Pai Itinerary

Pai itinerary: The Best Way To Spend 3 Days In Pai

|

So you’ve decided it’s time to explore more of northern Thailand and that you want to leave Chiang Mai. So now what?

Check out this Pai itinerary and discover what northern Thailand offers beyond Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

There is much to see in Pai.

Pai is a small town in northern Thailand and is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, hot springs, waterfalls, and serene atmosphere. Backpackers flock to Pai for its laid-back vibe, friendly locals, and diverse activities. The town offers an array of experiences, from exploring the stunning Pai Canyon to bathing in natural hot springs and visiting vibrant night markets. 

You can also indulge in adventure sports like trekking, rafting, and motorbike tours, immersing yourself in the region’s natural beauty. The cosy accommodation and affordable street food make it a budget-friendly destination for backpackers.

Pai’s hippie culture, artistic vibe, and breathtaking scenery create a unique and memorable experience, making it a must-visit destination for travellers.

How To Get To Pai

There are two main ways to get to Pai from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. The most popular on the list is…

Minivan

If you are heading to Pai the minivan is the most popular way to travel to Pai. Minivans are considered buses when you want to get the bus from Chiang Mai.

It will only cost you £5 (200 baht).

Minivans are a popular choice for many travellers due to their speed and convenience.

They will take around 3 hours to reach Pai. Minivans can be found at specific minivan stations in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and they depart very frequently. However, the journey can be somewhat cramped, and the driving can be quite fast, so it may not be the best option for those who are prone to motion sickness.

Book through 12go Asia (Click Here!) to guarantee your spot, they provide a map on the booking so you know exactly where to be picked up from.

Rent A Scooter

Alternatively, another popular option for your trip to Pai is renting a scooter

This is the method we chose at first, to ride from Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, we crashed the bikes 10m away from the bike shop so we had to give them back and get a bus lol.

For adventurous travellers who enjoy exploring on their own, renting a scooter or motorbike is a popular choice. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have numerous rental shops to hire a scooter or motorbike for the journey.

Remember that the route to Pai includes winding mountain roads, so having prior riding experience and wearing appropriate safety gear is essential. This option allows you to explore the scenic beauty of Northern Thailand at your own pace.

By renting a scooter for a longer period you can negotiate a cheaper deal for your scooter rental and therefore can be a more cost-effective solution when the whole trip expenses are taken into account. 

How To Get Around Pai

Getting around Pai is not as easy as you may think.

The town itself is in the centre of Pai which is small and easily walkable so if you’re looking for a few bites to eat by all means set out on foot. If you want to see some of the attractions surrounding the city you’ll need a method of transport.

The most well-known way to get around Pai is by hiring a scooter. Being quite a small town bike rentals can fill up fast. So I ended up renting through my hostel for 3 days.

Some people might be put off by renting this way because it can be the Wild West at times but everything went smoothly for me so I would recommend it.

The alternative options you have are your red communal taxis or doing a private tour of your selected attractions and hiring a travel guide. It’s always worth seeing one of the tour agencies in town to sort out a route and the best options available to you. 

If you happen to be coming from Chiang Mai check out this tour first!

3 Days In Pai Itinerary

Now you know how to get from Chiang Mai to Pai it’s time to learn about all the things to do in Pai and what can be added to your Pai itinerary. There are many attractions in Pai so it can be difficult knowing what to do when you’re there. If I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now this is how I would spend 3 days in and near Pai.

Pai Itinerary Day 1: White Buddha – WWII Memorial Bridge – Pai Canyon Sunset

White Buddha

Drop your bags off at your accommodation and go out and look for modes of transport.

Again there are 2 ways to explore Pai – scooter rental or a private tour. Pai is not a walkable location and companies like Grab or Bolt do not work in Pai.

Once you have sorted how you will get about, I would recommend a few core activities for your first day, as you may be tight on time, starting with the Giant White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen).

Climb the steps towards the white Buddha witness traditional Thai architecture, and engage with local monks, gaining profound insights into Buddhism and Thai heritage. You also get a great view of Pai town and the surrounding mountains, a great start to your Pai itinerary.

An iconic destination for your visit to Pai and a must on your northern Thailand Pai itinerary. 

WWII Memorial Bridge

A small ride along the road and the Memorial Bridge will greet you for part 2 of your Pai itinerary.

The Memorial Bridge stands as a tribute to history, offering you a unique opportunity to connect with the past. Its rustic charm and serene surroundings create a sombre atmosphere, reminding visitors of the sacrifices made during World War II. 

When you feel ready to move on from Memorial Bridge get on your bike and head over to Pai Canyon to catch an awesome sunset.

Pai Canyon

For part 3 of your Pai itinerary, with plenty of places to park your bike by some local restaurants, head up the steps towards the Pai Canyon.

This is a very popular activity amongst travellers so expect big crowds for one of the best sunset spots for your Pai itinerary.

For those who want a more exciting Canyon experience feel free to wind through the slim cracks and climb the hilly surface to get to more picturesque points away from the main pack. Here you get to experience the beautiful Pai sunset in peace.

