Without a doubt, the hippie town of Pai was my favorite destination in Northern Thailand. And I wasn’t the only one — the town is definitely no secret paradise. Luckily, it’s easy to escape the dreadlocked masses if you’re feeling a little claustrophobic.
For a mere 220 baht (around $7), you rent a scooter and dash off into the countryside. And that’s exactly what MM and his friend Drew and I all did one day when we finally woke up early enough to score some of the town’s limited wheels.
Our first destination was the Tha Pai Hotsprings. After one entertaining wrong turn where we accidentally bought admission to use a fancy resorts’ pools for the day (the signage was confusing, I swear!) we obtained a refund and finally found the real deal.
These pools reach a shocking 175 degrees Fahrenheit — enough to entire locals to boil eggs! Luckily, there are several more realistically-temperatured pools that we could stand to soak in. Just a note, if you plan on coming here — there were plenty of locals nearby bathing in sarongs or t-shirts and shorts, and so I felt pretty inappropriate in my bikini! Bring a sarong for modesty.
Back on the road, we passed by a World War II Bridge. It’s worth a stroll across and a read of the signs describing its historical significance — who would guess a world war relic would exist in this tiny corner of Thailand? — but we mostly enjoyed the views from the cafe across the street.
Our next stop was Pai Canyon. While I wouldn’t exactly say it was Thailand’s answer to The Grand Canyon, the narrow ridges were fun to clamor around, and the dramatic red dirt and pine forest made for a beautiful landscape.
Finally, we headed down the windy turn-off road for Pam Bok Waterfall. It was a great drive, filled with scenes of small town life and big sweeping views. The waterfall itself was way to cold for me to consider dipping into, but MM took one for the team.
What came next was the highlight of the day. Enticed by a sign for a fruit juice I didn’t recognize the name of (and unfortunately can’t recall now!), we pulled over at a roadside farm. Within minutes we were sat at a handmade table, and served a bounty of yummy local snacks and endless glasses of the delicious mystery juice.
The property was stunning, and a guestbook we were asked to sign explained that after a massive chasm appeared though the family’s farmland, they turned to hospitality to make a living. Rather than charge for access to the farm of the food and drinks they provided, they simply asked for donations.
My favorite feature of the farm, of course, were the sweet animals — some of whom I fought hard to resist stuffing in my bike basket and zooming away with.
Oh hey there, biggest chicken in the world. Yes, we would indeed like to hold you. And I hope this isn’t awkward, but it appears that Mohawk Man totally stole your haircut.
With the sunset looming, we set off for Wat Phra That Mae Yen Pai’s hillside temple.
It’s a fantastic wat — friendly monks, hidden nooks and crannies, and a sweeping view over the Pai countryside.
It was a great day exploring just a tiny bit of what the outskirts of Pai have to offer! When the time came to leave, I admit — I was heartbroken to say goodbye to Pai!
Fortunately, I’d be making my way to the next town in a fun and unconventional manner. Stay tuned to hear about my two days rafting through the jungle.
Great pics! And you are brave for holding that gigantic chicken/rooster. I would’ve been scared of being pecked in the eye, or maimed. The thing is probably the mafia don amongst Pai chickens or something.
Haha, love the idea of a rooster mafia don! I was definitely shrieking and emitting other high pitched noises when they handed him over… but how could I pass up the chance? Not every day you get the opportunity to hold a giant rooster!
What a great day! I love reading about these since I know they are also really fun to write about.
Too awesome being invited in for juice and fruits!
THAT DOG IS FREAKIN CUTE!
I know…. it was no easy feat to leave him behind! Though the family definitely got a kick out of it when I pretended to put him in my bike basket and drive away.
I just love the first picture! And I really had no idea there were Hotsprings in Thailand – are they natural?
Yup, they certainly are! I’ve been to hot springs in a couple places around the world — Iceland, Costa Rica, Vietnam — they are always a good time!
Just came across your site and digging the pics. I’ve done a lot of traveling myself over the years and found a good knack for living cheaply day to day but I’m curious… how in the world do you manage to afford all the plane tickets/travel related costs? It’s mind blowing.
Hey Zack, you might find this post helpful — So, How Do You Afford This?. It’s been a while since I wrote that post, but these days I make about $2K a month selling ads and freelancing. Considering I travel in cheap countries and for long periods of time (one plane ticket from NYC to Bangkok and back is providing me with 5 months of travel!) it goes a very long way. Hope that helps!
