Pai, ThailandKirsty Turner
Located halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, Pai is an intimate little village which draws visitors from all over the world with its cool climate, friendly locals and stunning scenery, which includes mountains and waterfalls.
As soon as you arrive in Pai, the fresh mountain air and warm smiles make you feel at home and slow your pace a little. The absolutely stunning scenery is just waiting to be explored, and many people hire bicycles or motorbikes and ride out to the nearby hill tribe villages. The village of Ban Piang Luang makes a good day trip, and the local people are welcoming. Pai has a total population of less than 3,000 people, which gives a real feeling of community, a nice contrast after spending some time in one of Thailand’s bustling cities or busy beach areas.
There are many tiny hill tribe villages located around Pai and hill tribes include Karen, Hmong, Lisu and Lahu. Although usually quite used to tourists by now, many of the hill tribe villagers are shy and should be approached respectfully.
The village of Pai takes its name from the river that runs through the lush valley. There are a few local temples to explore, including the very pretty Wat Luang and Wat Klang and the beautiful forests make a great setting for a soak in the Tha Pai Hot Springs, where you can choose to bath in the incredibly hot water (which can reach scorching temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius) with friends, or treat yourself to a private pool.
Originally a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people, Pai has adapted to provide a haven for the road weary traveler.
The water in Pai is cool and clear, and the waters at Mo Paeng Waterfall are a good place to cool down after a walk through the countryside or a visit at one of the nearby elephant camps.
For shopping, check out the Wednesday Market, when colorful crowds of local villagers and tribal people from all around the Pai Valley gather to trade their wares.
But the main past time in Pai is simply chilling out. With a large variety of guest houses, restaurants, bars and cinema rooms, this is a perfect place to learn the art of relaxation.