Photo: Wide open spaces.

One-day Pai by scooter itinerary

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If you have only one full-day in Pai then time is tight. Here is our wrap on how to get the most out of a single day by scootering around to the main outlying sights.

You’ll see a bewildering array of attractions listed on Pai tour operator sightseeing programmes, and if you tried to include every one it’d probably require a two- rather than one-day tour. If you are confident in hiring your own two-wheel transport, then the following would be our recommendation for a single day tour of the best sights near Pai.

You do have a license right? Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

You do have a license right? Photo: Mark Ord

Before we go any further, please bear in mind that aside from being potentially dangerous to yourself and everyone else on or near the road, riding a scooter unlicensed in Thailand will in all likelihood void your travel insurance—any insurance the rental shop offers you in Pai will only cover the bike—not damage you do to yourself or anyone else. Always wear a helmet. Always. Don’t ride drunk or stoned.

After an early breakfast on Chaisongkran—I’m Fine or Barista Corizon would be our picks—head past the hospital onto the bypass and take the lane leading uphill towards Nam Hoo. (Grab a free local map from the coffee shop if you don’t already have one.) The attractive Lanna-style wat and grounds are worth a peek as is the historic Buddha image contained within.

Start the day right. Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Start the day right. Photo: Mark Ord

A short distance further up the lane you’ll arrive at the old KMT village of Santichong. Do some tea-tasting if you’ve time but don’t miss a recreated section of the Great Wall of China behind the supposedly traditional mud hut souvenir stalls. We’ll guarantee it’ll be one of the most novel and kitsch spots you’ll come across all day.

Past this, as you arrive in the village proper, it’s worth slowing down to get some peeks into the courtyards of what are genuine traditional Yunnanese houses, but do take care on the very steep main street. A signposted turning to the left takes you up an even steeper slope to the Yun Lai viewpoint, with commanding vistas right across the Pai Valley. You can either order a drink at the summit Chinese cafe or just grab a photo from the carpark.

Walking the Great Wall of Pai. Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Walking the Great Wall of Pai. Photo: Mark Ord

Descending the one-way system through the narrow village lanes takes you back to the main street, but again take care as it’s potentially trickier coming down than going up. Head back down the hill to the fancy Chinese-style village gate and take the sharp left turn. This will lead you through the Lisu village of Mor Paeng, beyond which you’ll emerge at a T-junction where a left turn takes you a short distance further to the carpark for the Mor Paeng Waterfall. It’s a scenic waterfall with bathing pools and while it can get seriously crowded on a hot afternoon, at this time in the morning there shouldn’t be too many other visitors around to bomb your photos.

On departing, carry on past the turn-off to Mor Paeng village and head downhill in a northerly direction, which should bring you out on Route 1095 near the airport. (There are several alternative routes here but keep north and any of them should bring you out on the main highway.) You’re looking for the country road a couple of kilometres northwest of the airport leading east, which will be signposted to several of the large country-style resorts lining the lane, notably Phu Pai Art Resort or Puripai Villa. (You’ll see what we mean on the map.) This scenic rural road winds its way to the cute village of Mae Khong before crossing the Pai River and making a loop to the south.

Santichong views. Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Santichong views. Photo: Mark Ord

The road now heads to Wiang Nua, the most important of the early valley settlements. The brick city gates are recreations but the old moat is original. This route down the east side of the valley affords picturesque views on both sides, and you’ll pass several attractive old temples if you fancy a break. Further south you’ll reach the junction with the bridge road leading back into town and the Mae Yen road bearing left. At this point you’ll also see on your left a driveway leading up to Pai Chan Resort, which would be our pick for an early lunch in these parts. Their Thai food’s excellent, as are the views across the paddy fields from the restaurant garden.

You could then do a detour in Mae Yen village up to the giant seated Buddha, though it is a steep climb and views are at their best for sunset. Otherwise, carry on through the village and head south along a forest-lined road to the turn off for Huay Nam Dang National Park a few kilometres south of Mae Yen. The 300 baht entrance fee is a bit steep but it is a great spot to while away an hour or two soaking up the hot mineral-rich waters or even taking a stroll on a forest path.

The Memorial Bridge. Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

The Memorial Bridge. Photo: Mark Ord

Back on the main route, a short ride will see you hitting Route 1095 just to the east of the Memorial Bridge, so take a right. The bridge is admittedly one of Pai’s lesser attractions, but does have some anecdotal interest and is worth a photo or two as you pass. Another 1.5 kilometres back towards Pai is where you’ll see the entrance to Pai Canyon. If you can get your timing right, then late afternoon is a fine time to appreciate the views of the attractive ochre and red rock formations. Don’t get stuck on some isolated pinnacle after sunset or your final stop may well be Pai emergency department, but head back into town and it’ll be about right for a riverside sundowner at Kanad.

This little tour—we’d estimate 40 or so kilometres—provides some of the best views to be found in the valley and allows you to visit most of the more interesting sights at a leisurely pace. If you cut out the steep Nam Hoo and Santichong section, then the resulting relatively flat ride would be eminently doable by bicycle. Start off by heading out to the airport and a right turn immediately before the main entrance is a short cut to Wiang Nua and avoids the wide northern loop via Mae Khong Village.

Back in town in time for a bite to eat and a cold drink. Photo taken in or around One-day Pai by scooter itinerary, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Back in town in time for a bite to eat and a cold drink. Photo: Mark Ord

Got more than a single free day? You may want to give our three days in Pai itinerary a read.

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Popular attractions in Pai

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Pai.

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A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Pai.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Pai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Pai.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Pai.
 Read up on how to get to Pai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Pai? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.

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