Wow looks like my idea of a perfect day! Aren’t Hot Springs amazing? I live near the Rockies in Canada and every summer I try to get to them!
I’ve been in love with them ever since I first eased into one in Costa Rica. What a fun indulgence! I actually didn’t know they had any in Canada, will have to check them out if I’m ever in the area!
Yes, they are throughout the Rockies, there may be more but I haven’t been further west than that.
I’d love to tour the countryside on a motorbike, but I tried driving one in Goa and I was a complete disaster! — Could be because I had someone sitting on the back. 😉
p.s. The scenery looks beautiful as always!
Driving with someone on the back is SO much harder — it took me a long time before I was willing to put even a tiny person like my little sister on the back! Definitely try to get your confidence up solo before taking that challenge on 🙂
Standard giant rooster! Wow! Those local snacks look incredible I’m so jealous of all your adventures!
That settles it! When we are back in Thailand, we are definitely hitting up Pai. We LOVE zooming around on motorbikes, especially in little places like this where there are so many hidden gems on the outskirts. For my money, there is no better way to get off the beaten track than on a motorbike!
(Also, I am having the same issue with wanting to steal all the cute animals… Thank goodness I only have a 45L backpack…)
UM, I’m so impressed that you carry nothing but a 45L backpack. Mine’s 80L and stuffed. In my defense, I do have my dive gear in there this time!
I want your life! And that puppy.
Funny, I frequently think the same when reading your blog! (About both the life and the puppy, of course)
Hey! I almost stopped by Pai a few weeks back. Ended up being too lazy for the trip, instead heading from Phnom Penh (the city of eternal dust), to beachier shores in Vietnam.
Nice pictures, Alex. Fancypants.
Ah, I love Phnom Penh, one of my favorite cities in Asia. You can’t go wrong between the two!
I love the freedom you get with hiring a bike!
Even if you don’t have a destination or tourist site in mind, you always seem to find something interesting to stop at!
Sadly I had a crash when I was in Koh Phangan and have been scared of driving ever since but will happily go on the back with someone…as long as the roads aren’t too bad!
Jade, I completely know how you feel. I had a scary crash when I first started learning to drive, and it took me ages to mentally overcome it. Take your time, you’ll get there eventually!
We will have to make it back to Pai because last time we were there every single scooter there was rented out 🙁 The country side looks amazing.
Definitely worth a return trip… perfect excuse!
Hi Alex. I am heading out to Thailand and SEA in 2 weeks. I am guessing you have a full driving licence, I am not going to have time to renew my provisional before I go. Although everyone I have spoken to has said, They never got asked for a license. Any truth to this?
I have never been asked for a license, not in the dozens of times I’ve rented a motorbike in Southeast Asia. No worries! Hope that helps 🙂
“Just a note, if you plan on coming here — there were plenty of locals nearby bathing in sarongs or t-shirts and shorts, and so I felt pretty inappropriate in my bikini!”
Maybe it’s different for me being a guy but I’ve never felt like I was doing something inappropriate by bathing in swimming trunks in Thailand. Then again, I was in touristy areas.
Also, I sometimes think the standards are different for men and women 🙂 Pai is somewhat touristy, but I still think if there are plenty of locals present and all are covered up, it’s appropriate to do the same.
I was just in Pai for the first time 2 weeks ago, planned on staying for 5 days and ended up there for almost 2 weeks. Loved it so much we are going back again next week. We also visited the Land Split on the way back from Pam Bok Waterfall. The hibiscus (or roselle) tea is so delicious.
I am hoping to head back to Pai pretty soon myself… what a special place! Glad you loved it too!
Awesome! I have been searching for a post that talks about your first time driving a scooter or motorcycle. Is there one?
Indeed there is 🙂 Here you go!
Heya! The WWII Memorial Bridge is not actually from WWII, just so you know. You can read about it on my blog post about Pai, Part I:
Enjoyed reading about your adventure though!
Thanks for the background Gersom! I’m not much of a history buff but great resource for those who are.
Currently in Pai and did a similar trip as yourself biking through the gorgeous countryside! And by the way, the juice at the stand near the land split is called roselle juice 🙂
I’ve fallen in love with roselle juice and tea lately — funny it took me so long to learn the name after years of drinking the stuff 😉