Pai has become a destination spot for nature lovers, hikers, backpackers, and hippies. It's a very chill town with so much to do! If you're traveling around Thailand, this is a town you absolutely cannot miss!
Spending a semester as an English-teaching volunteer with International Language Programs is sure to be unforgettable no matter where you go. Lots of people love Thailand and it's no wonder why when you can spend your vacation days in dreamy places like Pai! So if you have your heart set on volunteering here, check out these important tips!
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Pai is a relatively small town, and about a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai, another one of our very favorite Thai cities. In fact, if you have a long weekend, the ideal would be to just pair the two into one trip since you only need about 2 days in each. Some volunteer groups will even hit up Chiang Mai and Pai twice in one semester because not only is there a lot to do, but the welcoming, chill vibe of Pai is more like Bali than anywhere else in Thailand. To avoid complete FOMO, keep reading for all of the things you actually CANNOT miss out on while exploring Pai!
PS: Since this post is just info about what to do in Pai, here's our complete Pai guide which includes other important info, like how to get there, how to get around, and where to stay!
Enjoy A Slice Of Pai
- Explore Pai Canyon
- Cooking Classes
- Santichon Village
- Walking Street
- Hilltop White Buddha
- Hot Springs
- Unique Cafes
- Memorial Bridge
- Tham Lod Caves
Explore Pai Canyon
Really happy that we get to introduce you to Thailand's Grand Canyon! It can be a quick stop because the best views are seen just a short walk from the entrance. Hiking in Pai Canyon is not for the faint of heart. If you decide to go all the way into the canyon and hike back out, make sure you plan a full day and bring lots and lots of water (because, you know, Thailand heat). If you're not big into hiking, don't worry about it. You can still go and check out some of the view points and better yet, watch the sunrise/sunset!
Address: ตำบลแม่ฮี้ Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
You know that when you get home, everyone is going to ask you to make Thai food for them. So you'd better learn how! You can take Thai cooking classes in most big cities, but there is something that is much more relaxing about doing it in Pai. The top-rated, authentic classes are taught at the Pai Cookery School.
They don't have an official website, so you do have to book your lesson at least a day in advance by calling them on the phone or stopping by in person. They have several different types of curries they'll teach you how to make, and you can book either a morning or afternoon class. Plan on being here for a few hours. Here is more info about the school, and their official Facebook page.
Address: Rural Rd Mae Hong Son 4024, Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Every country has a China Town or two, right? Well Thailand is no exception. This is a fully functioning village, and was constructed by immigrants from China. The Yunnanese people who live here now are actually descendants of soldiers from the "Lost Army" who retreated to Thailand after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. These veterans were granted Thai citizenship after they helped to fight against the Thai Communist Party in the 70s and 80s. Now their children are farmers, but they've remodeled this area of their village in hopes to attract tourists.
It's the perfect place to spend an hour or two! There are several little souvenir shops, and other shops where you can try on beautiful, traditional Chinese dresses for 100 baht (about $3). There are lovely bridges and gazebos around a pond, plus several large structures modeled after traditional Chinese architecture, which make for the perfect photo props. Not gonna lie. . .you kind of feel like you're in Mulan. There's even a spot to practice archery, and a little man-run Ferris wheel contraption that is a bit terrifying but FUN to ride! All of the locals are just so lovely and happy to have you there.
Hours: Daily from 5 am to 6 pm.
Address: Wiang Tai, Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
If you've been to any part of Thailand, you know they have markets everywhere. And the one in Pai is awesome! They sell handmade crafts and decor, clothing, jewelry, spices, and pretty much everything else you see at other markets. It's set up every night on Main Street, and no surprise, but our favorite stalls are the food ones. Once you try a fresh, hot roti topped with sweetened condensed milk and banana, you'll understand why.
Hours: Daily from 6:30 to 11 pm.
Address: Chai Songkhram Rd, Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Over 300 steps lead up to this open-air temple. Since it's the tallest structure for miles and miles, it offers some of the best views of these hills in Northern Thailand. As always, be respectful of the locals who come to this temple to worship. Another great spot for sunrise/sunset views!
