There’s no shortage of things to do in Pai. You can chase waterfalls, do circus tricks in hostels, get trippy on mushrooms, explore picturesque landscapes, and so much more. It’s no wonder that Pai is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Thailand.
I hadn’t actually heard of Pai until I started traveling. Even backpackers in Bali and Cambodia often referred to it as a destination I must visit.
As such, when I was in Chiang Mai, I decided to take a day trip to Pai. That day trip turned into a week-long trip. And even then, I hadn’t had enough. Some of my friends went there for a weekend and ended up staying for a month!
In this article, I’ll detail the top 7 things to do in Pai if you’re there for a short time.
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While the town of Pai has its hipster charms, the true beauty lies in going beyond and exploring the countryside. There are vast swathes of lush hills, green valleys, waterfalls, and a number of other sights to behold. Simply take a map, pack a bag, rent a bike, and ride around!
Most hostels and hotels offer bike rentals. However, you can also rent the bikes from the town for ฿100 (Approx. ₹200 | $3) a day.
It’s ideal to also get an insurance for the bike, especially if you’re not a skilled bike rider. A lot of crashes happen around here. There were at least 4 folks in my hostel alone who’d been in a bike accident, myself included. But more on that in the next part.
Chasing waterfalls is one of the most popular things to do in Pai. While there are various great waterfalls, the best one is Pam Bok.
However, it’s also a little more difficult to get to. You have to ride your bike up a steep zig-zag hill. You should be super careful here.
The waterfall itself is surrounded by cavernous walls with a refreshing pool in its midst.
Other popular waterfalls in Pai are Mo Paeng Waterfall and Mae Yen Waterfall.
It’s common for people to crash their bikes going down the Pam Bok waterfall slopes.
In fact, it’s so common that most bike rental shops have a warning about it printed on fine bold letters. Too bad I didn’t actually read that sign until after I’d already crashed.
It was my first time riding a bike. Pai is a great place to learn bike riding, they said. ‘They’ here referring to literally all the backpackers I met along the way.
So I hopped on a bike and wobbled my way to the waterfalls along with my newfound backpacker friends.
While riding down the slopes, I lost control of my bike. It started speeding down and I couldn’t stop it. I tried to swerve, but it was too late. I hit the railing along the cliff face and my body flew off the bike and past the railing on the edge of the cliff face.
Luckily, I escaped with minor scrapes and bruises. My bike was totaled and my helmet had apparently flown off the edge of the cliff.
Two Argentinian women were passing by and they stopped for me. One of them was a skilled rider and she hopped on my bike and I hopped in with the other. They were nice enough to take me back to the town.
Once I got there, the bike rental guys didn’t even bat an eye at the damages. They took me to the repair garage where they assessed the damages. I had to cough up ฿5000 (Approx. ₹10,000 | $150).
I was still better off. Some of the guys in my hostel had had it a lot worse and were temporarily incapacitated.
So, yeah, be careful.
If you ride higher up the Pam Bok waterfall, you’ll come across Su Thong Pae.
Walking along Su Thong Pae is one of the most chill and beautiful things to do in Pai. It’s a 500-meter long bridge made entirely of bamboos, and it stretches across lush green rice fields. There’s a temple at the end of the bamboo bridge which we’re not allowed to enter. However, the walk in itself is worth it.
They also have some open-air restaurants here for you to eat at after you’re done with the walk.
One of my favorite things to do in Pai was walking along the Pai Canyon.
The Pai Canyon makes a great spot from which to enjoy the sunset. Most people go there at around 5.30 PM. However, at that time, it’s also really crowded.
As such, if you’d like to walk along the Pai Canyon, then you should go there earlier.
Friendly advise, don’t try to scale the canyon on flip-flops. I know that should seem obvious. But my Brazilian friend and I did just that — we walked along the canyon in our flip-flops. It’s terrifying and perhaps even more stupid than trying to ride up a steep hill on a bike when you don’t know how to ride!
Another one of the popular things to do in Pai is exploring Lod Cave. Well, to be accurate, Lod Cave is located 40 km from Pai. However, it’s close enough if you’re driving.
The cave is made of a series of vast impressive limestone walls and tunnels. You can get a guide to take up to 3 people for ฿150 (Approx. ₹300 | $5).
There’s a river running right through the cave as well. You can take a bamboo raft to go across it. That would cost you an additional ฿300 (Approx. ₹600 | $10) per group. It’s best to do this with a group so you can split the cost.
After you’re done with all the activities for the day, it’s a must to dip into the natural hot springs. Relaxing in these hot pools was one of my favorite things to do in Pai.
There are two natural hot springs in Pai — Pai Hot Springs, and Sai Ngam Hot Spring.
Pai Hot Springs is located within a well-established resort, of sorts. It’s well preserved and features a series of hot pool sections, marked out based on how hot they are. As such, whatever your preferred temperature, you’ll find a spring to your liking. However, it’s also quite expensive at ฿300 (Approx. ₹600 | $10).
If you want a cheaper hot spring, try Sai Ngam Hot Spring. This isn’t as vast and is quite a bit more crowded. However, it only costs ฿20 (Approx. ₹40 | $0.60).
One of the most fun things to do in Pai is exploring its Walking Street at night.
During the evening, the city center comes alive with lively bars, street vendors, and cafes. You can find all kinds of food in street stalls for ridiculously cheap costs. There are a number of fun bars with live music.
And if you ask the right people, you can even go to a bar where they serve mushroom shakes. In addition to the shake, they also offer a place to trip safely.
The Famous Pai Circus Hostel is, undoubtedly, the most fun backpacker hostel I’ve ever been to.
Granted, it’s not the cleanest or the most well-facilitated. But it’s definitely the most fun. In fact, staying at The Famous Pai Circus Hostel is one of the best things to do in Pai!
One of the biggest appeals of the hostel is that they have an infinity pool overlooking the hills and valleys. Around that, they have a poolside bar with a great selection of cocktails. They play music all through the evenings. At night, they even create a bonfire.
Furthermore, there are various games that you can play in the hostel. They offer regular circus tools like the spinning pins, hula hoops, etc. You can try your hand at those.
If you wanna just chill, they also have a series of hammocks in summer huts.
Besides that, they have a restaurant where they serve complimentary dinner.
The accommodations are made of a series of huts, and the bathrooms sometimes have plumbing issues. However, if you can look past that, The Famous Pai Circus Hostel is the best place to stay.
A bed in a dorm room for a night costs ฿200 (Approx. ₹400 | $6). You can make the booking from the Famous Pai Circus Hostel Agoda page.
If you would like to stay in majestic villas with private pools surrounded by lush fields and mountain views, your best bet is the Pai Island Resort.
It’s located on Mae Hong Son and features a series of 10 fully-furnished villas made of teak wood.
You can check out the latest rates at the Pai Island Resort Agoda page.
You can also find other suitable Pai hotels and accommodations in Agoda.
So these are the best things to do in Pai if you’re there for a short stay.
However, it’s entirely possible that you may just decide to set up roots there. Or at least stay for an extended period. In that case, I’m sure you’ll find a bunch of other things to do in Pai as well.
Feel free to comment and let me know about your experiences with Pai! Did you get into any silly bike accidents like me? Did you trip on mushrooms and see the face of God? Lemee know down below!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…