Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pai, a Backpacker's Paradise

by Regin Reyno

4-hour drive from Chiang Mai lies a place surrounded by mountains that captivated my heart. The 762 curves in going to that place was all worth it. Pai, maybe you have heard about this place before. It is part of the Banana Pancake Trail, the well-trodden trail by backpackers in Southeast Asia. So what makes it so special? What is in that place that I fell in love at first sight?

I didn't know that place existed before, but it was referred to me by Lois Yasay , a travel blogger and backpacker from the Philippines. Knowing I am in Thailand, she told me to visit Pai as it is her favorite place in Thailand. So since then, I was curious and planned to visit that place in which many backpackers describe is as "laid-back" and according ti Lois, its "romantic". I even asked some of my students about it and some of them have been there and told me it's really beautiful especially in December where the temperature drops.

So in August 2012, after our backpacking and ministry in Cambodia, I went there as it is still our summer vacation. We, together with my Klement friends, took the bus in Mochit Station to Chiang Mai for 500 baht (US$16.10).
After an overnight bus trip, we reached Chiang Mai. My friends stayed in Chiang Mai as they are going to do an elephant trek while I went to Pai alone. I went to the bus station and there are the vans going to Pai.

Pai is a small town in Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand. And vans in the Chiang Mai bus station go there every 30 minutes for 150 baht (US$4.83).

After 4 hours through zig zag roads with beautiful mountain and forest scenery, I finally arrived in Pai town proper. I departed Chiang Mai at around 4pm, and when I arrived in Pai, it was already dark, around 8pm. I immediately noticed a different atmosphere. I different aura. It's like a combination of the aura of touristy Banaue at night and Khaosan rd. in Bangkok minus the loud music and crazy people. Lots of backpackers line up the street.
hippie backpackers
I noticed lots of guesthouses, souvenir shops, and street foods. I first went to an internet cafe to check my mail, after which I took a motorbike to take me to my guesthouse. Though I didn't reserved a guesthouse, I search for guesthouses in the internet and told the motorbike driver to get to that particular guesthouse. I paid 30 (US$0.97) baht for a 5-minute ride uphill to my guesthouse called Darling Guesthouse.
Our bungalow at Darling Guesthouse
A very beautiful guesthouse located on a hill overlooking Pai river.  It is so relaxing, so serene with all the nature surrounding you. It has a balcony and hammock wherein you could relax and just do nothing. A perfect place for relaxation. A paid 300 baht (US$9.67) per night, no AC (who needs AC in Pai?), for a bungalow.
view from the balcony of our bungalow
The cool environment allowed me to have a wonderful rest. Except for the sounds of crickets, the night was so silent-typical countryside. I missed it since I live in an Asian mega city.

One of the hill tribes in Pai selling souvenirs
Pai is generally a place of relaxation for backpackers in Southeast Asia. A place to be lazy, to do nothing. River, mountains, trees, rice paddies, cool breeze, friendly locals, shops, lots of cool people, massages and restaurants-all of these are what make the place special. It is here where you can find lots of backpackers just hangin' out in cafes on the street, sleeping on a hammock, tubing in the river or just simply doing nothing. You can also have cheap massages, and delicious street foods.
laid-back street of Pai

eating mushroom barbecue along the streets of Pai
street foods
For those adventurous, you can have river treks, zipline, water rafting, trekking, and hill tribe visit. Since Pai is located near Burma, you can also visit the long-neck tribe for 1,000 baht (USD 31.98) -many agencies line up the street.
There are waterfalls nearby and you can rent a motorbike to explore them.
the waterfalls near Pai
Pai is definitely a place to go if you want to relax. It's laid back atmosphere and nature makes it so romantic, while the presence of lots of backpackers allow you to meet other travelers as well. So if you're tired from your travels, if you want to have a vacation from your vacation, head up to Pai, a backpacker's paradise.



from Bangkok take a bus in Mochit Station going to Chiang Mai or you can also take a plane. Airasia, Nok Air, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways have direct flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Bus fare: 350-500 baht one way (US$11.27-US$16.10)

travel duration: 8-10 hours
plane fare: 1,000-3,000 baht one way (US$32.22-US$96.65)
travel duration: 1 hour

In Chiang Mai, there are vans going to Pai in the bus station

van fare: 150 baht (US$4.83)
travel duration: 4 hours


Darling Guesthouse
300 baht (US$9.67)/night fan room(bungalow)
150 baht (US$4.83)/night dormitory

-Just take a motorbike in the town proper and tell the driver to take you to Darling Guesthouse

this shirt says it all

Have you ever had an experience wherein you had a vacation from your vacation?  Where was it?


  1. I've never been to Pai but it sounds and looks like a travel destination I would definitely enjoy.

  2. Thanks, Regin! This post has just convinced me 100% that I should spend less time in Bangkok and more time in Pai in my next Thailand trip in November. :)

    1. Welcome. Pai is a must-visit especially for travelers like you. You'll really enjoy the nature and scenery there.

  3. Ang ganda sa Pai. If given the chance, I will visit Northern Thailand...

    1. Hi Paula, yes, you should really visit Pai. Lots of cultural experiences in Northern Thailand especially with the hill tribes.

  4. Love this! I cant wait to go to Pai! Your photos are Amazing as always! <3

  5. It's my fave place in Thailand..would love to go there again. Now, you know why lots of people love Pai Maehongson.

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