It’s a perfect opportunity to unwind, reflect, and capture stunning photographs. The tranquil setting and awe-inspiring vistas make it an ideal destination for backpackers who want to watch the sunset at Pai Canyon.

Top Tip – Make sure if you want to scale the tough terrain you have proper footwear, my sliders were no good as you can tell from the picture haha they were left behind.

Pai Itinerary Day 2: Pam Bok Waterfall – Bamboo Bridge – Yun Lai viewpoint – Night Market

You’re ready to start day 2 so where should you start? Part 4 of your Pai itinerary starts with…

Pam Bok Waterfall

I would recommend you hop on your bike and first head to a waterfall, I would recommend Pam Bok Waterfall.

Why?

Pam Bok waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pai where you’ll see the most familiar TikTok or Instagram pictures/videos of people under the overflowing water.

Tucked away in the jungles of Thailand, surrounded by picturesque scenery, you can indulge in a refreshing swim and chill out with fellow backpackers who have come to admire the beauty of the waterfall.

Simply essential for your Pai itinerary.

Bamboo Bridge

Allowing the sun to dry you off, hop on your bike and make the trip for part 5 of your Pai itinerary – Bamboo Bridge (also known as Boon Ko Ku So).

Another one of the best activities to do in Pai when you’re looking to get that perfect shot for Instagram.

Bamboo Bridge is an 800 m-long bridge which eventually leads to a Buddhist temple. Along the bridge walk, there are multiple stop-off points including numerous areas for great photo opportunities with the rice fields and mountains forming the backdrop. 

When I was there, there was even a broken-down model helicopter, not sure if it was meant to be there or not haha.

The bamboo bridge is also near the Pai land split so if you want to add this to your Pai itinerary before moving onto Yun Lai viewpoint I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea (We will talk about the land split later). 

Yun Lai Viewpoint

Next up on your Pai itinerary is the Yun Lai Viewpoint.

Just a short trip with your bike you can climb to the top of the hill and visit the Yun Lai viewpoint. The Yun Lai viewpoint is also a popular tourist spot for those who want to watch a sunrise. Maybe you can plan this differently for your Pai itinerary to catch the sunrise.

The Yun Lai Viewpoint offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding natural beauty, showcasing lush greenery, rolling hills, and picturesque landscapes. For backpackers who appreciate the wonders of nature, this vantage point provides an excellent opportunity to relax and take in the beauty of the surrounding views.

Don’t forget to take your love Pai picture with the view of Pai Valley in the background!

There is also an opportunity to relax in some beds/hammocks just to the side of the main viewpoint or do some archery (I’m no sure how open that is thou!). 

With a cafe on sight, whether you want to top up your tan or take in the views, you can enjoy yourself with an ice-cool drink.

Visit the Pai Night Market

As the evening starts to arrive, for every visit to Pai you should allocate some time to walk the market down the main street of Pai. 

Pai has got the night market running every day from 6:00-10:00 PM so make sure you head on down to experience the variety of options.

Food in Pai is absolutely delicious and for the duration of the walk, you can try a delicious Thai dish amongst other tasty treats from all over the globe. It’s not just about food – the market is a lively place where locals and tourists come together creating a social hub for you to continue into the night.

You can enjoy traditional music and dance shows.

Plus, it’s a great spot to shop for unique handmade crafts and souvenirs, supporting local artists.

The market looks magical at night with colourful lights, creating a cool and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a perfect escape from the daytime heat. 

This is certainly an activity you must do during your time in Pai and I would consider it one of the top things to see and therefore make the Pai itinerary.

Pai Itinerary Day 3: Tipsy Tubing and Party

For your final day in Pai (as long as you time it right) I recommend you have a full day of socialising and partying. Tipsy Tubing is one of the best things you can do in northern Thailand and therefore is included on the Pai itinerary.

Incorporating a relaxed atmosphere and social interaction, tipsy tubing in Pai provides travellers with a unique blend of adventure and leisure. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Thai mountains, the experience allows you to float down the Pai River at a leisurely pace, all while enjoying a few drinks with fellow tubers. 

Stops include:

  • Bars
  • Food
  • Live DJs
  • Body Paint
  • Volleyball and so on

TIP – You will need to purchase your own alcohol for when you are on your rubber dinghies so make a quick trip to 7/11.

It was truly a special daytime activity before heading back for an after-party late into the night in the town of Pai.

Most travellers will end up in Why Not bar or Boom bar.

Both bars become more lively as the night progresses and are a great way to interact with fellow travellers and learn about routes you might share in the future. Most venues seem to shut around 12:00 AM but there was a DnB bar slightly outside of the town so look out for that (sadly I can’t find the name!).

So there we have it! 

Your 3-day Pai itinerary. There is a fair amount I have missed out here so now I will show you some of the other activities you can do if you spend longer in Pai or try and cram them into your 3-day schedule.

Other Activities At Pai

Tha Pai Hot Springs

Not somewhere I visited on my trip to Pai but I have heard great things about the Tha Pai Hot Springs and therefore could be included on your Pai itinerary.

The main reason for not going was the weather was brutally hot for my trip so it didn’t make sense for me to go however if you are visiting in cooler months this could be a perfect destination for your itinerary. 

