Pai, Thailand

I left Chiang Mai and headed off to Pai for a week, to get away from the city for a little while.

First impressions of Pai

Pai is super chilled. They say it is fully of hippies – and it’s true, I’ve never seen so many white people with dreadlocks – but it is such a relaxed and awesome place, I can totally understand why they gravitate there.

Pai is very small and surrounded by beautiful countryside, nestled between the mountains of northern Thailand.

Pai - Phil Hawksworth

Contemplating life in the mountains around Pai

The journey up to Pai takes about 3 hours by mini-bus and is an almost constant flow of 180 degree switchbacks up and down the mountain. Next time I go, I will go on a motorbike to enjoy the drive, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Walking down Pai’s main street you will see dozens of people with bandaged up knees and elbows who have evidently fallen off bikes in the mountains. I think the biggest consideration is the quality of the road in places is not great, so combine heavily banked sharp corners, steep hills and small scooters, it can be a recipe for disaster. A bigger bike with fatter tires and better suspension would definitely be worth the extra money to hire and save on the do it yourself skin grafts.

Sight-seeing in Pai

The first two days in Pai were mostly sight-seeing and activities, including various viewing points on the mountains, waterfalls, Pai Canyon, the hot springs and Chinese villages. It is extremely beautiful and liberating riding a motorbike through the mountains, with the amazing views, freedom and fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and exploring the countryside, as much as the actual ‘activities’.

In typical shady Thailand style, there is no experience quite like a mother with her 3 small children sat at the side of the road trying to sell opium to passing tourists. This was to become something of a theme as I subsequently headed to Laos, but more on that in a later post.

Boiling eggs in Pai hot springs

Boiling eggs in Pai hot springs


Chilling/working in Pai

The following few days were spent relaxing, drinking coffee shakes and working. I found the buzz in Chiang Mai and party atmosphere around the backpackers in the old town got quite distracting at times. Where as in Pai, it is so chilled that I could happily spend all day working in a lovely coffee shop and then meander around in the evening for some food and a drink at a campfire centered bar, without the feeling that I was being pulled in different directions between my want to be productive and my want to have fun.

If I was just on holiday and didn’t have any work or writing to do, I would probably get bored in Pai, as I have a notoriously short attention span, but if you’re more inclined to the doing nothing lifestyle –  you will love it.

The first night I arrived I stayed in a hut by the riverside. Very basic, just a mattress on the floor in a small hut. I wanted to get close to nature and live a simple life, disconnecting from the internet and what have you for a couple of days. Unfortunately, it gets VERY cold at night in Pai and after nearly freezing to death the first night, I had to move somewhere more developed, which was a shame.

Speaking to some locals, it seems that it always gets pretty cold at night, even though it was 30+ celsius during the day, at night the temperature was in single figures. This made the bare-basics hut idea not so appealing, perhaps it is warmer in the summer?

I was in Pai for a week, but in honesty didn’t actually do that much after the first 2 days, so I will just leave you with some pictures.


Pai river view

View over the river from where I stayed the first night

Phil Hawksworth Pai hot spring

Monkeying around at Pai hot spring

Pai countryside view

Pai countryside view


Sunset at Pai canyon

Sunset at Pai canyon

After shooting back to Chiang Mai for a bit, I headed to Laos, which I will be writing about next. 

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