If you’re wondering where to go in Thailand and you’re looking for something a little different from the party beaches, check out Pai. “You’ll go to Pai for a day and stay for a week.” That’s what they told us. But, they were wrong. We stayed for three weeks.
It’s a small town in Northern Thailand a few hours drive through the hills from Chiang Mai. Here’s some stuff to do if you find yourself in Pai.
Cost Of Living Chart
|Cost of Living Relative to the US (Rent)||76% Less Expensive Than US|
|Cost of Living Relative to the US (Restaraunts)||68% Less Expensive Than US|
|Free Workspace With Fastest Wi-Fi||Pai Siam Bistro, 91moo1, Pai – 12 MBPS|
|Cost of AirBnB / Night (Cheapest Private Room)||No AirBnB|
|Cost of AirBnB (Average for Entire Place)||No AirBnB|
|Cost of AirBnB / Month||No AirBnB|
|Cost of Hotel / Night||$4 and Up|
|Cost of Hotel / Month||$300 / Month|
|Co-Working Space / Month||Co-Working Closed|
|Domestic Beer (Restaurant)||$2.15|
|Domestic Beer (Market)||$1.52|
|Bottle of Wine||$16.76|
|Cup of Coffee||$1.65|
|Meal for One Person (Restaurant)||$1.52|
|Pack of Cigarettes||$3.65|
The Walking Street & Night Market
It’s not as big as the monster of a market in Chiang Mai, but I think that’s to its credit. The Pai night market is manageable. You can walk around and get familiar with it and know where your favorite stuff is so you can find it the next day. It has everything you could need: sushi, dumplings, satay, grilled corn, and most importantly Pad Thai. I realize I only listed foods there. It has endless trinkets and clothes as well.
This seems like a decent place to mention that, unless you’re very lucky, you will probably have some stomach issues at some point in SE Asia. Your stomach will slowly adjust to the new bacteria, but it’s a good idea to bring some probiotics with you to keep the balance between good and bad bacteria.
- My tip: Near the end of the street if you’re walking with the river will be on your left, somewhere near Big’s Little Cafe there is a guy who sets up his cart every night and serves up the best tofu Pad Thai you’ve ever had! He gets the sauce right and he adds little chunks of coconut meat and some red beans. It’s awesome. It’s vegetarian and he usually wraps it all in an egg, but you could get it without if you’re vegan.
Thum Lod (Lod Cave)
This place was breathtaking. It’s about an hour and a half away from the center of Pai, but it is completely worth the drive. It’s a tourist activity so if you walk down the street you’ll be able to arrange a ride there. It takes you through the mountains which is quite pretty. The cave itself was amazing. The best part is the bamboo rafts on the river inside the cave. There are hundreds of huge catfish swimming all around you and thousands of bats overhead.
- My tip: Commit to being awed by the geology and the animals inside. Try to be present and don’t get distracted taking pictures the whole time Just quietly listen to the bats squeaking, water dripping, the bamboo oars hitting stone, the river trickling. Also, bring some drinks and snacks with you for the ride there and back. Maybe snacks more substantial than a bag of chips. You’ll be gone about 5 hours so pack some sandwiches or something. It’s also a great place to have your own headlamp.
Sit outside on the deck by the street and people watch, eat pizza and drink wine! I can’t remember exact prices, but I know for a fact that if we were able to go several times, it is not expensive. The pizza isn’t going to be the best you’ve ever had, but it’s still pretty good! (Especially considering some of the things that pass for pizza in Thailand.) I loved sitting on their deck watching people, reading a book or playing cards with a decanter of red wine by my side.
- My tip: Go right before sunset so the tables outside will most likely be free and you’ll get to watch the colors in the sky change and see all the street lights come on. Also, always wear bug spray since this town was pretty heavy on the mosquitoes.
There are plenty of opportunities to go tubing, but if you want a free activity, just hanging by the river is really nice! There is a restaurant with a deck overlooking it called Pai River Restaurant if you want to order food or drinks. I didn’t go there, though I’m sure it would be a nice place to chill. We were looking to keep it cheap, so we just walked across the bamboo bridge next to the restaurant and sat on the banks on the other side for free.
- My tip: Middle of the day if you want some sun, evening if you want to enjoy the sunset which can be really beautiful! Grab some beers or other delicious beverages cheap from the convenience store, set out a blanket or towel and enjoy. No matter when you go, put on bug spray.
Munch & Chill
I can’t stress enough how much I value doing nothing in particular and not having every day packed with activities while traveling. Especially if you’re on a long trip, you can’t push yourself like that all the time or you’ll get exhausted. (Unless you’re in your early 20s in which case, f*%k you.)
Pai is a cool, slow-paced little town and one of the best things to do is just get some “me” time and do whatever you like to do to relax. Definitely wander around getting little snacks and drinks from various places. Here are a few we liked.
- Wishing Well Restaurant
For breakfast, lunch or dinner. We ate here several times and really enjoyed it. It’s one of the pricier places in town, but still affordable. One thing I liked about it was that I could get cooked veggies and a pumpkin soup that was tasty. We were trying so hard not to get sick from the water that we avoided fresh vegetables, which made things hard for two people who are almost entirely vegetarian.
- Good Life Herb & Health
Get the Hot Thai Tea. Delicious and creamy.
- Market Smoothies
Stick with me here: Walk down the main street oriented so the river is on your right side, you’ll pass a restaurant on your left called Duang. Keep walking through that intersection and on the left side of the road you will see a fruit stand. The ladies here make smoothies without ice so you don’t have to worry about getting sick. It sounds weird and gross, but it’s not. It’s actually quite a find for people trying to eat healthy or just get a delicious snack! I recommend the avocado cream (50baht)
Pai is also a place where a lot of people who work online come to relax and get stuff done. If you’re one of them, make sure you have all the digital nomad gear you need!
A short drive from the center of town will take you to Pai Canyon. It’s a nice, quick hike through the trees to get to an amazing view. It’s a large, deep canyon that stretches out toward the mountains and is surrounded by woods.
- My Tip: Go for sunset. The sun sinks down behind the mountains and creates a beautiful scene with gorgeous colors. Fair warning, there will be a boat load of people there. But, it really didn’t detract from the experience. We took a bottle of wine and it was still romantic as hell.
So, if you’ve been wondering where to go in Thailand, now you can add little Pai to your list! As you explore you’ll find your own favorite corners of this town and who knows, maybe you’ll end up staying a few weeks too. As always, have fun out there, everybody!