I have finally left Pai. However, I left a part of my heart there. I already miss it. I love the calm, easygoing pace of life in Pai. I love waking up early and walking the streets before the bustle of backpackers begins. I miss the abundance of amazing food and cute cafes all within the small city limits, the nightly walking street market with all the best eats and of course I miss my little scooter.
I knew even before I arrived that I was going to love it. I had read countless articles and blogs about this island oasis in the mountains. It truly is a special place. It’s very small in size, they only have two traffic lights. It’s surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, caves and hot springs. The city has tons of street art, artists and tattoo shops.
This little city is definitely a hippy town. It has a very Rastafarian feel. Lots of people with dreads, mostly expats, tons of vegan and vegetarian options, lots of reggae and I’m pretty sure they even recycle. They seem to live a pretty “green” lifestyle and they keep the streets and the city very clean.
The recent tourism boom hasn’t seemed to damage the small town feel of this friendly little city. However, I don’t know that it will stay this way forever. There are tons of options for western food. The bars and restaurants remind me of ones back home. Many business and property owners are expats and foreigners. Many days I spent more time with foreigners then with Thai’s and surprisingly, the city still holds on to its culture!
There are so many hostels, hotels, guest houses and resorts in Pai. I believe over 350 different accommodations! For a city with only 2 street lights, that’s pretty impressive! The local bus station is constantly busy with new arrivals and departures, mostly all are back and forth to Chiang Mai. Most people come for a few days and end up staying for a week or more like myself.
The city draws you in with its cozy, artistic atmosphere. It makes you just want to sit back and chill. There is an abundance of cute garden cafes and coffee shops, reggae bars, street art and book stores. There’s a postcard shop where you can send postcards right there to your loved ones! There are a few public pools where you can hang out and cool off in during the day. There are several small clothing and souvenir shops with both traditional Thai and western styles.
It’s important to get outside the city limits to really appreciate Pai’s landscape and culture. Renting a scooter or motorbike is so easy and affordable. It costs about $5 USD for 24 hours. There are shops on every street that rent bikes. Once you get your bike it’s best just to go get lost in the surrounding countryside. I really enjoyed seeing the little Thai settlements just outside the city limits. The farm land, local shops and small street side restaurants. It’s always good to stop at the local mini markets when you need anything like soap, toiletries or bug spray because it’s about half the price.
Within riding distance are tons of tourist attractions. You can cover most of them on an all day tour. Which I did on one of my first days. But even better is riding your motorbike around to all the different sights. The two waterfalls I went to were both really dried up because it’s obviously dry season right now. I went to one hot spring but there’s quiet a few. The LOD cave was amazing! It’s 3 separate caves within one giant cave. You have to hire a guide with a lantern to go inside and the third cave you have to ride a bamboo raft in order to get to it. There’s old ancient artifacts inside and tons of sketchy stairs to get to the top of the caves! Also, a LOT of bats and bat poop! The Land split is exactly that. The land split during an earthquake and the owner of the property made a tourists attraction out of it! There’s a couple of different viewpoints that are great for seeing a different side of the city.
Lastly, one of my favorite things in Pai is the nightly walking street market. I actually went to this market every single night and I’m pretty sure most people do this as well. There is so much good food and it’s the way to go for dinner. There’s corn on the cob, samosas, coconut banana pancakes, spring roles, falafel, gyoza, couscous salad, Burmese salads, French bread pizza, mango sticky rice and everything in between!
Pai will always have a piece of my heart! But it’s time to move on. I’m so excited to leave for Myanmar tomorrow morning! I’ll keep you posted.
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