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How to Spend 3 Days in Pai, Thailand

3-days-in-pai-thailandIf you’re backpacking through Thailand or living in Chiang Mai as a Digital Nomad, be sure to spend a weekend in the hippie town of Pai, just 3 hours to the north of Chiang Mai.

Pai is a small town that packs a lot of action. Be sure to visit some of these spots while passing through or spending a long weekend of 3 days in Pai!

Visit the Pai Waterfalls

There are many waterfalls to visit when you are in Pai, Thailand. My favorite was the Pam Bok waterfall outside of the city. You can rent a motorbike from just about anywhere in the city center – rent one and visit all of Pai’s waterfalls in one day!

 

The Pam Bok waterfall was the easiest climb to get to the actual falls. A simple trail and wooden bridge brought me to the falls.

The Pam Bok waterfall was my favorite because it involved only small amounts of climbing and sketchy foot bridges to get there 😎

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Bring your water shoes (to protect your feet from the rocks at the bottom of the water), a dry towel, and a couple beers to sit down and relax with friends. This waterfall is much more chill and less of a party spot than other waterfalls in the surrounding area.

Mor Paeng waterfall is the most crowded waterfall in Pai and is a hotspot for sweaty backpackers to cool off in the water and catch some breeze coming off the mountains.

How to beat the heat in Thailand. Step 1: find nearest waterfall 🤗

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Beware. Of. The. Slippery. Rocks.

I faceplanted once and saw many others take a nosedive. Which is especially scary because the waterfall has some height to it. If you slipped off the wrong rock, it’s a several feet drop that could seriously injure you. I wouldn’t recommend taking fancy cameras or anything not necessary with you for the climb, you could damage your property and you’ll need full functionality of all your limbs to navigate to the top safely.

Relax at the Land Split

The Land Split, or land crack, is on the way to the Pam Bok waterfall, so make an afternoon out of it and do both activities at the same time.

The owner used to be a farmer, but when the earth split his property in half, this savvy businessman decided to turn it into a small tourist destination.

He will provide free fruit, banana chips, nuts, hibiscus tea, and jelly in exchange for a donation. He also gave us a bottle of homemade wine, pour small glasses because it was more like saki or moonshine as far as taste.

I donated 100 baht because the owners were so welcoming and friendly. It was a perfect place to rehydrate and relax in the hammocks after motorbiking in the sun all day.

Swim at the Secret Hot Springs *Shhh*

Well, I can mark off "take a swim in the natural hot springs of Thailand" off my bucket list 📝

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There are 2 natural hot springs we had heard of during our weekend in Pai. The Sai Ngam Hot Springs and the Pai Hot Springs.

We went to the Sai Ngam hot springs, which is a national park, and fairly hidden compared to other more touristy springs closer to the city. It was further away by motorbike and much less expensive. We pulled up to the park ranger and paid him 60 baht per person for entry. It was a lovely little spot with bath water temperature springs and crystle clear water.

Although BE CAREFUL – the final leg of the way there on motorbike was very tricky. Steep downsloping curves and long stretches going up hill made me think our little motorbike wasn’t up to the challenge, but thank goodness we made it. Also, thank goodness I was on the back so I could close my eyes and not look at the winding roads.

Pai Canyon

This weekend involved lots of climbing and I only complained a little 😏

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An Instagrammers paradise! Get tons of cool action shots after a short climb up the mountains (using stairs, a luxury!). Two different paths. I’m terrified of heights so I avoided one path and hung out under the gazebo taking in the views while waiting on my friends to return.

Once they got back, we trekked the regular path and took in the views, the breeze, and of course tons of photos! The heat is a major factor at the canyon and combined with climbing, you’ll want to bring a water bottle along. If you forget water, no worries, there are street vendors selling bottle for 10-20 baht a pop.

Nightlife in Pai

Nightlife in Pai isn’t what you’d find in Bangkok, hell or even in Chiang Mai. There’s a few bars dotting the streets, but don’t expect a club scene. We had a drink at Sunset Bar, and while the view was great if you don’t have a scooter, it’s a fairly long walking distance from the center of town. It was actually a little overrated from all the amazing things we’d heard about it.

We also passed Don’t Cry Bar and it looked like a good time, if you’re intoxicated enough to handle all the blacklights and neon 420 signs. Of course, you can find Mushy Shakes, Shroom shakes, just about anywhere in Pai so be careful and make sure you have a safe way to get home if you choose to partake 🙂

Did I miss anything that’s a must-do while spending 3 days in Pai? Let me know in the comments!

Hi, I’m Chelse! I am a Digital Nomad obsessed with traveling the world and seeking adventure beyond the 9-5 office life. When I turned 25 I decided that I was going to stop making excuses and do what I’ve always dreamed. I went from having 0 stamps in my passport to 7 countries in 7 months. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to just buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!