To the south of Pai these geothermal springs, renowned for their therapeutic properties, provide a unique opportunity to unwind and rejuvenate in mineral-rich, warm waters.

You can soak in natural pools surrounded by lush greenery, immersing yourself in ultimate relaxation while taking in the pretty scenery. The soothing heat of the springs is believed to alleviate stress, ease muscle tension, and promote overall well-being. 

The Land Split

Travellers in Pai can visit the natural phenomenon of the Land Split. Reviewed by many as a MUST do for your Pai itineray and something truly unique to the area.

The area used to be farming land before the unexpected occurred and the land literally split making it impossible to farm. The owners of the land changed the site from a farm to a tourist hotspot.

The warm-hearted hosts offer tastings of locally grown fruits, homemade snacks, and refreshing drinks, showcasing the region’s agricultural abundance.

What sets the Land Split apart is not just its geological significance, but also the opportunity it provides to interact with the local community and support sustainable tourism initiatives. The experience offers a glimpse into the resilience of the people living in harmony with nature and for these reasons something to consider for your Pai itinerary.

Chinese Village

You should visit the Chinese village of Pai for its unique cultural experience and picturesque charm.

Nestled amidst lush greenery, the village offers a glimpse into traditional Chinese architecture, art, and customs.

Visitors can explore ancient temples, taste authentic Chinese cuisine, and witness age-old customs like tea ceremonies. The village also hosts vibrant festivals, showcasing colourful costumes and lively performances.

Certainly not essential on the list but it’s maybe an attraction to attend.

Tham Lod Cave

If you’re happy to go on a bit of a journey outside of Pai near the Mae Hong Son lays the Tham Lod Cave.

This ancient limestone cave system offers a captivating exploration experience. You can embark on a guided tour, checking out the breathtaking rock formations, underground rivers, and caverns adorned with prehistoric paintings, dating back thousands of years.

The cave’s mysterious ambience and the echoing sounds of nature create a surreal atmosphere. Moreover, Tham Lod Cave is home to a large population of swiftlets and bats so be careful not to wake them up!

Something very unique which could be added to your Pai itinerary.

Cafe Hopping

If you want a slightly less cultural experience why not hop on a bike and visit some of the local cafes in Pai?

Find a few places to eat and drink in Pai and have a more relaxing day

Cafe Hopping can be fun no matter the city but when it is accompanied by that hippie vibe and unbelievable views doing so in Pai can be one of the most epic things to do.

Alternatively, you can fit Cafe Hopping within your daily schedule so do some research and see what cafes you can fit in on your itinerary. 

Recommendations – I Love U Pai Cafe & THAM MA DA Cafe’ Coffee Bar’s Restuarant

Accommodation In Pai

It’s important to stay in the right accommodation suited to your needs else it can negatively affect your experience. Here is my list of the best places to stay in Pai.

Mad Monkey Hostel

Probably the most well-known of all of the hostels is Mad Monkey.

They offer travellers a vibrant and social atmosphere amidst the stunning landscapes of Northern Thailand.

With affordable rates, comfortable dorms, and friendly staff, it provides a welcoming space to connect with fellow travellers. The hostel organises daily events and it’s within a central location which allows easy exploration of Pai’s attractions.

Additionally, amenities like a pool, on-site bar, and communal spaces enhance the overall experience. Mad Monkey Hostels all over the world cater to the adventurous spirit, offering a memorable stay where friendships are created, making it an ideal choice for backpackers seeking both affordability and a lively social scene.

Pai Circus Hostel

If you’re prioritising having one hell of a party for your days in Pai then the Pai Circus Hostel should be high up on your list!

Pai Circus is around a 10-minute walk from town but is known for its epic parties and pool with great views.

The hostel boasts cosy accommodations, and its communal spaces encourage mingling among guests. With daily circus shows, fire dancing, and workshops, it creates an unforgettable, entertaining atmosphere.

Happy House Backpackers

Known to backpackers as the hostel with the friendliest vibe, this hostel is family run and the hosts go above and beyond to make your stay the best it can be.

Boasting budget-friendly accommodations, the hostel exudes a cosy charm with its traditional Thai architecture. Offering both dorms or private rooms you can select the accommodation that suits you. 

Within the town centre itself, Happy House Backpackers is just a short walk from all your favourite restaurants and bars in Pai so be sure to check out as many as possible.

Baan Pai Nai Wieng (Hotel)

The only hotel on the list for travellers looking for a less social stop and more time to relax in their own surroundings.

Boasting a 9.1 rating on Booking.com with over 200+ reviews Baan Pai Nai Wieng is guaranteed to show you a good time.

Providing you with all the amenities necessary to have a comfortable stay in Baan Pai Nai Wieng would be my recommendation for couples in Pai.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it your Pai itinerary for your northern Thailand trip. If you haven’t explored the city of Chiang Mai then be sure to follow the link for the best 5-day itinerary in Chiang Mai.

It is time to leave Pai but make sure you have ticked off and seen as much as you possibly can as there are so many things to do in Pai. Pai’s hippy culture really is unique to this province of Thailand so make sure you are delighted before moving on!