For those not familiar with Pai, it is a small town in Northern Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. It has a population of just over 2,000 people spread around a mountain valley. In one word, it is picturesque. Due to its location in The Golden Triangle, it was previously famous with foreigners as a heaven for opium, which is nowadays substituted with widely available weed and mushrooms. While deciding whether to visit Pai, we found a lot of conflicting ideas so we were not sure of what to expect. We went and ended staying there for almost two weeks.
We loved Pai
I read and heard comparisons of Pai to other parts of Thailand such as Bangkok’s Khao San Road or some of the islands. Pai may not be the ideal place to visit, if you are particularly interested in Thai culture. The large number of people visiting each year, had its impact on the town. For instance you are more likely to find Western food (best and cheapest in all of Thailand!) from the night market rather than the traditional Thai food stalls. And it does seem that the whole town is made up of guesthouses and travel agents.
So yes there are crowds, but Pai seems to attract a different kind of crowd. Call them hippies, wannabe hippies, whatever you like but they are definitely not the same crowd of Khao San Road. Yes it is as touristic as the rest of Thailand and I am sure that over time it did lose some of its charm but it still has potential. It is not impossible to get away from the crowds. We had a little bungalow on the outskirts of Pai with amazing views. Still within walking distance to the center but we had all the quiet and peace we wanted.
When we were not in the hammocks of our bungalow (rarely), we spent our time in Pai, hiking, exploring the surroundings with a scooter or chilling by the pool. Don’t worry if you are after some late night socializing, there will definitely be something going on.
I would recommend Pai to anyone looking for a few relaxed days in beautiful surroundings. It might not add any cultural insight to your experience in Thailand but you will surely leave a little bit more relaxed then when you arrived.