That Time I Took a Vomit Smelling Bus from Chiang Mai to Pai

Bus from Chiang Mai to Pai Cost: 150 Baht

Getting to the Bus Station in Chiang Mai

arcade-bus-station-chiang-mai

Most likely your bus or van from Chiang Mai to Pai will be leaving from the Arcade Bus Station in the upper right hand corner of the city if you’re looking at a map. This is the older bus terminal, not the updated Terminal 3. So if you think the station looks really clean and modern, this is not the place you’re supposed to be at.

Yes, You Need Dramamine

Whether you get motion sickness or just want to pass out to avoid hearing the Thai man snoring next to you, you’re gonna wanna pop some pills either way  on the bus from Chiang Mai to Pai

I had heard rumors about the drive to Pai from Chiang Mai. I was also warned to take the big bus instead of the smaller passenger vans. A friend was in charge of getting the tickets and I thought we were luckily riding on the charter bus until 10 minutes before departure  when we learned we were in fact in the smaller passenger vans – which are notorious for speeding, accidents, and overall little regard for basic traffic laws.

OK, Dramamine was needed. I headed to the nearest little shop at the bus station and asked for what I needed, but the language barrier made it difficult to communicate what I needed so I started swaying my shoulders back and forth and articulating “motion sickness” the best that I could.

Suddently the woman knew exactly what I needed and handed me 2 pills and said “5 Baht” — wow, that’s a small price to pay to prevent the massacre of my insides. Ring me up!

Thank goodness I snagged those before we loaded up the van because I would not be able to handle the…

762 Hairpin Curves from Chiang Mai to Pai

bus-chiang-mai-to-pai
Notice the “sick bag” ahead. There’s 4 of us cramped in the back row.

Seven hundred and sixty two. Ugh, I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. Being knocked out for the majority of the drive was a godsend. But honestly, I’m not sure what was more uncomfortable: the bends or the severe lack of personal space between me and my fellow travelers in this van – which coincidentally smelled like vomit. I guess not everybody before our trip had the forethought to pack motion sickness medicine.

Aside from the drive itself, what was also super fascinating to me was the military checkpoints we had to pass through. Apparently this is common throughout Northern Thailand. The drivers pull over and wait for a Policeman? Military Personnel? to open the van and check inside. I’m not sure what they’re looking for, maybe drugs, but luckily we had no problems and it was a very efficient process.

bus-to-pai-checkpoint
Checkpoint from Pai back to Chiang Mai

 

Don’t want to take a van?

Other options to get from Chiang Mai to Pai:

Motorbike

Cost: Between 200 and 300 Baht per day

Taking a motorbike or scooter to Pai from Chiang Mai is a popular option for many travelers who have either lived in Chiang Mai for longer than just a “vacation” or have experience on scooters. The first half of the drive to Pai is reasonable for a novice, but be prepared for those 762 curves on a motorbike. Busses and vans are notorious for recklessly speeding past motorbikes around these curves and if you get motion sickness, you’ll feel the affects of every curve down to the pit of your stomach.

This may be why you’ll see AT LEAST one tourist a day walking around Pai in a cast, crutches, or some sort of large bandages. These are called “Pai Tattoos” … very fitting.

BUT, for pros who love this method of transportation, I’ve heard it’s an amazing way to see the countryside first hand and at your own pace. You’re likely to use 2 tanks of petrol on your journey so refuel whenever you have the chance to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.

Plane

Cost: 3800 Baht

If saving time is important and you’re not on a limited budget, flying to Pai might be your best bet. Served by Kan Airlines, these small prop planes will have you there in about 30 minutes. These flights book up fast so be sure to book well in advance or coordinate with a travel agent.

Private Taxi

Cost: 3,000 to 4,500 Baht

If you’re staying in a hotel or guest house, ask your host to recommend a private driver who can take you to Pai. This is usually more economical when you are traveling with 3+ people. A private driver will usually drive slower (aka more safely than busses) and provide a more pleasant experience.

You will most likely be charged at an “all day rate” and therefore, feel free to ask to stop at certain tourist destinations or temples along the way and make the roadtrip part of the experience!

Bonus points: Your car will most likely not smell like vomit, unlike my bus from Chiang Mai to Pai… 😉

Anyway you get to Pai, you’re going to love it once you get there

– I sure did!

bus-to-pai

 

pai-thailand-canyon

 

pai-thailand-waterfall

 

pai-cat-hostel

Hi, I’m Chelse! I am a Digital Nomad obsessed with traveling the world and seeking adventure beyond the 9-5 office life. When I turned 25 I decided that I was going to stop making excuses and do what I’ve always dreamed. I went from having 0 stamps in my passport to 7 countries in 7 months. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to just buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!