Pai is a small town in Northern Thailand, near the Myanmar border. Sitting happily along the Pai river, Pai was once a quiet Shan village and has turned into a hippie town in the last few years.
Pai is full of opportunities to hang out in nature at hot springs and mountains, with picturesque views everywhere you go. It manages to remain a peaceful town while also full of animated festivities like live music joints, bars, and clubs. Yogis, backpackers, and artists all gravitate here, alongside people looking to explore a quieter kind of life. This is a place where budget travelers can integrate with nature and fully enjoy the countryside of the north.
It’s a popular destination for travelers who have covered all of the landmarks in Chiang Mai because it’s so accessible from the big city.
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One of the most impressive natural sites in Mae Hong Son is the Pai Canyon. Located less than 10 kilometers outside the main town of Pai, this scenic canyon offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. What makes it so unique are the natural ridges that zigzag through the canyon, which formed after thousands of years of soil erosion. What’s left are narrow pathways and steep drop-offs that visitors can explore on a modern hike and enjoy 360-degree views of the rolling hills, unique cliff formations, and jungle trees and shrubs.
Pai Memorial Bridge
This bridge spans the Pai River and is a popular tourist attraction just outside of the town of Pai. Built during World War II, this steel and wood bridge was used by the Japanese to transport weapons to Myanmar. Although the original bridge was burnt down at the end of the war, the Thai locals depended on it for their daily life and rebuilt it years later.
Pai Coffee in Love
Perched on the top of a hill overlooking the valleys below is a sweet wooden coffee house. You can’t miss the large, colorful ‘Coffee in Love’ sign out front as you reach the top of the summit.
The café serves a variety of western lunch options such as burgers and chicken wings, as well as simple Thai foods like pad thai. The drink menu is stocked with smoothies, coffees, and tea, as well as cakes for anyone craving some sweets.
The menu is good enough, but the view is the main attraction, so make sure you grab a seat on the balcony. Coffee in Love is a great getaway for nomads and nature enthusiasts who want to get away from the crowd — the charming cafe is just outside of Pai town.
Mae Yen Temple
Phra That Mae Yen temple is best known for its big white Buddha statue perched on top of a hill. The enormous structure is easy to spot when taking a glance towards the eastern part of the mountains. Driving a car or scooter to the peak is possible, but most visitors enjoy the modest trek up the Naga staircase. Climb the 350+ steps and be rewarded by a spectacular view of the Pai valley below.
Many tourists visit Mae Yen during sunrise, or in the evening to watch the sun set over the hills. This is a beautiful way to avoid the crowd and get the best views of the graceful white buddha. The temple also includes two buildings and a few golden chedis that make for great pictures.
Pai Walking Street
One of the best-known attractions in the heart of Pai is the Pai Walking Street. This food and craft market is open every evening from 5pm to roughly 11pm and stretches along Chaisongkram and Rungsiyanon Roads. In addition to the permanent shops that line these roads, you’ll find a colorful shopping scene of mobile vendors selling souvenirs and handicrafts. There is also a large variety of street food stall selling tasty Thai food such as grilled meats, noodle and rice dishes, and desserts.
Pai Yun Lai Viewpoint
Pai Yun Lai Viewpoint overlooks the town of Pai with a backdrop of rolling green grass hills and fields. Enjoy the view while sipping on a Chinese green or oolong tea. Just 15 minutes outside the city, the viewpoint can be reached by scooter or songthaew.
There is an on site café that serves tea, coffee, and baked goods. Enjoy a snack and a beverage on the bamboo deck while the sun rises for a taste of true serenity. If you come during a busier time, step out into the flower fields to escape the crowd.
The viewpoint is open from dusk till dawn and the entrance fee is cheap. It’s said to be one of the best places to watch the sunset in Pai.
Santichon Chinese Village
Step into the past at this small but educational Yunnan cultural village. Located on the outskirts of Pai, this historical site was once a Chinese settlement. Today, it’s a cultural center where travelers can learn more about the Yunnan way of life. Stroll by homes and souvenir shops that are made in the traditional Chinese style using clay and straw and taste test a variety of locally grown tea such as green tea, jasmine tea, or oolong tea. Enjoy a feast of delicious Yunnan food, dressing up in traditional Yunnan clothing and taking pictures near a replica of the Great Wall of China, riding a pony or donkey, or spinning around on a wooden Ferris wheel.
Wat Nam Hu
Wat Nam Hu is an important temple containing a sacred Chiang Saen-style Buddha known as “Un Meang.” The head of the Buddha image is hollow and contains holy water. Though it is now forbidden to touch the image itself, there are bottles of holy water available. Drink one to get rid of sickness and invite health and good luck into your life.
Many locals come here to pray and pay homage to this image, as well as another Buddha statue housing the ashes of the Thai Princess Suphankalaya.
The temple is close to a Santichon Chinese village, so many visitors find it convenient to visit Wat Nam Hu for a prayer before seeing the village. You will also come across Lisu villages and the Mor Paeng waterfall nearby. Visit the sacred temple, greet the local villagers, then head to the quaint waterfall to dip in its shallow swimming pool.