The bus to Pai from Chaing Mai was rough. There are approximately 762 twists and turns and we had stupidly been out the night before, so this road tested our stomachs a lot. We were so relieved to finally reach Pai. The huts that we were staying in were a 15 minute walk from the city centre. The majority of the accommodation in Pai are little, self contained huts. Being the cheap scate backpackers that we are, we booked the cheapest huts we could find for €5 per night. We weren’t expecting much, but when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised at how cute they were. Each hut had just a mattress, fan and mosquito net inside and a hammock outside. To be honest for €5 a night we couldn’t complain.
Our first day in Pai was spent relaxing in our hammock, reading, and just generally relaxing. We had heard that there was night markets along the main street from 6pm every night, so we wandered in for a look around. Although not as extravagant as the markets in Chiang Mai, there was loads of food options for everyone- including loads of vegetarian and vegan options, which we had struggled to find at all the other street food markets that we had been to.
The following morning we decided to rent out a moped for the day because all of the main attractions are miles outside of the town and, have you really been backpacking if you haven’t rented out a moped?! We found one of the most highly recommended shops that rent them out and headed there. A lot of the places will rent mopeds out for €1 for 24 hours, but they just hand you the keys and wave you on your merry way. We ended up paying a little bit more, still only €3, but the guy gave us a lesson and wouldn’t let us leave until he was sure that we knew what we were doing and we were confident enough. Before we left he got out a map, we thought he was going to show us the main places to drive through, but oh no, he was pointing out the places for us to avoid getting stopped by the police! Even if we did get stopped, he told us to just give them 400 Thai Bhat and they would let us continue to drive around without a licence. Thankfully we didn’t need to use this piece of advice.
Our first stop on our new wheels was Pam Bok Waterfall. This is one of the main waterfalls around Pai so we expected it to be packed with people, but when we arrived we had the whole place to ourselves. The waterfall itself was kind of disappointing as it was a bit dried up, but the whole setting was amazing. We had to hike through some forestry and across some stepping stones before we found it, we had a bit of a swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and then hit the road to our next destination.
Next stop was the bamboo bridge, just a short drive from the waterfall. The name of this really says it all, it’s pretty much a bamboo bridge through rice fields that you can walk along. It goes on for about one kilometre and the views were gorgeous. We wandered along here, relaxed in some of the huts along the way, and then headed for some lunch. While driving to the bamboo bridge we spotted a little restaurant where all the seats were swings, with a gorgeous view of the mountains and the rice fields so we stopped there for some food before we went on our way. Annoyingly we don’t have any photo’s from here, but it was cute!
Next stop on our moped tour was the natural hot springs. We drove for about 20 minutes, but when we arrived there it was going to cost 300 Thai Bhat each (about 9 euro each!) to get in, so we swiftly turned our bike around and headed towards our last stop of the day, Pai Canyon. €9 each probably doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re in Asia where you can get an entire 3 course meal for two people for €5, it’s too much. It’s mad how quickly your perception of what’s too expensive can change. We made a quick pit stop back at our hut to change before heading to Pai Canyon for sunset. We thought the walk up to the top of the canyon would be tough, but there are steps the whole way up which makes it super easy. We spent ages trying to find the perfect spot for sunset before laying out our towel and taking it all in. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy so we didn’t get the most beautiful sunset but it was still pretty cool.
The following morning we decided to hold onto the moped for another few hours and explore a little bit more. We went out to ‘Mor Paeng Waterfall’ first. This waterfall was much bigger than the one we had been to yesterday, but also much busier. It was filled with local kids jumping in, using the rocks as slides and having baths. We didn’t get into this one but we just chilled in the sun before heading to our next stop, Santichon Village. Also known as the Chinese Village, we weren’t sure what to expect from the Santichon Village, but to be honest it was a bit weird. There was a cute pond in the middle of the village, with a bridge going over it. Surrounding the pond were little shops selling strange Chinese souvenirs and Chinese tea’s, and that was really it.
Last stop on our moped was Wat Phra That Mae Yen (aka the White Buddah). This was on a hill over looking Pai, and to get to it we had to climb 353 steps which isn’t much, but in the heat made it so much more difficult! The views from the top were absolutely amazing, but we were dripping with sweat by the time we got up to the top.
After the Buddah we dropped our bike back to the shop and headed to the night markets for some street food and a few drinks for our last night in Pai. The following morning we were up early to get the bus back to Chaing Mai. We stayed a couple more nights in Chaing Mai before heading to our next stop, Chiang Rai.
Róisín & Bernard