Pai: Northern Thailand's Must-See Hippie Oasis
Chiang Mai was seriously celebrated by travelers, only to be overshadowed by their love of Pai. After hearing how relaxed and beautiful it was, I decided it was a must-see destination and a perfect way to end my tour of Thailand. Beyond being calm, it also happened to have the best food of my whole trip and some of the highest quality hand-made clothes and trinkets. By the end of my week, I did hit my limit of hot humid weather but somehow felt completely rejuvenated.
Getting there and accommodation:
A shuttle bus picked me up from my hostel in Chiang Mai and delivered me to the middle of town. It was an efficient way to go, but did take a while to pick up fellow travelers at various hotels before even leaving, adding on an extra hour of travel time. Shuttles depart multiple times per day and can be booked at your hostel/hotel.
Once I arrived, walking the town is easy, and accommodation close to the main area is ideal. I stayed in my own bungalow at Pai Country Hut, a surprisingly inexpensive treat, 300baht ($8.60/day). There are many places to stay a little further out, but I would only recommend this if you have a moped. Otherwise, checking in at a bungalow across the river is a perfect way to enjoy the calm, but remain close to the restaurants, street food and shops that come alive at sundown (around 7pm.).
Heading back to Bangkok, you can take an overnight bus, train, or flight. Your hostel or hotel can help with the booking. If you do choose to fly, the local airport is Mae Hong Son (HGN).
Mopeds are inexpensive and a great way to explore the area. The small size of town makes it easy to explore by foot, but there are hills outside of the city only accessible with wheels.
Places to visit:
The giant White Buddha resting in the hills is impressive and can be seen from town. Otherwise, you may want to visit by scooter or foot for an up-close view.
Mor Paeng Waterfall is perhaps a more appealing activity in the heat, than the Hot Springs, but if you want something closer to town and refreshingly cool, visit Fluid pool. It's a perfect way to spend the day for only a 50 baht entrance fee. They also serve food and drinks, play great music, and have cold outdoor showers.
Street food is plentiful and not overwhelming (unlike Bangkok), but if you want to sit down for a meal, a few great food and drink options are: Om Garden Cafe, Art in Chai, Cafe d'tist, Boomelicious Cafe and Baan Pizza.
Knowing very little of Thailand before visiting, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was hot and humid, and I've never sweat so much in my life. Of course, the good outweighed the heat, and the local culture was rich and exotic. The astounding beauty and once-in-a-lifetime experiences were worth far more than anything I could pack into a suitcase, so if you're looking for a unique journey through a beautiful land (and don't have a peanut allergy), book your ticket sooner than later.