What do you know of Pai?
Have you even heard of it?
Pai isn’t the first name that pops into my (or anyone’s else either) mind for an ideal holiday destination in Thailand. One would easily be swayed to the sandy beaches of Thailand’s many islands or the bustling food & shopping haven of Bangkok.
However a recent trip via Chiangmai-Pai-Bangkok showed me a side of Thailand that has been under the radar and should be given due highlight.
Pai is a charming town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, near the Myanmar border, about 50 miles/80 km north of Chiang Mai.
Due to its northern location, weather in Pai is expected to be milder than its southern counterparts; though with the recent global weather change, it is not so.
HOW TO GET THERE:
This small mountain town is just a three hour’s drive (149km) northwest of Chiang Mai and due to its close proximity to Chiangmai, Chiangmai has become a gateway for tourists to access Pai.
The recommended route for Malaysians are:
1. Take a direct flight from KL to Chiangmai (Thai Airways, AA, MAS, Firefly)
a. By land : Spend a few days in Chiangmai and then arrange for land transport to Pai
By land transport, your options are rented bikes (only if you are experienced as the winding roads can be hazardous), bus or rented vans/mini buses via travel agencies.
b. By Air : Only one airline serves a direct 20 minutes route from Chiangmai to Pai. Check on Kan Air site for cost.
If I ever return to Pai I’ll opt for the flight in a heartbeat.
I’m prone to motion-sickness and the twisty, elevated mountain roads is definitely not my kind of an enjoyable pastime. But the destination is worth it.
The route is scenic and offers breathtaking mountainside views of rural northern Thailand.
There are places to rest along the way such as coffee houses/cafes, food stops and the Huay Nam Daeng National Park.
Enroute to Pai from Chiangmai, do visit:
1. Le Vintage Coffee House is a colonial style architecture as shown in the white and cream facade and iron wrought furniture.
The cooling weather encourages one to sit back, relax (or like me, try to settle my stomach & not puke my innards out) and enjoy a cuppa.
Honest opinion? Coffee & chocolate here isn’t anything great, but it is really the ambiance that counts.
Le Vintage Coffee House.
Location: National Highway 1095, Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Huai Nam Daeng National Park:
Starting from Chiang Mai province, Huai Nam Dang National Park is along the highway at km. 65-66, approximately 11o km northwest enroute to Mae Hong Son province where Pai is.
BELOW: Unleash your inner kid and have fun!
This reserve park covers 1,250 square kilometres over the highlands of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son offering picturesque mountain views, a tranquil atmosphere overlooking the valleys and a wonderful cool breeze; perfect for that zen, inner-soul seeking-moment a harried city girl like me need.
It is a great place for photography and for the brisk, clean air. It doesn’t cost a cent to stop by so why not?
Even the monks come here for a stroll. They were obliging enough to pose with us too!
Huai Nam Dang National Park
Amphoe Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai
Tel. 0 5324 8491, 0 5322 9636, 0 2562 0760
Tha-Pai Memorial Bridge.
Along the way to Pai, you’ll pass by the picturesque Tha-Pai Memorial Bridge where you can stop and well, take MORE pictures.
There’s a story worth repeating about the bridge too.
It is said that this simple bridge was constructed during World War II by the Japanese army as a transportation route from Chiang Mai to Burma.
Overlooking the Pai river, you might spot people rafting if you are there at the right time.
Take the chance to feel your lungs with fresh, crisp air as your eyes feast on the scenic mountains and fields surrounding the bridge.
Linger and be immersed with the peacefulness and simplicity of life here.
This is quite a touristy place so there are surroundings souvenir shops and cafes so you can shop and grab a bite if you wish.
BELOW: More photography opportunity!
BELOW: Pretty, colourful cafe.
Sending postcards to a loved one/friends may be a standard thing to do for some travelers.
It appears that in Pai, it is an encouraged custom; almost alike ‘Must Do’.
Postcards cost as low as 10 baht and some designs are just so cute. Postage fees are about 15 Baht (from Pai to Malaysia) and the red letter box are located at most tourist areas so there’s no reason for you not to send your warmest greetings back home from Pai!
Tha-Pai Memorial Bridge
Location: Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
The high mountain ranges and surrounding misty jungles help to keep Pai significantly cooler than many of Thailand’s surrounding regions. There are three main seasons in Pai with an annual average temperature of 25º C / 77º F.
Cool season: October through February
Morning: 21º C / 70º F
Night: 6º C / 43º F.
Coldest months: December and January.
Hot season: March through May
Morning from 17º C / 63º F in March to 36º C / 97º F by late May.
Rainy season: May through October
A challenging time to visit but we were told by our guide that such weather is great for white water rafting expeditions down the Pai river!
Next, what to do in Pai? What to see? What to buy? What and where to eat?
Where to stay?
PS: Thanks to Arisa, Dino Goh and Richard for some of the photos used in this post.