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Pai Mae Hong Soon Travel Guide

April 1, 2020 by VacStay Vacation Rentals

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Pai Travel Guide

Pai is a town in the Mae Hong Soon Province of northern Thailand. It sits in a valley on the banks of the Pai River. It’s known for its nearby gorges, hot springs like the Tha Pai Hot Spring and waterfalls like Mo Paeng Waterfall. Downtown, food stalls and handicraft shops line Pai Walking Street. West of town lies Baan Santichon, a traditional Chinese village with clay houses and eateries serving Yunnan cuisine.

Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Myanmar (formerly called Burma). Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism. Mostly a hippie destination, it is filled with hot springs and amazing views. Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, the town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In the environs of the town are spas and elephant camps. Further outside of town, there are several waterfalls and a number of natural hot springs varying in temperature from 27-39 °C (80–102 °F). Some resorts tap the hot springs and feed hot water into private bungalows and public pools. As Pai lies at the foot of the mountains, many tourists use it as a base for trekking and visiting hill tribes like Karen, Hmong, Lisu, and Lahu. Another notable attraction is the town’s excellent Wednesday Market which brings large and colorful crowds of local villagers and tribal people from all around the Pai Valley. Tourists are also attracted by Shandicun village (Chinese village) located in the outskirts of the town. It offers many activities for visitors.


Recently Pai has appeared on the Thailand tourist map and has received major infrastructure upgrades including an airport with several daily flights, nine (9) 7-Elevens, several small- to medium-size luxury resorts, totaling more than 350 accommodation properties, several live music clubs, beer bars, and three sets of traffic lights. This has done little to dampen the small and peaceful spirit of the town out of season. However, it has led to a recent influx of business investment and land speculation by both farang (Western Caucasians) and big city Thais. While some hail these sweeping changes as a new age of prosperity for Pai, others point to the loss of Pai’s traditional customs and culture.


In the tourist high season of November through March there are large numbers of tourists. Prior to 2006, foreign tourists predominated, but now Thai tourists are catching up in numbers, particularly after Pai was featured in two popular Thai-made romantic movies, The Letter: Jod Mai Rak and Ruk Jung (Thai: รักจัง, 2006). During high season, tourist numbers swell to the point that Pai experiences traffic jams, as well as shortages of electricity, water, and petrol.

Pai has music festivals regularly as well as staging an international Enduro championship. Pai Canyon (Kong Lan) is nearby.

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