Pai, Thailand

Pai Recommendations:


Common Grounds Pai


  • White Buddha
  • Pai Canyon
  • Fluid Pool


  • Duang Restaurant
  • Pai Green Restaurant

Why I didn’t Love Pai


Right before I was about to leave on my trip to SE Asia, I started chatting with all my friends who had been to “the area” previously to see if they had any insider tips. One of the most common answers that I received was, “you HAVE to go to Pai!” Apparently, I had to go to Pai.

Sure, I had heard of it, I mean I am a travel blogger for Christ’s sake, but I had read mixed reviews and I wasn’t certain that it was going to be my cup of tea. After four days of being constantly wet in Chiang Mai during Songkran, I met a couple girls from Canada who were planning a short trip there so I thought, why not? I booked a bus ticket and off I went.

Early the next morning, we loaded up in a mini bus and started the three hour journey from Chiang Mai to Pai. The road to Pai is known as one of the most dangerous roads in Thailand for motorbikers and I can see why. There were hundreds of hairpin turns along a thin, bumpy road. Motor bike crashes have become so prevalent here that road rash has been coined the “Pai Tattoo”. So even though I had to be packed like a sardine into the mini bus with less than adequate aircon, at least I wasn’t trying to navigate the road on 2 wheels.


Upon arriving, we checked into Common Grounds Hostel, which was a collection of bungalows with 4-6 beds in each. There was aircon, the beds were fairly comfortable, and there were plugins for every person, so I was a happy camper. Apparently the bar is known for having the best Bloody Mary’s in Thailand, but I didn’t get to sample them unfortunately. I was trying to lay off the hooch after my Songkran shenanigans. However, they did allow guests to name (and take) a shot for their country and the US shot was “The Bern.” So great.

After checking into the hostel, we decided to wander around the town and see the sights. What I quickly found was that Pai had transformed from the hippy haven that was described to me by friends into a raging tourist trap. I had been told stories of wonderful street vendors selling CHEAP, handmade jewelry and clothing. What I found was the same bracelets and rings that every stand in Chiang Mai sold, for twice the price. You can imagine my disappointment.


The food also left me feeling less than ecstatic. It was overly westernized, over priced (compared to Chiang Mai) and there wasn’t much street food to be had. The only restaurant that I really liked was Duang Restaurant because they served khao soi, which I thought I had left behind in Chiang Mai. Chris was fond of Pai Green Restaurant because they served Penang Curry that was “actually spicy.” The bar scene was a little better, simply because there were so many to choose from, likely because they knew that is what the tourists were looking for. We ended up stopping at a couple of bars with live music, one being Yellow Sun Pai, I couldn’t tell you the name of the other one (because I can’t remember, so much for staying sober). Towards the end of the night, the crew wanted to head out of town a bit to a place called Sunset Bar. Little did we know at the time that this was a mushroom bar. We gathered this information through the constant stream of people walking home from the bar, completely f*cked up.


Apparently, nights in Pai end early because we arrived at the bar around 11PM and were some of the only people left. Not really feeling up to trying a mushroom shake, we ordered beers and hung around for about an hour before making the trek back to the hostel.


The next day, we rented scooters and drove to the White Buddha temple. It was about a 15 minute scooter ride, and 100 stairs away. It was so hot out, I thought I was going to get heat stroke walking up the stairs, but eventually I made it. The Buddha was huge and a pretty cool photo opp, so I definitely suggest making a stop there if you decide to visit Pai (even though I would advise against it, there are much cooler places to see in Northern Thailand). After the climb to visit the Buddha, we needed to cool down. We had originally planned to visit the Pai Canyon, which I saw pictures of and it looks really cool. However, the heat would not allow for this adventure and we ended up scootering over to a public pool called Fluid. The pool was pretty dirty and gross, but it was cold, and that is really all we were looking for. Once we had decreased our internal body temperature from that of molten lava, we got the hell out of dodge on a bus back to Chiang Mai.


Have you been to Pai? What was your opinion about this hippy hideaway in the mountains? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!




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