A Spice of Life in Pai, Thailand
It was after spending a night in the city of Chiang Mai when I had decided to go to Pai, a small town situated in the mountains north of Chiang Mai. Pai is a laid back town with fresh air, green mountain and pleasant people.
My initial plan for my visit in Thailand was to merely stay in Chiang Mai, but when a friend mentioned about Pai, then saw and read stories about how laid back it is, I’ve lessened my travel days in the city and decided to spend time in the peaceful town of Pai.
Pai can be reached through a 3-hour van ride from Chiang Mai. There are also buses that go to Pai from the city, however travel time normally takes longer.
Finding SpicyPai Backpackers Hostel
It was already evening when I had arrived in the town of Pai. The van dropped us off on their terminal, which is situated at the town’s famous Walking Street. I had forgotten to screenshot a map in my phone about the location of my hostel thus I’ve relied from the map that I saw posted in one of the walls in the Walking Street.
Instantly seeing a ‘Mae Hong Son’ in the map, I’ve captured the direction and followed the path that leads there. Based on the booking paper that I had with me, it was said that the hostel is situated right on the first paddy field on the right hand side coming from the town after crossing bridge of the River Pai.
I was already walking for about half an hour but there was no still sight of the hostel. It was when I had passed by a store along the road that I asked old couple of my whereabouts. I’ve told them that I was looking for my hostel and I was lost. Despite of being hard for them to speak in English, the couple was still in eagerness to help me. They showed me a map of the town and told me that the road I was following was the airport area. That made me consider that I was in a wrong direction.
A few minutes after, a driver arrived. The couple asked him to help me locate my hostel. The driver then stated me where my hostel is by pointing where it is in the map. It turned out I was heading northwest from the town instead of east where my hostel is. I’ve noted the direction and thanked them in helping me.
I went back to the town. I walked for about half an hour and that time, I was already right with my course. After passing through a rice paddy, there was my hostel, finally!
SpicyPai Backpackers Hostel is not an ordinary accommodation in Pai. Well, it isn’t about being classy and all but this hostel is located in the middle of rice paddies giving its guests simply a unique experience. All rooms are dorm type of rooms. So definitely, there’s no lavish comfort in there, but staying on this hostel definitely provides its guests the feeling of peacefulness and calm.
My bed was in 8 Bed Mixed Bedroom. The bed costs about THB 160 per night, which comes with pillow and blanket. Free breakfast that consists of coffee, bread and spread is also available.
SpicyPai Backpackers Hostel is a nice place to stay in the town of Pai that has a stunning view, chill atmosphere and great social place, which surely guests desire to when getting to Pai.
Learning How to Drive a Motorbike in Pai
It was my second day, which also happened to be the only full day that I had to spend in the town, that I’ve made a tour around and visited some of the town’s tourist spots through a motorbike. This mode of transportation is the most famous and efficient way to get around.
I asked my hostel for assistance in renting a motorbike.
In about 10 minutes, agents arrived with the motorbike that I’ll be renting. I was asked to fill up the forms, together with my passport. I didn’t know how to drive it, so I asked one of the agents first to teach me the basics on how to operate it. The motorbike is more of a scooter. It was good that the motorbike was also automatic, which made it easier for me to use it. In a few minutes or so, I’d learned how to drive it. It was just like driving an electric bicycle but bigger and heavier. Though I was still feeling fearful about it, but then my excitement had still dominated. And I think I’ve got addicted on driving it.
The motorbike rental costs about THB 150, which is good to use for 24 hours. I fueled the motorbike for THB 100 at the filling station situated in the road right after exiting the hostel area. I’ve thought of fueling it more but eventually it turned out that THB 100 is enough for a day. It had really cost me less by using a motorbike to get around the town.
Coffee in Love
Driving for about 15 minutes from small streets of the central town to the main highway, I’ve reached the famous coffee shop named as Coffee in Love.
Apart from its rich coffee and tasty dessert, this coffee shop is a great place to hang out and take photos because of the shop’s lovely decoration and splendid view.
Situated west of the central town of Pai is where the Scenic Viewpoint is. From the name itself, this tourist spot gives a breathtaking view. Here, one can see a picturesque panorama of the town and the surrounding countryside. This tourist attraction is also said to be a nice place to catch sunrise and sunset.
This area is an uphill. It actually gave me a hard time to get to this famous viewpoint that my motorbike had suddenly stopped in the middle of my driving at the stiff road leading to the viewpoint. Good thing, two locals helped me move the motorbike to get to the top.
After visiting the scenic viewpoint, I passed by the Chinese Village. It was said that Yunnanese hill tribes who crossed the border in the middle of the 20th century to escape Communist rule settled the village.
At the village, there are shops selling different Chinese teas with varying health properties. Apart from it, there are interesting quirks that can be found on this famous tourist spot like the human-powered Ferris wheel.
Strawberry Love at Pai Café
I went back to the main road and visited another tourist spot with a farm and a cafe situated outside the town named as Strawberry Love at Pai.
Here, you’ll find a cute little farm with decorations and all. Of course, there are also figures of strawberries placed in some areas. I’ve tried the café’s signature strawberry smoothie and it was good.
Pai Memorial Bridge
Approximately 8 kilometer from the central town of Pai is where the Memorial Bridge is. It was the occupying Japanese that built the bridge during World War II as a transportation route from Chiang Mai to Myanmar.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen: Temple on the Hill
Still with more hours to spend before visiting my last stop, I’ve decided to visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen, a temple on the hill, which is situated near my hostel. This temple sits above a hill and has excellent views overlooking the valley.
Getting to this place needs one to climb the steps up to the hill. I’ve parked my motorbike at the lower level where I saw some motorbikes parked, but when I got on top where the temple is, I’ve noticed that motorbikes can still access the area. Another steps have to be ascended to get to the new Buddha, which is situated on the topmost part of the hill. The statue seems to be a new addition to the temple as there were still constructions on going.
Close to the memorial bridge is where the Pai Canyon is. This place is said to be a great vantage point to see the sunset.
Getting to this place, a paved stairway goes uphill that finishes in an elevated viewpoint over high rock cliffs and the Pai valley. The canyon was a sight to behold.
I’ve explored the area a bit. I went to the other end with thoughts that it’ll only be easier but it turned out it wasn’t. I was just wearing flip-flops and it had given me hard time to walk and climb the cliff and rough terrain. It was steep. I’ve just seen myself slowly crawling and gliding.
I must say exploring this area should be done with proper gear and with companion as well.
The Walking Street
Pai’s Walking Street is the busiest street of the town. In Pai, when I say busy, it wasn’t really that jam-packed and all but it was the most active one. Walking through this famous street was just easy-going.
This street is a well-known feature in the daily nightlife of the community. Here, you’ll see highlights of local produce and foodstuff. There are numerous stores that sell variety of souvenirs, unique handicrafts and handmade clothes. There are also authentic street food and nice restaurant in the area, which are all delectable and unique to savor.
I’ve visited the walking street on my last night. I’ve had most of my dinners here. I haven’t bought any souvenir items but I’ve enjoyed walking around and seeing the cool and artsy stuff that can be found there.
My visit in Pai was truly a cool one. There was a spice of life. Everything was worth it and so amazing. It was an adventure and relaxation at the same time. My few days in town desired me to go back. I’ve enjoyed getting around through driving a motorbike. That experience made me interested to travel to similar areas and move around through a motorbike. Unexpectedly, I’ve got hooked to motor biking. I guess I have to get a driver license, soon.