Pai is a small town located in the north of Thailand, close to the Burmese border. Located in the mountains, it is a popular attraction for less mainstream travellers.
Getting to Pai
I was travelling to Pai from Chiang Mai, wanting to leave on October 26, 2017 – the King’s cremation day.
I was advised to walk to the bus station and inquire there if the buses would operate. I soon found that no one at the station speaks English, and I’ve been sent from one side of the station to the other many times since no one could understand me or know the answer to my question. Eventually, I found a guy who said we can go now, for 30Baht (1$). I explained that I need the transfer in 2 days and he said ‘Can go’ – but I couldn’t trust him because I wasn’t sure he understood what I was after.
So I went to the nearest tour agency, which are plentiful in Chiang Mai, and agreed to be picked up from my hotel at 1PM, for 180Baht ($6).
The minivan happened to be first class, with leather seats, air-conditioning and only partially occupied. I could even stretch my legs throughout the way, and 4 hour trip in picturesque mountains flew by.
Where to stay in Pai
I’ve booked my accommodation for the first night because I knew that might be a bit tricky given the King situation. My hotel looked very impressive, so upon check-in, I booked another night. I got a bungalow with a terrace and a hammock, in a nicely organised bungalow village, for about 50$ per night – quite pricey!
Next day, I went around town and found a similar accommodation for 18$! No hammock, but a private terrace with a lovely view. It’s not available through the booking websites:
The best way to find cheaper and better accommodation is to walk around, check out the place, price and availability and book whichever looks good.
Pai with ‘Seven-Eleven’ closed
I arrived in Pai about 4PM on the 26ths. Upon checking in to my hotel, I went for a walk in town. None of the restaurants were selling alcohol, the Seven-Elevens were closed, as well as many bars and cafes. Many said they would be closed for another 3-4 days. I knew that that wasn’t the ‘normal Pai’.
Next day, things have improved. I went around the town to see some places, like the Pai Canion:
and Chedi Phra That Mae Yen:
In the evening, the real Pai emerged. Lots of young tourists, mainly backpackers, bar crawling on the streets of the town, grabbing street food and talking loudly. I’ve joined one group, and the size of the group was increasing with every new bar. Most people were planning to “leave tomorrow” – obviously, not for the first day. I’ll stay here a few more days!