After arriving in Pai, you’ll quickly find that there’s not much to see within walking distance of Pai Walking Street. If you’re looking for other sights to see or things to do in Pai, which I would hope you are if you’ve made the treacherous journey up there, you’re going to need to rent a motorbike or hire a taxi for the day. We decided to hire a taxi, given my lack of enthusiasm for renting a motorbike and my inability to follow directions, to take us around the 22.5 km sightseeing loop. Because Pai is so small, you’re able to see pretty much all that the town has to offer within a day. With that being said, I leave you with a list of 10 things to do in Pai..
1. Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Temple on the Hill)
Our first stop of the day – this temple sits atop a hill and offers those who make the climb to the top some decent views of Pai down below (fingers crossed it’ll be a much clearer day than the one I had). If you’re walking (though I can’t say why anyone would ever consider walking to this temple from town), be prepared to climb a few hundred steps to get to the base of the temple. Once at the base, it’s easy to see that this temple is still under construction and is quite a ways from being complete. There are another set of unfinished stairs leading up to the top where a big Buddha awaits. Aside from that, there’s not much else to see. I have, however, read that going to the top to see the sunset is a must if you are renting a motorbike.
2. Pai Treehouse
This is actually a hotel that you can stay at while in Pai, though it is quite a ways from the main strip. Here you’ll see a tree-house (shocker, I know) that you unfortunately cannot climb up to. There is a massive swinging “cocoon”-looking hammock that you can get into if you fancy and a cafe for a drink to cool you down. I think we spent maximum 15 minutes at Pai Treehouse, as there isn’t really much to see or do. Unless of course you love taking selfies.
3. Feeding Elephants
We stopped along the side of the road where a cluster of elephant camps were so we could feed the elephants some bananas. Having already spent a day with elephants in Chiang Mai we weren’t entirely set on doing this, but figured we may as well since it was on the way. For ฿25 we picked up a bundle of bananas (of which I may or may not have ate a few) and fed these big guys.
4. WWII Japanese Memorial Bridge
After some research on the origins of this bridge, I came across a few variations of its history. The main story behind this bridge, as it states on a plaque located on the premise, is that it was originally built in 1942 when the Japanese army was situated in Thailand and needed a route from Chiang Mai to Burma to attack (since Myanmar, at that time, was colonized by the UK). The army enlisted Thai workers to build a bridge from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son and vice-versa. Eventually, the two roads met up in Tha Pai where the bridge now stands. Once the war had ended, the Japanese destroyed the bridge and it wasn’t until 1976 that a new bride was erected.
5. Pembok Waterfall
There are a few waterfalls surrounding Pai, but we decided to head to the one that was closest. Our guide warned us that the waterfall might be more of a watertrickle, since we were heading into the summer months. Upon arriving at Pembok Waterfall, you’ll likely see many motorcycles parked out front and at first it will probably look like there’s not much to see. Don’t worry – just follow the path up beside the river and you will eventually reach the waterfall. Though it wasn’t as big as I had imagined, dipping my feet into the cool water was beyond refreshing.
6. Coffee In Love Cafe
This is probably the most unauthentic and cheesy bit of Pai, but we just couldn’t resist checking it out for ourselves. Coffee In Love is a small cafe on the side of the road with some interesting decorations scattered about. You can order a drink or dessert on their balcony, and stare out into the vast nothingness. We tried a slice of their recommended cheesecake, but it was very typical of most other Asian bakery’s where they do not use a cream cheese base (Western problems, obviously). When in Pai, you kind of have to check out Coffee In Love just to laugh at how horrible it is.
7. Wat Nam Hoo
This small temple can be found above a little pond. There really isn’t much to look at and there were no other tourists there while we were there, so it felt eerily deserted. Besides the quaint temple on the water, there are a few other temples on the property. We were a bit sneaky and did get another chance to cool off after finding a running sprinkler behind one of the temples – oops!
8. Santichon Chinese Village
I’m not sure what to think of the “Chinese Village” in Pai, given that it was clearly geared towards tourists in a very superficial way. I laughed at how, in my efforts to leave Hong Kong for the holidays, I ended up visiting a little slice of China in Pai.. Oh, the irony. When we were there, the Village was dead. There was honestly not one other tourist to be seen on the streets. I can only assume that because of season, most of the shops that would normally be open, and selling souvenirs and food in their version of winter were now closed. Apparently, if you continue down the road you will eventually end up at Yun Lai Viewpoint where others have raved about the views of Pai.
9. Pai Canyon
This is where you’ll see plenty of tourists flock to at around 5:30 pm to catch the sunset. Aside from the spectacular sunset you’ll see, Pai Canyon is just a really cool place to go. As the name suggests, its meant to bear some resemblance to the Grand Canyon, but on an obviously much smaller scale. If you’re feeling brave and don’t mind getting a bit dusty, you can walk along the stone paths and explore the area a bit more. This was a definite highlight of my time in Pai.
10. Local Markets & Pai Walking Street
A trip to Thailand wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t venture into a local market. Unfortunately, the local market here was a little too local for my liking, as vendors were only selling produce. However, if you’re looking for top quality street food and some cliche souvenirs to take home, your best (and only) bet is to check out Pai Walking Street at around 6:00 pm each night.
Note: As a heads-up, if you’re looking at hiring a taxi, be sure to visit a number of travel agencies to ensure you get the best rate possible. We were told from four tour companies that it would be minimum ฿2,000 to hire a private taxi for the day. Eventually we came across a smaller company and, without any negotiation necessary, they were offering the same service for only ฿800.