Oh Pai, sweet sweet Pai. A small town located in the northern part of Thailand, in Mae Hong Son’s Province which used to be known as a quiet retreat for expats who came to Thailand in the 90s and never left. Pai is well-trodden path these days with a backpacker, hippy kinda vibe where you plan to go for a few days but could easily get stuck there chilling for weeks!
It was a last-minute decision to rent a scooter and head out to Pai from Chiang Mai, with only 48 hours before our flight to Bali to surprise my bestie for her 30th birthday!
Scooter Rental Chiang Mai
How to travel to Pai? We always prefer to travel on two wheels so we picked up a scooter for the cost of £2.50 per day, a 125cc automatic which performed perfectly well and was more than capable carrying the both of us and a big bag in front of Sam. If you’re renting a scooter anywhere in Asia, be sure to have your international driving permit with you, you have been warned! You will get charged a fine if you are stopped by the police without this permit. It’s common to come across one or two police checkpoints on the way to Pai, so be prepared. Sam was actually stopped when he needed to nip back to our accommodation for his passport while the rental place held me as a deposit! Luckily he had the international driving permit in his pocket and they let him go, while next to him a couple of Aussies were being stung with a fine!
The road to Pai
Leaving Chiang Mai around midday, we’d been warned about the windy road (Route 1095) to Pai and to take care as it was dangerous to drive along… apparently. Obviously, that would never stop us!
The road to Pai were amazing! Freshly tarmacked, super smooth and pretty quiet. It was like a formula one racing track! Yes, they were windy, so we took it steady. The countryside is so peaceful with shiny gold temples in the distance. If you are an inexperienced scooter rider, just take it easy and always wear a helmet. Thailand has a strict helmet policy so… WEAR A HELMET!
Arriving in Pai
We arrived at our accommodation (Buzzas Boutique Backpackers) in Pai around 4pm, checked in to our wooden shack, showered and headed out into the town for food and drinks. We mooched around the night market which was full of food stalls, leather goods and quirky handmade jewellery shops!
Things to do in Pai
The next day, we were on a mission as this was our only day to see Pai! Our Pai itinerary looked like this; Chinese Village and Viewpoint, the best waterfalls in Pai; Mor Paeng Waterfall and Pam Bok Waterfall, Pai Canyon, Wat Phra That Mae Yen and Sundown Playground.
Leaving the accommodation at 9am, we rode just 15 minutes to the Chinese Village which gave us a good sense of Pai’s District. As we reached the village, the road became very steep and I had to walk a few minutes to get to the top. When I reached the top, Sam had clapped eyes on an archery set up and insisted on having a go! He was absolutely shite haha!
The Chinese Village is 20 baht entrance fee and isn’t anything special, but the viewpoint gives amazing scenic views over Pai’s countryside. It’s definitely well worth the drive!
Mor Paeng Waterfall
Mor Paeng Waterfall wasn’t too far (10km from the town of Pai) and I’d read tourists gather here to party on the rocks… but they had slippery rock pools you could slide around in so why the hell not!
There is no entrance fee for Mor Paeng Waterfall and it’s a short 5-minute walk from parking our scooter. There were indeed slippery rock pools as I went flying around a few while Sam pointed and laughed… classic Sam! Make sure you take your dry sack with you to keep valuables dry. As you climb the rock boulders, the views across Pai are stunning, you could easily spend an afternoon chilling here.
Pam Bok Waterfall
We then headed to the second waterfall, Pam Bok. A beautiful tall waterfall with plenty of shade covering and quieter of the two. The walk was a little longer, climbing higher and across an unsteady bridge. It was nice to get out of the sun for a while. To walk out to the rock below, you will wade through water so you’ll need your dry sack.
Next stop, Pai Canyon! Pai Canyon is the most popular natural attraction located near Pai and it’s free to visit. With only a 5-minute walk up to the canyon, you can begin exploring this unique area right away, formed by continuous erosion over the decades. With its narrow ledges and walkways across the canyon, you need to be careful of the 30-meter deep cliff drops! We totally underestimated the Canyon as we were only wearing our Birkenstock sandals (you should really aim for proper footwear if you’re visiting the canyon). We had a good hike for an hour or so, climbing up and down the dusty trails which are exposed and elevated above the trees. You can expect awesome 360-degree panorama views and if you prefer a cooler temperature, visit for Pai’s sunrise or sunset as both can be seen from here.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen
As the sun was cooking, we scooted out to Wat Phra That Mae Yen, also known as the White Buddha in the hills of Pai. Probably the biggest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen to date. After climbing 353 steps, we finally reached the Buddha. Wat Phra That Mae Yen has a peaceful, serene atmosphere with panoramic views overlooking Pai for miles.
The best place for sunset in Pai – Sundown Playground
We timed our adventure day to end perfectly before sunset. I’d noticed a poster stuck up around Pai for a bar called Sundown Playground out in the sticks. As we arrived, we saw a large wooden bar set up in the fields, surrounded by nothing but beautiful scenery, countryside and cows!
I enjoyed a passion fruit Mojito and Sam had a Chang beer (obvs) as we watched the sunset behind the mountains. Sundown Playground had all the sunset vibes playing and although we didn’t eat there, the food looked incredible.
We had to return the scooter the following day, Chiang Mai by midday, so it was an early start for us setting off after breakfast at 8am.
A fantastic little trip up to Pai, although we wished we could have spent more time there, we are happy to have squeezed it into the itinerary.
- Travel by: Car Rental, Scooter or Motorbike Rental and Taxi from a local travel shop
- Distance: 149km and although Google Maps confirms 3 hours, it took us 4-4.5 hours with stops
- Lunch recommendation: The Witch Cafe and you can’t miss the big ugly witches as you drive by!
- Wear proper footwear and always take your poncho