Despite its small size, Pai is a must-visit if you’re already traveling throughout Northern Thailand. Besides having some of the greatest street food I’ve had in South East Asia, Pai has quite a few tourist attractions nearby if you’re wanting to do a bit more than be a yogi/hippie for a few days. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous that’ll take you a few hours outside the town, there are a handful of day tours in Pai (and lots of options for overnight trekking tours!) that you can consider. Most of these day tours involve a visit to the Karen Long Neck Village in Mae Hong Son (of which I wrote about my experience here), as well as a handful of other attractions along the way.
There aren’t many packages to choose from and the prices between tour groups didn’t vary much. I’d say just choose whichever tour has what you’re most interested in seeing (I chose my tour package based on which one had a visit to the Long Neck Village). If there isn’t something that you’re really wanting to see, I honestly don’t know if I would bother making the three hour drive from Pai to visit some of these sights, as it was a long day and the other sights weren’t that great.
The package I chose cost ฿1,500 per person, but we were lucky and ended up going on a private tour since it was low season. Our driver told us that if we thought the trip to Pai from Chiang Mai was painful (762 Curves to Pai..), then we better get ready because the ride from Pai to Mae Hong Son has double the curves. Note: bring anti-nausea pills if you don’t want to puke everywhere.
Stop 1: The Viewpoint
Unfortunately, due to the humidity and heavy smog, you literally couldn’t see 10 feet ahead of you (see photo below). Bit of a shame, but there obviously wasn’t much we could do. Along the road there were a bunch of shops set up, so even if all you can see is grey when looking out from the viewpoint, you can make the most out of this stop by buying a bunch of crap you probably don’t need.
Stop 2: Temple On The Hill (AKA Phra That Doi Kong Mu)
This was the second “temple on the hill” that I saw during my time in Pai. I’m certain this is the locals’ way of simplifying things for us easily-confused tourists.. Either way, once at the top there wasn’t too much to see (especially after you’ve seen about 100 temples on your Thailand trip so far) besides a few temples. If you take the two seconds it takes to read the sign, you’ll discover that there are two pagodas that house the remains of Buddhist monks. If you’re up here on a clear day, however, you’ll be able to see some stellar views of the town below.
Stop 3: Lod Cave
After walking through the entrance way, we were left to find our own way to the cave. Following the signs through the empty grounds (no, literally, we were the only tourists there), we finally came upon the cave. As far as caves go, not that I’m an expert or anything, it was fairly impressive. The staff wanted to charge extra to take a little wooden boat into the cave, but we said, “uh, no thanks” and just walked a few feet inside to check it out. Be careful how far inside you go, as there are bats flying around everywhere and, subsequently, pooping everywhere.
Stop 4: Black Lahu Village
Back in Pai at the tourist office, the man who sold us our package showed us photos of what this hill tribe were meant to look like. However, those photos must have been of those people many years ago because when we went into the village it was not only fairly deserted, but the few locals we did see were wearing “normal” clothing instead of the traditional outfits I saw in the photographs. Again, I’m not sure if this is because it’s off-season and not many tourists are coming into these areas, so they are not dressing up or if they just do not dress like that in this particular village anymore. Regardless, it was still interesting to walk through their village and feel like a total tourist taking photographs of their homes and surroundings.
Stop 5: Karen Long Neck Village
Visiting the Long Neck Village was high up on my list of things to do during my trip to the north part of Thailand. Ever since I was a kid watching the Discovery Channel, I was completely fascinated by these women and girls. I won’t go into much more detail here, since my previous post highlights my experience in much greater detail. You can read about my visit to the Karen Long Neck Village here.
Stop 6: Twin Temple (Wat Chong Kham)
Yet another temple visit and our last stop on our day tour. This was the first temple built in the province and was completed in 1827. By this point we were utterly exhausted and so damn hot that we meandered around without taking too much in. The temples were beautiful, but similar to the many others we had seen already. You’re welcome to enter the temples (just be sure to take off your shoes!) and explore a bit. You’ll also probably see monks walking around, but, just like the other stops, we saw no other tourists in the temple grounds.