Thailand’s mystical North has always been a magnet for tourists: the landscape is lush and green, one can wander through jungles and cross hills, meet rural villagers and encounter elephants. It is often said that the authentic Thailand can be found far north of Bangkok. Visitors rarely travel anywhere further than Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, both wonderful cities with many cultural highlights, but there is so much more to be discovered.
Today, we would like to introduce you to Pai in the Mae Hong Song province.
A roughly 3-hour drive leads from Chiang Mai to Pai, but be prepared if you are one suffering from motion sickness: It is a windy curvy road taking you through beautiful green hills and rural villages, but we did have to stop several times and take a break because I myself am don’t have the most robust stomach. It really is worth it though! We initially planned to go there by motor bike, since this road is a famous motor bike route (the Mae Hong Son loop), but we weren’t able to rent a bike since we were visiting this area during the Water Festival in April when most shops are closed. There are even 30-minutes flights to Pai from Chiang Mai, so if driving is not an option for you, why not consider a flight?
Even though located so close to Chiang Mai, one feels like stepping into a different country. Mae Hong Son borders Myanmar, and if you have been to Myanmar, the landscape will remind you of the Burma’s Shan Stat (the region around Inle Lake).
What to do in and around Pai?
Pai itself is often described as a sleepy hippie village. And indeed, we found a lot of culture, street markets, cozy cafes where one wants to spend all day and watch the world go by and a relaxed atmosphere (maybe that is because you really feel like having arrived in a remote place?). We had the best Pad Thai of our lives at for a few baht at the night market that takes place every evening in the centre of the village, and there are so many great options for street food – so if you are a foodie, put Pai onto your bucket list!
Hiking around Pai is wonderful, visit the Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge, trek to the Pang Tong Palace or to the Tham Pla Fish Cave. And, if you are an early riser, take advantage of that and beat the crowds at the Pha Sua Waterfall.
And for those wanting to soak up some history, there is the Pai Memorial Bridge which was originally built in 1942 by the Japanese to transport weapons and provisions to Myanmar during World War II.
Where to stay in Pai?
We wouldn’t work for Fleewinter, if we didn’t think that authentic boutique accommodation plays a huge part in travelling anywhere. So for sure, we had to check out the best boutique hotels in Pai, and we are pretty pleased with the outcome:
1. Reverie Siam – quirky and luxurious
We absolutely adore this beautiful property with its spacious rooms decorated with antiques, funky music and riverside bar. At every corner of this hotel, there is something to discover. I was so amazed by the antiques that created this fantastic atmosphere that I asked the British owner where these were from. Turns out they were all selected by the owners personally and bought during auctions. So all the plans I had made during my stay to copy the interior at home couldn’t be realized, but it made the experience even more special.
At the heart of the hotel lies the Silhouette Bar & Restaurant offering a seductive blend of Contemporary Mediterranean Cuisine featuring an extensive Tapas selection. Situated in the Pai valley and with panoramic views of the unspoiled jungle mountains the ambience is romantic and enchanting. I loved the rivserside lounge where one just wants to sit, relax and sip rose wine all day.
The hotel also has two pools for those relaxing after-hike afternoons. If you would like to find out more about Reverie Siam, please click here.
2. Pai Island Resort – modern and intimate
This modern and intimate boutique hotel has only 10 rooms, accommodating approximately 25 guests. Nestled in a lush bamboo garden, guests have to cross a wooden bridge over a small river in order to get to the free-standing villas.
The luxurious villas are painted in white, shimmering against the lush green of the forest. A private garden, a terrace by the river, an outdoor shower and bath offers the utmost private experience for a romantic getaway.
To find out more about Pai Island Resort, please click here.
3. Hotel des Artists – great location and river views
This hotel beats all others for its location, right in the middle of the town’s centre. This simple but lovely boutique hotel was built in a charming antique Thai house, right by the river. The spacious rooms offer a truly “Pai experience”, furnished with Chinese wooden furniture, antique lamps, paintings and colourful pillows. The private balconies invite guests to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. All rooms feature air-conditioning, mini bar and flat screen TV. Room tipp: The Deluxe rooms face the street while the River View Suites overlook the river and the rolling hills of Pai.
Pai is definitely worth a visit. If you want to visit this destination during your next Thailand holiday, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (UK)0207 112 0019.
With love, xx Eva (Fleewinter’s Thailand Specialist).