Things To Do In Pai – 5 Almost Free Things To Do
You may already be aware that Thailand is one of the most affordable places for travel in the world, but finding things to do for free is even better! We’ve put together a list of some things to do in Pai that are very cheap or cost nothing at all. Going to Pai Canyon, Pam Bok Waterfall, The Land Split, Wat Phra That Mae Yen, and walking around the Pai Night Market are some of the most fun things to do in this small town in the North of Thailand. There’s something for everyone, including those adventurous travelers and those who want the ultimate chill visit.
At the top of our list of favorite destinations in Thailand, there’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Pai (Thai: ปาย). The beautiful natural surroundings of this town alone create the perfect backdrop to just ride a motorbike around endlessly for hours. You can even go on an epic motorbike ride to get to Pai from Chiang Mai.
Pai has been known to budget travelers and backpackers (and “hippie” types) as a popular destination but that isn’t to say that there isn’t anything to cater to the luxury traveler. Those seeking a peaceful place with views of lush, green mountains all around can find some high end accommodations and activities here as well. I would also highly recommend Pai to those traveling with their families. Not only can you have a great time and spend very little in Pai, the town is small and hassle-free with lots of outdoor activities to get kids moving and having fun.
How to Get To Pai From Chiang Mai
There are several was to visit Pai from Chiang Mai. Here are some of your options:
- Fly – Cheap flights can be purchased to take you from Chiang Mai International to Pai.
- Mae Hong Son Loop – This is a multi-day adventure on motorbike.
- Minibus (Shuttle) – Purchase tickets in advance (about 150 THB). Shuttles depart from the Arcade Bus Terminal every few hours during the day. It takes about 3 hours to get to Pai.
Pro Travel Tip: If you decide to drive or take the bus to Pai, you may want to take some motion sickness medication. The road has lots of turns (762 turns to be exact!).
Want more of what Northern Thailand has to offer? Read our article on visiting Chiang Rai.
Free Things To Do For The Adventurous Traveler
Pai Canyon (Kong Lan, กองแลน)
One of the most breathtaking views in Thailand can be found at the Pai Canyon. It’s unique ridges and canyons are the artistic work of mother nature over time. It can be enjoyed visually by those who prefer to observe from a safe distance or visitors who are seeking a bit of a thrill.
The randomly “drawn” golden pathways meander through the green sea of foliage and trees. One must be careful not to let the initial appearance fool them. The nature growing out from in between ridges can trick the mind into believing the depth is a lot less than it actually is.
Those willing to take the risk and walk through this geographical wonder will have to make sure to mind there steps. There are no signs directing you as to which path is safe. Furthermore, you will not have the security of any fences or railings in in case of a miss-step. The dirt and gravel of these dry trails are not meant for a casual stroll. Careful and calculate steps have to be taken to ensure safety and to keep from slipping or losing one’s balance. In some areas, the path can be as narrow as 2 feet, so watching your step (and not the scenery) is a must!
Pro Travel Tips: Rent a motorbike from town and take the 8 kilometer ride south for the ultimate adventurous experience. Make sure to put on some sunscreen and try to get there early in the day. Don’t forget to take some water with you, too.
Pam Bok Waterfall
If you’re planning on visiting the Land Split (more below), I would suggest taking the 15 minute extra drive down and checking out this waterfall. Pam Bok Waterfall is a short and easy hike through the forest, although getting down to the water requires a bit of maneuvering. On a hot sunny day, it’s a great place to go to cool in the shade and soak your feet in the chilled water.
Not particularly a big or tall waterfall, Pam Bok Waterfall is still a hidden little oasis when visiting Pai. I would not recommend it as a place to go swimming, but to sit on the rocks and have your feet in the water as you enjoy the sound of the water splashing down.
Chill Things To Do In Pai For Free
While The Land Split on it’s own is nothing I would go out of my way to visit, additional “amenities” there are what get me to always go back.
The family that owns the land here is extremely warm and hospitable. Due to some natural movement of the earth, they woke up one day to some cracks and shifting of their land. Now, visitors can go and check out this little “canyon” that was created at no charge.
After you’re little hike around The Land Split, you’ll be able to rest your tired feet (yes I’m being sarcastic here) and lounge in some hammocks under the bungalows. You’re be served some tasty snacks that are all organic and grown right on their property.
This is the best part of the whole visit. You can taste some home-made roselle wine and jam as well as papaya, tamarind, peanuts, and banana chips. Take some of that jam back home as a souvenir or for yourself!
All you have to do is give a bit of donation. Make sure to be as generous as the family is with their hospitality, food and drink.
Watch The Sunset From Temple on the Hill – Wat Phra That Mae Yen
You can probably sense a theme here. Yes, there’s lots of views in Pai, so make sure to take advantage of them.
Not far from town, this sunset viewpoint is a must regardless of how long you plan on staying in Pai. It’s a quick motorbike or Songthaew ride up the hill and doesn’t cost anything. There may even be a way to walk here from town. I did notice some steps coming up from the jungle next to the road that leads to this temple. It may require a good amount of energy and an early start so you don’t miss the sunset.
The only “price” you have to pay is having sore legs the next day from the stairs you have to climb to get to the Buddha Statue. But it’s totally worth it once you see the sun setting over the mountains from here.
Pai Night Market – Walking Street
If you’ve been to the markets in Chiang Mai, the night market here in Pai won’t “blow you away” but it’s still nice to stroll through and grab a quick bite to eat. You can do some of your souvenir shopping here and you might even find some unique things for yourself!
I particularly enjoyed the hot tea served in a bamboo with Thai writing scratched on the outside. It may only be available during the “winter” as I don’t remember them selling it last time I visited.
If you get tired of walking around, you can find a chill bar to relax in and have a drink. There are some low-key bars along the walking street, but you can also find more down the road by the Pai River.
Bonus: Cafe With Magical Views Of Pai Valley
Yet again, we have another suggestion for things to do in Pai that involves an amazing view. You’ll pass by this cafe (and more) on your way into Pai from Chiang Mai. There are several places along the road right before you get to town.
We highly recommend having a coffee or tea and enjoying the views from a cafe called Route 1095, named after the famous highway leading to town. The mountain and valley views are just spectacular here. You’ll also be able to have a little fun on the swings at this cafe. This place sure is “Instagram worthy.”
We hope this article helps those who are wondering what to do in Pai and not wanting to spend a lot of money. If you like our article make sure to share it!
If you’re spending some time in Chiang Mai before you head over to Pai, take a look at our article on the best places to eat street food.
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!