May 19-25, 2016
Exploring Pai, Thailand
GPS waypoint: 19°21'26.6"N 98°26'24.7"E
Location: Amphoe Pai (District), Mae Hong Son (Province), Thailand
From what I hear about Pai from the travelers I come across with, it's a small mountain town that serves as a backpacker destination when in Thailand. More specifically, it's a hippie town (and I'm attracted by anything hippie). It's cheap, people are nice, and the vibe is chill. With my Thailand sojourn coming to a close, it's a destination I had to experience
Going to Pai from Chiang Mai
Pai is a common 'next' destination from Chiang Mai and there are plenty of vans to take you there. At the Arcade Bus station in Chiang Mai, there are vans leaving for Pai through these transport companies - Prempracha and Aviabooking (3 hours of winding road, B150). You will be dropped-off at the Pai bus station located at the center of town. It's walking distance to the hotels from there.
big country around Pai to bike around
I had no booking but was assured there'd be plenty of cheap rooms as it's the low season. True enough, I found Chill-Lom, a reggae-themed backpacker place for B100/night in a dorm room. There were about 7 mattresses on the floor - no bunk bed. Not bad.
Medio de Pai Boutique Hotel
The following day, I moved to the more luxurious boutique hotel, the Medio de Pai located in the heart of Pai - a/c, swimming pool, free bicycle use, in-house buffet breakfast and all the blings. I would do my morning yoga by the poolside to start my day right. Medio de Pai delivered all the comfy amenities in a hotel.
There are about 3 waterfalls in Pai, but some don't even have water due to the season. I went to Pembok Waterfall simply because it seem to be the closest one from the spot I was visiting - the Land Split. Still, it was a good 4.5 kms into the interior with rolling hills and winding roads - not too easy on a regular bike with tune-up issues. Not surprisingly, the waterfall wasn't more than a trickle. The plunge pool was dark and foreboding. Still, some foreigners took a dip. Along a way, I came upon a group of young tourists with a girl a little banged-up from a motorcycle spill. I'm glad I had my hydrogen peroxide with me. Why? I use it for mouthwash. It helped sanitized her road rash.
I'm not a big fan of animals in captivity. But still, I was enamoured to see live elephants that are half-free (as they are not completely caged-in like in a zoo). Along the bike route I took, I stumbled upon a few elephant camps...just by the roadside for tourists to see. I think you can save some money if you come here by yourself on a motorbike (or bicycle) and not go through a 'fixer' in town. The elephants are used to people so they allow you to touch them. They like being fed bananas, which you can buy from the camp itself.
WWII Memorial Bridge
I accidentally stumbled upon this historical relic as I was doing my epic bike ride. At first I thought it was the same bridge from the famous movie, "The Bridge at River Kwai", but I learned that that famous bridge is in Kanchanaburi (still in Thailand) close to the Myanmar border.
The bridge however is eclipsed by Pai's famous and popular Jack Sparrow (the character Johnny Depp played in Pirates of the Carribean), who makes a living taking pictures of tourists. He lives and breathes his role-play 24/7. He looks the part (including eye-liners), acts the part and believes the part. When I asked for his name, he looked at me snootily and dismissively remarked, "JACK!". Even the locals call him Jack and refer to him as Jack Sparrow.
In my travels all over Southeast Asia, I notice the increasing presence of Chinese travelers. They are mostly young, well dressed, have the purchasing power and somehow keep to themselves. Unlike European backpackers who interact with people they meet in their travels, the Chinese I guess are bound by tradition to be more reserved. They add new flavour to the peoplescape. However, with obvious their purchasing power, I hope they don't add to the inflation.
Like most places I've been to, my peoplescape has been one of a revolving door. I meet new people everyday, from a passing "Hi" to a multi-day "hanging-out". I'm not sure if it's people-fatigue in a fast-turning revolving door, but I seem to long for old friends whom I can be with for a tad longer - someone who won't be gone before I could finish my sentence. I'm sure the feeling will wear-off.
Pai is beautiful. It's chill, laid back, cheap and there are many things to do and see. The people who come here get along well. Everybody has a place in Pai.
- Visiting Aida and Sofie in Pai Jan 3-5, 2021
- Overnight in Pai with Mike Jan 1, 2019
- Exploring Pai, Thailand May 19-24, 2016
- Visiting the Land Split in Pai, Thailand May 23, 2016
- Trekking the Ridges of Pai Canyon May 23, 2016
- Climbing up the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) May 21, 2016
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is clustered near the bus station. You're not too far away from anywhere in Pai
- November through March is high season
- late December to early April is burning season (wide areas are burned to clear land for the planting season, but the air becomes heavily polluted)
- Pai is one of the most common destination from Chiang Mai and they have developed a system around it. At the Arcade Bus station in Chiang Mai (platform 13), there are vans leaving for Pai through these transport companies - Prempracha and Aviabooking (3 hours of winding road, B150). You will be dropped-off at the Pai bus station. It's walking distance to the hotels from there.
- Chiang Mai to Pai vans take hourly trips beginning 6:30 am to 5:30 pm
- Pai vans to Chiang Mai take hourly trips beginning 7:00 am to 5:00 pm
(US$1 = Thai Baht 35.691 = Php 46.791 as of May 22, 2016)
- Pai Canyon (Kong Lan) - 8 km from Pai with nature walk and open lookout with panoramic view
- White Buddha on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) - 353 step leading up to the White Buddha on the hill, overlooking the valley below
- The Land Split - in 2008, the land cracked and opened 2 meters wide and 11 meter deep...the widening continues through the years. Donation-based to the farmer who makes hibiscus drinks. Along the way to Pembok Waterfall
- Pembok Waterfall - drive out to kilometer marker 93, you will find a sign that points you to Ban Pam Klang on your right. If you take that road & drive for 8 kilometers you’ll find Pam Bok Waterfall on you right hand side just before reaching Pam Bok village
- Tha Pai Hot Spring - 8 km from Pai in the Huai Nam Dang National Park, just 2 kilometers off Route 1095. Water temperature at 80° Celsius. B200 for foreigners. Best to use the private spas for B100
- Charn Chai Muay Thai Gym - located within the city, the place to learn Muay Thai, Thailand's national sport. 174 m.1 Chaisongkharm Road, Pai, Thailand 58130
- Mor Paeng Waterfall - 3-tier waterfall with chance to slide off rocks into the pool...but be very cautious as the 2 tiers are not doable
- Nam Yang Kung Fu - study Kung Fu and practise meditation in a retreat format
- small bottle of Leo beer
- standard price for a soup noodle or rice topping dish
- hot coffee in a decent cafe
- one hour massage
- bicycle rental, 24 hours
- coin operated laundry
- van to Chiang Mai, 3 hours
- dorm room, shared toilet during low season
- one hour, internet cafe
- 1.5 liter drinking water
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
General Travel Tips
- arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
- put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
May 19-25, 2016
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