I have seen a fair bit of Thailand. The last time that I visited, I spent 3 months in the country exploring the south islands, Bangkok and the provinces surrounding it. However, I didn’t get a chance to explore the north of the country until my most recent visit. Along with Chiang Mai, Pai was one of the places that I was extremely keen to see.
I spent around 3-4 days in Pai, which I would say is plenty of time to explore the local area. When I first arrived, I was a tad disappointed. It was far more backpacker-centric and party-oriented than I had envisaged, which I’m far too old/grumpy for these days. I was expecting verdant mountains, tree houses and water buffalo as opposed to pizza stands and beer pong.
I soon found out that my initial view of Pai was largely distorted by the fact that I was staying just off Walking Street, which happens to be Pai’s backpacking epicentre. Essentially, it’s Pai’s answer to Bangkok’s Khaosan Road. When I explored further afield, I discovered that Pai was actually everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
Pai Land Split is a stunning natural formation that is well worth visiting. This geological marvel has a fascinating backstory to it. The farmer who owns the land, which was formerly used for agriculture, woke up one morning to find that the earth had literally opened up, all triggered by seismic activity.
The farm owner decided to diversify their business and turned the farmland into a tourist attraction. During our visit, they greeted us on arrival and were incredibly welcoming and friendly. We got to try their fresh produce which included roselle, a type of hibiscus. I’d never tried them before – they are sweet and delicious and the buds can be eaten fresh or can be turned into wine and tea.
We also headed over to the rice paddies for a walk. During the time of year of my visit, they were all dried up rather than lush, green and flooded with water.
If there is one thing that really sets Pai apart from much of the rest of Thailand, it’s the incredible rolling landscape of mountains. Exploring the mountainous areas of Pai was a massive highlight of my trip, particularly visiting the Yun Lai Viewpoint.
The Yun Lai Viewpoint boasts incredible sprawling views. On a clear day like it was during our visit, you can see for miles. Also, all of the stunning flowers were in full bloom, creating a sea of colour. It was a feast for the eyes.
The Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) is a must-see. An impressive all-white Buddha sits at the top which you have to climb many steps to reach.
Despite my initial reservations, Pai’s Walking Street is worth checking out, particularly for the Night Market. There are lots of food and trinket stalls and it is also a great place to go if you want to book yourself onto some tours like the ones that I went on.
If there’s one thing that you must do when in Pai, it’s to witness the sunset over its famous canyons. Known as “Kong Lan” in Thai, it was absolutely the highlight of my time in Pai and I’d highly recommend experiencing it for yourself.
I’d recommend turning up about an hour or so before the sunset so that you can have a little stroll around and take in all the various views. Many people choose to bring along snacks and drinks to sit down with and enjoy whilst watching the sunset.
As the Pai Canyon is one of the main attractions in the area, don’t be surprised if you have to share this incredible experience with crowds of other tourists.
The Pai Canyons are a truly spectacular geographical landform. If you’re brave, you can walk across its ridges which are incredibly narrow in some parts, with up to 30m drops either side.
I was lucky in that it was a perfectly clear night when I visited and the sunset was glorious. It was utterly captivating – I can’t recommend it enough.
By the time my stay in Pai drew to a close, I had done a complete u-turn on my initial impression of the place. I had a truly wonderful time in Pai and it was a real highlight of my overall trip to the north of Thailand.
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