (I say we but it was Carl doing all the driving I just held on!) The roads were hilly but in good condition and we took it slow and had no problems (we did see quite a few people with injuries though so it kept us cautious).
We hired the bike from Aya Services for 100 baht per day for a 125 engine and you pay when you bring the bike back which is helpful as you do not have to decide the number of days up front. We paid an extra 80 baht for insurance meaning if it was damaged or stolen we would not have to pay anything, this was our first rental so it put our mind at ease. As a deposit, they ask for a passport or for 2000 baht which is given back with the return of the bike.
There was only one place we wish we had booked as a tour rather than drive and that was to the secret hot springs. The hills were very steep and we didn’t think our bike was going to make it! It managed all but one hill (I did not enjoy getting off and trudging up the hill) and by being very cautious we were okay but we would not recommend this unless you are more experienced.
Without a moped it is possible to book with the tour agencies in the main town to get to the main sights (e.g. Pai Canyon, hot springs) – you are restricted to set times but you do get to see everything. Alternatively, you can book private taxis which are more expensive.
Where we stayed:
We stayed just on the outskirts of town at ‘Mountain View Guesthouse‘ which gave us a relaxing base whilst being close enough to visit the town and all the main sites. They offer fan bungalows with private bathrooms (western toilets and hot water) and the bed was really comfortable. There was also a communal space to hang out with other travellers and we met a great couple here that we spent most evenings with. Prices ranged from 200-400 baht.
Where To Next?
Planning A trip? Don’t leave without your Travel Insurance.