| Bahyiah Bakir |
PAI, a small town in Mae Hon Song Province in Northern Thailand, is one of Thailand’s best-kept backpacker secrets.
The once-sleepy village is now a popular tourist destination.
Aside from being featured in a popular Thai movie, ‘Pai In Love’, more people are choosing to make the trip here as the road infrastructure has improved and a new airport has been constructed.
The town, which has a population of nearly 3,000, comprising a harmonious mix of various tribes of Thais, Burmese and Thai-Muslims.
Surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery near Myanmar border, Pai is a tourism-oriented town offering a relaxing atmosphere.
During my recent trip to Thailand, I made a trip from the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel in Chiang Mai to Pai.
The distance between Chiang Mai and Pai is approximately 135 kilometres, a two to three hours drive.
I have been told that the steep and winding road between northern Chiang Mai and Pai is famously guaranteed to make some bus passengers sick.
So be prepared with plastic bags and motion sickness pills if you’re planning on taking the bus.
Backpackers and tourists may opt to rent motorbikes to avoid motion sickness to enjoy the drive to Pai.
Renting a motorbike can be as cheap as 100 Baht (three to five Brunei dollars) per day.
Halfway into my journey to Pai, I made a pit stop for coffee at Le Vintage Coffee House at National Highway route 1095, Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai.
The coffee place, which is set in colonial style architecture decorated with stunning vintage art pieces, is also popular among the locals for wedding photo shoots.
The weather was slightly cold and windy that day. As it was a sunny day, I happily snapped photos of the place.
After lunch at Phu Suay Nam Sai Restaurant, I visited the Huay Nam Daeng National Park in Mae Taeng District.
The national park, which covers a vast area of 180 square kilometres over the highlands of Chiang Mai and Mae Hon Song, is a favourite destination among photographers because of the beautiful mountain scenery, picturesque hill tribe’s village, roaring waterfall and steaming hot springs.
There are many wonderful places and cafes dotting along the road heading to Pai.
One of the most popular cafes in Pai is “Coffee in Love”. This cafe offers the most beautiful scenery of Pai Valley and Mae Yen Temple, where you can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee with freshly baked pastries and cakes. It is normally packed with tourists and locals.
Once I made it to Pai, I checked in to the Belle Villa Resort. The resort offers serendipitous green scenery surrounded by mountains and extensive rice fields.
At night, I visited Pai’s night market, Walking Street. Foods, trinkets and a large variety of handmade goods and souvenirs are available here.
While you are in Pai, I strongly recommend visiting these places of interests:
Pai World War II Bridge
This metal bridge was built around 1942 by the Japanese during World War II.
Japanese soldiers used Pai for transportation route from Chiang Mai to Burma (now known as Myanmar).
Nam Hoo Temple or Wat Nam Hoo
This sacred temple, which is situated approximately three kilometres from Pai, is a popular pilgrimage for Thais.
It is a memorial shrine to Her Royal Highness Supankalaya, the older sister of King Narusuan the Great.
The temple features a golden chedi and a shrine on a lotus pond.
The temple also houses the Phra Un Mueang, a sacred Buddha image, 500 years of age.
Santichon is a Chinese village settled by the Yunnan hill tribes.
Here, you can learn more about the Santichon’s Chinese heritage.
The tribes here sell a variety of Chinese tea and herbs, jewelleries and gemstones.
Another interesting thing that caught my eye was a human-powered Ferris Wheel (see top photo).
Houses here are built of straw and mud.
Walking about the village, I felt as though I had travelled back in time. The feeling was surreal.