A one day scooter ride around Pai, Thailand
Pai is a small town in northern Thailand that is known for its hippie/alternative-vibe and nightlife. It is situated in a valley surrounded by scenic mountains and nearby attractions include waterfalls, hiking, hot springs, and caving. We took a weekend trip up to Pai from Chiang Mai and by renting a scooter were able to enjoy much of Pai’s natural beauty.
The route to Pai is known as the “road with 762 turns.” As we didn’t feel we were experienced enough scooter riders by this point, we decided to take a bus from Chiang Mai to Pai. The buses are inexpensive and relatively comfortable and are a great option for making the 3-hour drive. As you can imagine, a road with 762 turns is a worst-nightmare situation for anyone who gets carsick. Luckily, our van driver took it slowly and nobody in our group had any problems (although one of the other passengers in the van had to get out to puke about halfway through). Pro tip - when you get your tickets you can choose your seat on bus. Always choose to sit in front (or as close to the front as you can) to help avoid getting carsick!
Once in Pai we rented scooters so that we could spend time outside of the town. We paid 200 baht ($7) a day for our scooter rentals which seemed to be the standard price in town. After doing a bit of online research we planned out a route and hit the road!
Our first stop was Pai Canyon. From the parking lot, it’s a five minute easy walk to the first overlook point. The canyon offered outstanding views of eroded sandstone with scattered green vegetation. We walked around on top of the canyon for a bit and took a few photos, however at 10:00 am and it was already a blistering 95 degrees so we didn’t hike around as much as we had hoped to. During my next visit to Pai, I would like to come back for sunrise or sunset when the temperatures are cooler to see more of this beautiful landscape.
Upon leaving Pai Canyon, we passed a roadside attraction called Love Strawberry. Love Strawberry is a strawberry-themed cafe that boasts great views of one of the scenic valleys surrounding Pai. It’s definitely a little cheesy and over the top in it’s decor, but was a nice stop to have a refreshing strawberry smoothie before continuing on with our day.
Our next destination was the Boon Ko Ku So Bridge, AKA the “bamboo bridge”. This bridge is just down the road from Pam Bok Waterfall (see below) and leads from the parking area, over rice fields, to a temple set at the base of the foothills. The bridge itself is about half a mile long and was truly made of bamboo (it often felt like it wasn’t going to be able to withstand my weight). Each step caused the bridge to creak and groan as if complaining that someone was walking on it. However, I had no fear of it collapsing as bamboo is actually stronger than many woods and is used in some countries for scaffolding.
After our bamboo bridge venture we continued up the road to the Pom Bok Waterfall. There’s parking in front of the trail, and it’s an easy hike to the waterfall. While we were there the water was deep enough to jump into from the rocks. I definitely recommend making this stop as the waterfall was very scenic and the clear water made for a refreshing swim.
After a quick dip in the waterfall we headed up the hill to the Yun Lai Viewpoint. The road leading to the viewpoint is a beautiful, windy road and we saw very few cars or scooters along the length of the road. Roads like these are why I highly recommend renting a scooter in Pai. There is a 20 baht entrance fee to get to the viewpoint, but it was certainly worth it. The location offers picturesque views of the Pai Valley.
After we left the viewpoint, we finished the day by stopping at the Mor Pang Waterfall, which is a short drive from the Viewpoint. This waterfall was quite crowded when we arrived, but it has many levels which created secluded swimming holes. From the parking area, we hiked down the waterfall to a swimming hole we had all to ourselves. The water was extremely refreshing and we enjoyed a nice, relaxing swim before taking off to our sunset viewing destination.
Several times throughout the day I looked up and saw the “Big Buddha” on the hill to the southeast of the town of Pai and we chose this location as our sunset-viewing spot to end our day. From the parking lot, there is a steep flight of stairs leading up to the Buddha statue. From the top you have a nice view of the Pai valley (from the Big Buddha you are facing towards the Yun Lai Viewpoint so you are seeing the valley from a different perspective). It was overcast by the time we reached the top and so we didn’t have a good sunset, but instead we had one of the best thunder and lightning shows I have witnessed. We were able to watch as the clouds rolled over the mountains and onto the town of Pai. It was quite an incredible sight to see the exact line that showed us where it was raining in the valley and where it was not. We stayed longer than we probably should have, as it started raining as we walked down from the statue and didn’t let up us as we drove back to our hostel.
Things we missed
Next time we visit Pai I definitely want to make a trip to Lod Cave as we’ve read you can hire a guide who will take you on a raft trip through the cave. Also, if we visit during a cooler time of year I want to check out the Sai Ngam Hot Springs, which is a natural hot spring located about 30 minutes outside of town.