Let’s first get this straight — Pai-land is not quite Thailand.
Yes the town happens to be located in Thailand, but it doesn’t have a “local Thai” feel to it. Pai is full of hippies and backpackers drinking Leo into the wee hours and filling the cafes around noon when they roll out of bed.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I have been known to do it, too (well maybe not sleeping til noon, but the drinking of Leo for sure).
At any rate, I’m painting a picture for you and there are a lot of farang on the scene.
This really turned me off the first time I came to Pai in February of 2014. I wasn’t exactly looking for the “real” Thailand, but there was no *yoga, no climbing, and I was tired of having the scripted backpacker conversation.
(*My good friend Katie is opening a yoga studio in January 2016!)
Since that first visit I have been back twice. Each time the place has grown on me more. My most recent visit lasted about a month.
At this point the little town in the north has definitely carved a place in my heart. Here is why…
1. The People!
Pai attracts good people. Of all the places in the world that are changing for the worse, Pai is changing for the better.
Interesting, creative people are moving to Pai and establishing businesses which are shaping the already vibrant community into something that’s made of magic.
2. Good Wifi!
Pai is a good place to decompress from adventures and turn on the laptop. The fresh mountain air and backdrop of rolling hills encourage a calm and quiet mind.
Nearly every establishment that has Wifi actually has a good connection. This is generally not the case in SE Asia.
3. It’s fun!
The waterfalls and hot springs in the quietly beautiful mountains of this region are easy to access and a nice break when you’ve had enough screen time.
Driving a motorbike everywhere is hands down the best way to get around and makes everything more enjoyable. It’s a kind of Neverland where you get to play or work as much as you want.
4. OMFG THE FOOD!
Pai is a great place to eat. The town is small with loads of restaurants. It’s easy to figure out which are the best spots either by word of mouth or just having a go at a new place.
The Thai food is good, the Western food is good — it’s hard to find a bad meal in Pai. In fact, I wish I had spent more time taking better food photos during my stay. The food in Pai is made with LOVE and deserves proper photography. Below are a couple of photos I shot at Lemon Thyme Cafe, Boomalicious, Good Life, and a place simply known as "The Farm."
5. Hill Tribe Treks!
Contrary to what I said about the lack of Thai culture in Pai, the ever popular hill tribe treks are a great way to get local. This is a touristy thing to do, but the guides are there to educate you about the land and the people so you definitely learn about the local ways.
I’ve been on two of these treks, both worthwhile. The scenery is stunning, I never saw another foreigner, and I discovered there are loads of tasty things hiding in the jungle. Also, getting a glimpse into a life not lived at the mercy of a wifi connection is refreshing.
Accommodations range from the most basic bungalow…
To the fancy bungalow.
Cheeky bathrooms are standard protocol.