Oh, Pai, how I miss you. This town consists of a little over 2000 people, with a village charm that will leave you wishing you could cancel the rest of your plans and stay another week…or year. I may have been under the influence of Dramamine on the 3 hour bus ride into the mountains, but I vividly remember seeing the canyons and mountains present themselves dramatically.
I’ve always been the type of person that gets excited about no service, no resources and less people. So when we arrived in Pai and loaded up our Grab Taxi app and saw the message “not available”, I couldn’t help but feel giddy. So, we loaded ourselves into the back of a truck and used the “air-conditioning” (you literally are riding on seats that are bolted to the back of a truck) to dry ourselves out a bit.
We pulled up to our serene backpacker’s resort just outside of the town just in time to settle in and enjoy the sunset over the mountains.
PAI Day One
Our hostel was a rugged, but charming bungalow at SuanDoi Backpackers Resort. They offer free taxis into the town and were great about picking us up right away from the bus station. They offered food that definitely got the job done but wasn’t anything to write home about.
We grabbed a beer and relaxed in the hammocks they provided. As the sun set we climbed up into their community tree house of sorts and watched shades of pink and orange envelop the mountains. Our hostel was advertising a tour to see all of the major “spots” in Pai for $15. So we signed up. (Let’s Go Pai Tour)
We wandered into town and grabbed drinks and food at the Witching Well, as we wanted a break from Thai food. After that we wandered the night market for a while before heading to Edible/Jazz House for some great acoustic live music and interactions with the bar cats, or Mæw, in Thai. (I think we learned more animal words in Thai than functional words)
PAI Day Two
Kelsey woke up early for some mind-altering yoga as the sun was rising, while I caught some extra zzz’s. We grabbed breakfast at our hostel and waiting for our truck to pick us up for our tour at 10:00 am.
You always hope its going to be an air-conditioned van with plush seats, but as expected, a truck with a seating rig on the back pulls up with a few other people already in the back.
We scooped up a French couple, a couple ladies from Holland, and some lovers from Spain and hit the road.
1. Big White Buddha. It’s really just as you would expect. A big. White. Buddha. Except it’s 85 degrees at 10:30 am and your guides say, “Exercise!” pointing to the seemingly never-ending flights of stairs leading up to the structure. This is why I always turn off audio in the videos I make. You WILL hear me gasping up every step.
2. Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint. A nice pit-stop on the way to the caves. Expansive views of the mountains and canyons.
3. Lod Cave. What was nice about this tour (besides it only being $15) was that all entry fees/guide fees were included…somehow, and it is still only $15. We were paired up with a guide that pumps a lantern to lead you into the caves. We explore caves one and two by foot from the entrance. Our group of 4 then boarded a bamboo raft that guided us through caverns to get to the final cave. This is where I got bird poop in my hair. Not bat poop. Bird poop. I’m not sure if that makes it better. The last cave has an opening that birds swoop in to create nests in the cave ceiling.
Bring hand sanitizer and wipes as most of the initial railings to go up into the caves are covered in bird and bat poop. This was one of my favorite memories. It was so interesting to see all the different stalagmites and stalactites formations.
Surprisingly a lot of the reviews of this cave say its “Okay”, “I’ve seen better.” Maybe I’m not a travel snob yet, or maybe I just love traveling so much that anything outside of a routine is “incredible” to me. I think its worth $15. Please tip your guide!
4. LUNCH. They accommodated vegetarian requests! The food was fine. And they keep you hydrated! That’s really all I have to say about that, mmmkay!
5. Sai Ngam Hot Spring. We had been sweating all day in the back of this dang truck. The thought of a hot spring was repulsive. I decided to follow the social norm and got into the water (I wore my swimsuit underneath my clothes for the tour).
It was clear bathwater. Absolutely delightful. We spent a good 40 minutes relaxing and talking with the other people on our tour about life in their country and how education should be free, and people should travel more…etc, etc.
6. Moh Pang Waterfall. Normally there is enough water for people to slide down the waterfall into the lower pools, but not when we went. It was still nice to sun bathe or hang out in the pools for 30 minutes.
7. Pai Canyon. We arrived at the canyon around 5:45 and the sun dipped over the mountains at exactly 6:30. It was epic.
There are multiple trails you can wander around while you wait. And if you’re lucky, your guide will take you to a nearby store to grab a Chang or Singha before, as alcohol isn’t sold at the canyon. I always get goosebumps during that brief moment of silence when hundreds of people gather to watch a sunset and the world becomes still for a moment, bursting with color.
We got back to our hostel around 7:00. Showered and grabbed a truck into town. We ate dinner at Le Rêve De Pai. I highly recommend!!! A cute married couple import nice wine and make Thai fusion food. They were kind and treated us like friends and gave us many great recommendations for the night.
After dinner we went to one of their recommendations. Jikkos Beer Bar. If you like beer at all – Thailand is such as struggle. Their Chang and Singha are only okay. Jikkos had imported beers from all over the world. It was neat enjoying beers that we enjoy in the USA with local Thai people.
The owner, who goes by “U”, was charismatic and conversed with us for a while about his time spent in New York for school and how e decided to start this business after. He bought us a round of shots (UGH) and learned how to say cheers in Thai (chok dee khrap / kha). We learned there were multiple ways to say cheers. This meaning is for friends wishing luck. There is another way to cheers which literally means “clinking of glasses”.
Our final spot for the night was Almost Famous, a mojito recommendation from dinner. Hands down the BEST mojito I’ve had in my LIFE.
They have a seasonal passionfruit mojito that we were lucky enough to try and OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS YOU GUYS. The lychee flavor was pretty good as well, but NOTHING will ever beat that passionfruit mojito made with love from a tough Thai woman that just liked making mojitos. Amen.
“A well spent day brings happy sleep” – Leonardo da Vinci
Pai Day Three
We woke up and packed up our bags slowly; the long days catching up to us. We taxied into town reserved our bus tickets back to Chiang Mai and dropped our bags. A breakfast spot nearby had good reviews and we wandered over. Big’s Little Café. An outdoor breakfast bar where everything is cooked to order right in front of you. I was sweating a LOT, but that food hit the spot.
We ran into a group of American’s from Michigan that we ran into the day before. We learned they would be in the same van back to Chiang Mai with us. The world is a small, small place at times. My only recommendation for Pai is that you add at least another day than what you think you’ll need there. I’d go back to Thailand just to spend more time in Pai.
Now Back to Chiang Mai!