The enchanting town surrounded by mountains, jungle and rice paddies
Pai is a small town 140km north of Chiang Mai and very easy to reach thanks to the minivan services running every hour from Chiang Mai bus station and Pai airport operating flights to and from Chiang Mai (25 minute trip). The town is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, jungle and rice paddies and is unlike anywhere else in Thailand. There is a friendly, laid back vibe in town and everyone feels welcome!
Pai is popular with backpackers who come for the relaxed atmosphere and great live music scene. There are plenty of places to stay from budget bungalows to luxury resorts, a bounty of cafes and restaurants in town as well as spas and excellent viewing points only a short motorbike ride away. Further outside of town, there are waterfalls, canyons, caves, secluded temples and natural hot springs to visit and enjoy.
The town’s population is made up of friendly Thai locals and Shan, Lisu and Pageryaw hilltribe villagers (the Lisu tribe can be identified by their traditional dress: sequined baggy trousers and embroidered pinafores) with a mixture of backpackers who are passing through, some who settle for a number of months and retired ex pats. Those who come to Pai often end up staying much longer than they planned to as it’s such an easy place to settle.
Pai is free from the tuk-tuks, taxi’s, go-go bars, fast food chains, Tesco Lotuses and Big C superstores that have taken over many other towns in Thailand. Instead the town offers an abundance of markets, street food vendors and quirky tea & coffee shops. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian then Pai also has plenty of health food cafes serving up delicious, vegan friendly plant-based food, juices and shakes.
There are lots of things to do in Pai including jungle treks, white water rafting, cookery classes, language and massage courses and yoga & meditation retreats. We discourage our students from riding elephants at the camps on the outskirts of town and instead encourage people to visit the elephants in their natural environment at the Conserve Natural Forests sanctuary.
Pai is a town full of activity and a popular location for lots of different festivals and events from the annual reggae music festival and many cultural events in the Buddhist calendar to local rice harvests and art exhibitions, there’s always something happening in town each month of the year. The town is especially busy during December and January as the cold season attracts lots of Thai tourists from Bangkok who take the opportunity to wrap up and enjoy the cooler temperatures and morning mist.