Gavin Firkser

Located in a gorgeous, picturesque setting in a mountain valley in Northern Mae Hong Son Province. This one-time sleepy village, with a chequered and sometimes violent history, has become a favourite stop off point for many a backpacker looking for a getaway - without the beaches. During the past ten years, Pai has not only become a magnet for foreigners who flock to enjoy its unique ambience, it has also become equally popular amongst Thai tourists. These days, it's no exaggeration to say that there are more guesthouses, restaurants, tour agencies and nightspots here than private dwellings. Some have even compared Pai to the Khao San Road in Bangkok, although that's a considerable stretch of the imagination. Nearly every farmhouse in the valley has rooms for rent, but so far, most of the recent tourist developments have been in keeping with the local setting. In the low season you can hardly imagine how busy this lovely peaceful town it can get, especially between the months of October and February. Perhaps it's because of the popularity of a Chinese film set in Pai, that the town is also invaded by coach loads of Chinese on package tours, clicking away on their smartphone cameras on selfie sticks. Apart from taking in the spectacular views, which somehow haven't been spoiled by the explosion of tourism, there is also plenty to see and do in this unique little town. During the day you can wander, (or cycle) around this fascinating town, visit the day markets, browse in the downtown shops and maybe stop by one of the countless restaurants for a meal. Then take a walk or ride to nearby attractions, such as Pai Village Farm, (less than 5 minutes' walk from the town centre), the Santichon Chinese Village and other villages near the outskirts of town. After dark, you can take a wander down the famous Pai Walking Street market, browse the innumerable products on offer for sale and later, stop by one or more of the many bars, taking your choice of live reggae or jazz music or track down a peaceful hideaway for a quiet drink. Out of town, there are so many places to go to and things to do, you will have trouble fitting them all in. You can visit Phra Thad Mae Yen temple, (on a hill, 2km east of Pai); have a bathe in the Tha Pai hot Springs; drive out to The Land Split Pai, which is a giant crack in the ground; bathe in the local waterfalls;and visit the Hill Tribe villages. Many westerners come here for adventure sports - of which there are many - including tubing, bamboo rafting, white-water rafting, rock-climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and trekking. Pai Adventure at have a good reputation for covering all of these. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and tourist crowds, you can always visit Pai during the low season, when a lot of the accommodation is empty, and you will have the idyllic town to yourself. But if you want to experience the unique buzz that is Pai in the cooler and busiest time of year, come in December or January. You may have to pay a premium for your room in this period, so try to book up well ahead of time.

Map of North West Thailand

North West Thailand-Map