Photo: You’ll have time to float down the river.

Three days in Pai

Our rating:

Pai lends itself to a few days spread lazily around the middle of your travels. Enjoy a bit of laying around, some coffee drinking, a bit of sightseeing and perhaps a cold drink or two during the evenings. Here is a sample three-day Pai itinerary to do exactly that.

As you’ve taken the trouble to get all the way up to Pai, then we’d say a three-day stay is maybe the minimum length Pai deserves. After all, if you’re coming from Chiang Mai, by the time you’ve got to Arcade, driven to Pai, then checked in and freshened up it’ll be about time for a sundowner anyway. We’d recommend then another three days and three nights.

No helmet=no insurance—not even for the dog. Photo taken in or around Three days in Pai, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

No helmet=no insurance—not even for the dog. Photo: Mark Ord

Before we go any further, as with our one-day Pai itinerary, 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. And of course, don’t ride drunk or stoned.

Day 1

Our itinerary’s first day consists of doing nothing very much at all: That’s largely what Pai’s about, really. Linger over one of Chaisongkran’s excellent, leisurely breakfasts at say Big’s Little Cafe or Barista Corizon, grab a few free maps from your guesthouse reception and perhaps check out a moto rental spot for the following day. In busy periods, it may well be worth reserving one a day ahead. If you don’t fancy two wheels then pick a day sightseeing tour for the following day from one of the myriad agents. You’ll see numerous slightly varying organised tours at similar prices so have a peek at our day tour review for recommendations.

Markets are not for everyone. Photo taken in or around Three days in Pai, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Markets are not for everyone. Photo: Mark Ord

If it’s a Wednesday, head over to the lively weekly market, otherwise take a stroll along the riverbank to check out some of the views. You can do a pleasant little loop by taking the metal footbridge past Pai River Villas and returning via the bamboo one at the foot of Chaisongkran, while continuing down to the road bridge at the end of Raddamrong would allow for a slightly longer wander.

Fill in any gaps by watching the world go by from one of the town’s fine coffee shops and if you’ve crossed onto Raddamrong, walk up to the very good Tamsena’s for a light local lunch. If you walk back towards the centre along Rungsiyanon, then you could do a detour to the afternoon market and have a peek at the town’s main temple, Wat Luang before heading back to Chaisongkran to book a taxi for a sunset trip to Wat Prathat Mae Yen. Numerous places offer the service and the going rate as of mid-2017 is 100 baht per person each way. The taxi will drop you in the carpark at the foot of the giant staircase leading from the wat to the seated Buddha image, from where you’ll have west-facing views right across town and the valley.

The chedi at Wat Luang. Photo taken in or around Three days in Pai, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

The chedi at Wat Luang. Photo: Mark Ord

After that, it will be time to check out Walking Street. Stalls begin setting up from around 17:00 onwards and by nightfall it’s in full flow. Almost Famous, just around the corner on Tesaban, is our fave for a couple of cheeky early evening drinks while you peruse our eat and drink list for your night’s dinner choice. If you’re feeling flush then head over for some fine dining at Reverie Siam; if you’re more in the mood for cheap and cheerful, then slip down the side alley to the Curry Shack . For something in-between try cute and cosy Witching Well. Maybe save the partying for a following evening as you’ve got a busy day coming up.

Day 2

This is a busier day, where we suggest either booking an organised sightseeing tour if you don’t feel up to renting a bike or following our suggested one-day motorbike tour if you do. One of the local cafes around the bus station is a good bet for a Thai-style breakfast. Or try the very friendly I’m Fine if you fancy something more Western, as we can’t vouch for the inclusive tour lunches. Either will leave you well placed for your Chaisongkran agent’s tour departure point.

Wander the cliffs of Pai Canyon. Photo taken in or around Three days in Pai, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Wander the cliffs of Pai Canyon. Photo: Mark Ord

A typical day tour goes for 400 to 500 baht and leaves at 09:00 or 10:00. Some may include sunset at either Pai Canyon or Mae Yen’s white Buddha, so bear that in mind when making your choice. Depending upon your previous evening’s choice you could then either pop into Baan Pizza if you fancy Italian or stroll up to Hey Mom I’m In Pai for something a bit different.

Day 3

We’re making several suggestions for your third day. Take your pick depending on how energetic you’re feeling, and where your next destination is going to be. If you’re not heading further up Route 1095 to Soppong or Mae Hong Son, then while you’re in the area don’t miss the spectacular Tham Lot. Again you can either do this by an hour and a half or so bike ride, or as an organised trip from Pai. Aya offered this for 600 baht when we checked, including entrance fee and a raft trip inside the cave. Ideally, we would recommend actually staying in charming little Soppong, perhaps en route to Mae Hong Son, but if you don’t have time then at least consider the day trip. If you’re doing it under your own steam, allow a day.

Cook up a storm. Photo taken in or around Three days in Pai, Pai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Cook up a storm. Photo: Mark Ord

If you don’t like caves or are planning on continuing up that way afterwards, then staying in Pai offers a chance for a half-day cookery class if you didn’t have time to do one back in Chiang Mai. Savoei organise very good half-day classes so you could do a morning one which would allow for say a tubing or bamboo rafting trip in the afternoon, making for a varied and fun day. If this is your last night, then splurge on a riverside barbecue at Kanad or some classy eats at Reverie before hitting Bar Street, ensuring a decent hangover for the tortuous drive back to Chiang Mai.

Pai is very much the sort of place where you simply chill out in cafes, chat in bars or sit around a camp fire. Our three-day suggestions allow for plenty of that while getting you to most of the town’s better-known sights. If you do have more time or energy, then adding a few days for a trek or white-water rafting expedition is strongly recommended.

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Popular attractions in Pai

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

Best places to stay in Pai

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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Where to next?

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