19.3589° N, 98.4367° E
Our time in SE Asia is coming to an end and we chose to end our time in Thailand in the north.
We’ve split our time between Chiang Mai and Pai.
Chiang Mai was a pretty hip town. We enjoyed their artisan coffee, thai massages on every corner for $5, delicious street food, playing with baby tigers, cooking classes, street markets, and yes we hopped in to see a movie at the Maya mall.
Pai is the hippy river town. We call it the Thai equivalent of Vang Vieng with not quite the same view. What Pai lacks in natural beauty they’ve made up for in cartoon signs, figurines, and colorful shops. While Vang Vieng was beautiful during the day, the night had a grittier feel and people spent the evenings lounging in a “Friends” bar watching TV; in Pai tourists stroll the nightly walking street as the town comes alive around 6pm. Colorful shops begin to open up on the streets and there is food galore to be found. Sure there are is a fair share of barefoot backpackers, but where isn’t there in Thailand?
One thing I’ve learned from our 18 months of travel is if you stay long enough you can make any place feel like home. So what quantifies long enough? Well for us, if we are staying anywhere longer than 2 days, it’s worth it to completely unpack our bags and place things in drawers. It not nice to live out of a backpack.
A place doesn’t really start to feel like home for us until we’ve been there about a week.
One week in a town is enough time to see one or two things a day, take an entire day to chill in your room/at the pool, and eat at enough places that you start going back to your favorites.
We have had the luxury of finding “homes” all over the globe. (A couple favorite being Vang Vieng, Big Bay, Serpong, Gili Air, The Sanctuary, & Wellington) Out of all the places we’ve ever called home, Pai is definitely the most colorful!
From Night Markets to Strawberry Cafes Pai has a lot of character.
As we may have mentioned before, Tom and I aren’t motorbike people. We’ll choose walking over riding in every Thailand location we stopped including hilly Koh Tao, every city but Pai that is.
Pai has nice roads and with few cars, Pai is an awesome place to learn how to ride a motorbike. There is even a motorbike school. I was lucky enough to avoid motor school as I had my own personal motorbike expert to teach me!
Our friend Tian was visiting and graciously took the time to teach me to drive a bike. Following my lesson, I drove Tian to the bike shop and 450 Baht later I had rented a motorbike for 3 days.
The magic of Pai really does lie in cruising the countryside. After avoiding motorbikes for so long I never dreamt I would enjoy cruising down the highway chasing after 2 adventurous Singaporean women as much as I did!
Our first stop down the road was the cheesy but super cute Strawberry Love Cafe.
Strawberry love is known for their fresh strawberry shakes and strawberry fried rice. Tian, San, and I downed 3 shakes, took too many pictures, and were on the road once again.
Our next stop was the memorial bridge. The memorial bridge isn’t extraordinary, but it is fun to walk over and has a beautiful view.
Having reached the end of our journey, we turned around to begin making our way back into town via the Pai Canyon and Pambok Waterfall. Both are short adventures with gorgeous nature rewards at the end.
Thirsty and hot from our adventures we stopped at The Love Pai Cafe for coffee on our way back towards town.
Before heading back into town, head straight to the Giant Buddha for Sunset. High up on the East side of town, the Giant Buddha offers the best view for this daily event. You may not be the only one up on the hill, but there is a reason everyone heads to the Giant Buddha for Sunset.
Exhausted from a day of biking around, we headed back to town and grabbed dinner.
The best place to eat in Pai is the walking street market. You can get meals made to order for 30 Baht + tons of fun options. You would expect Pai to be expensive since it has obviously catered itself to tourism, but surprisingly shopping in Pai is just as affordable as shopping in Chiang Mai.
As you can see, exploring around Pai can be exhausting, which is why it is super nice to have days to lay by the pool and just relax at our hotel, the Quarter Pai. It’s said to run at $105 a night peak season, but I found a deal off Agoda for $37 a night and they dropped to 1000 Baht a night when I extended our stay. We’ve had a great stay, the Wifi can be a bit wonky, but nothing that a $25 Unlimited 3G Wifi Dongle can’t solve. The all you can eat breakfast buffet and garden side infinity pool make up for the poor wifi.
We still have more adventures left to have in Pai, but so far I’d say we’re off to a good start in our final SE Asian destination. 🙂
Have you been to Pai?
What was your favorite adventure?