Heads up: They won't even let you climb the first step if you aren't wearing pants that go to your ankles or a skirt that covers your knees. Come ready or be prepared to pay a few baht to rent a wrap skirt at the bottom.
Hours: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm.
Address: Mae Hi, Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Pretty sure you won't find pie here, but these folks know how to do cutie and trendy cafes. You will not be disappointed with the selection of places there are to eat and drink and be merry. In our opinion, they actually have the best cafes in all of Thailand! Since there are so many to choose from, we recommend trying a new one each meal. Buuut we also won't blame you if you find yourself at our favorite spots multiple times every day. Here are the top top ones:
Fresh guac, salsa, and chips are way too rare in Thailand, so it's no surprise that we've had volunteers eat here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during their weekend visit. It's the perfect place to get your Mexi-food fix, cause their menu also has fat burritos and fabulous vegan shredded pork tacos. Vegan pork tacos are actually made from delicious and magically marinated mushrooms. Don’t be skeptical, I'm not kidding - it’s yum. Plus the owner makes lots of homemade, mouthwatering desserts. Divine!
Hours: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Address: 258 Moo 8, Vieng Tai, Pai, Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
If you're into coffee, this is THE place to get it in Pai! They even make the fancy little cream designs in their perfect white teacups. Delicious, homemade, old-fashioned donuts are also waiting for you, along with so many other incredible meal options. Breakfast is especially amazing!!
Hours: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Closed on Thursdays.
Address: 38 Moo 1, Khet Khlang Road | Vieng Tai, Pai 58130, Thailand
Right across the street from Cafecito is this cutie, colorful cafe. They have the best smoothies! Ice cream! Plenty of meal options too. And look at the roti. Oh my word. There are no words. Cafecito is our preference for meals, but Fruit Factory is where the sweets are at.
Hours: Mon-Fri from 11 am to 5:30 pm. Sat-Sun 10 am to 6:30 pm.
Address: 264 หมู่8 เวียงใต้ ปาย Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Easy Garden Cafe
Just up the road (towards the town center) from Fruit Factory is this trendy, natural cafe that's all about healthy, delicious food! It's the perfect spot for breakfast, especially because that's when their bread is hot and fresh. Both the banana bread and sourdough are so good. And it only has 5 star reviews, so that really tells ya something.
Hours: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Closed Mondays.
Address: 458, Pai, Wiang Tai, Amphoe Pai, Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Pam Bok is about 10 miles from the town center. The 5-minute walk from the parking area follows a little creek and brings you into a shady ravine surrounded by cliffs. At the end of it you'll find the waterfall, and the water is deep enough that you can actually jump from some of the rocks that jut around it!
Address: Unnamed Rd Tambon Thung Yao Amphoe Pai Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58130 Thailand Thailand
Mo Paeng Falls is really just a giant, natural water slide! It's about 5 miles from the town center and once you arrive, you'll only have a 1-minute walk from the small parking area. The waterfall has three levels and is best enjoyed during the rainy season (July-October) when the water is especially high.
Address: Mae Na Toeng, Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
Tham Lod Caves
While these caves are not directly in Pai, they are only about an hour away and worth the time if you have it. The best way to get to the caves is to hire a driver in Pai, which you can usually do through your hostel/hotel. A river flows through the caves and you can hire a guide to take you through them on a bamboo rafts. There are some places you can get out and climb ladders/stairs to explore the stalagmites up close and personal. Find out more about the history, ticket pricing, and tour options on this site!
Hours: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
The history of the original bridge in this spot dates back to WW II when the Japanese army forced the local villagers to construct a wooden bridge for their army to cross on their way to attack Burma. After moving their army, the Japanese burnt the entire bridge. Since the locals had come to rely on it for trade and daily living, they came together and rebuilt it.
There are memorial plaques at the far end of the bridge that can tell you a bit more about the history, and you'll see local villagers still working in the area. It's only five miles from the town center, so worth a quick stop.
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