Saturday, 25 May, 2019 12:23:16 PM


The downtown of Pai District completely changed to tourism town since the early 2000s.

It hardly saw normal resident who did not have any business and still lived in downtown area.

Since the late of second era tourist types had become more various and had more number of private mass tourists (both foreign and Thais) in the area.

The growth and changing in Pai District tourism configuration had gradually occurred since 1999 but Pai District was developed into significantly important and nationwide tourist destinations after the broadcast of movies and media after 2006.

A small Lychees fruit garden in Santichon Village
A small Lychees fruit garden in Santichon Village

2019-04-18 THU 16:42

From Poppy fields to Lychees garden

In 1989 there were new Chinese people migrated to the Santichon Village to plant Litchi fruits.

These Yunan Chinese people has connection with drug producers in golden triangle area and eventually they became middle mem in drug dealing.

Traffickers  used Santichon Village  as distribution center of drug trading and created drug problems in Pai District and Thailand as a whole.

The high profit of drug dealing also made other poor hill tribe people  Lisu Villages got involved.

The situation was serious in the late 1990s and Santichon Village and some others hill areas in Pai District became warning zones of government.

The drug business was quite underground activities thus it did not affect the increasing numbers of tourists to Pai town.

In fact, many international backpackers came to Pai to  use cheap opium.

The new type of tourist was more attracted on diverse activities providing in this era, such as Thai boxing training, yoga, cooking course or night life activities.

Motorcycle for rent at 100 Baht a day
Motorcycle for rent at 100 Baht a day

Pai is a small town with motorcycle rental service that you can rent to explore the landscape on your own!

Bicycle rental is also available at 50 Baht a day but less popular then motorcycle. You just have to walk around and ask where to get one.

Improved Road Surfaces
Improved Road Surfaces

Road surfaces have improved now to sightseeing areas such as villages, water falls, hot spring and canyon. With a rented motorcycle, tourists be able to go to these attractions by themselves.

Most tourists to Pai today do not use guide in order to reduce expense. Thus the importance of trekking guide role has decreased

PAI 2019-04-18 THU


The fall of Local Trekking Tour

Since 2000 Trekking tourism in Pai District started to decline  because changes in  hill tribe villages.


The hill tribe villages nearby Pai District had changed through economic, transportation and communication development in the area. Their lifestyle became closer to modern lifestyle of having electricity, television, and house architecture.

Thus, the quality in term of trekking tour was drop and decreased impression of

Foreign tourists usually wanted to see something more under developed.

This situation made the incentive explorer tourists left Pai District and went to the new emerging trekking destination in other countries, such as Laos and Vietnam.


The style of g

Guest houses  with local architecture style are backpackers's  perception on Pai District.

Village houses were built with bamboo, grass Tong Teung leaves from tropical tree Gloriosa Superba L.

This style of guest houses are lowcost in construction, suited to local culture and nature, and also provided satisfaction for tourists who wanted to change from their normal life in concreat city  to experience the rural lifestyle close to nature.

There were two types of tourists, organized mass tourists and explorer tourists, who came to visit Pai District in this era. Both

The organized mass tourist groups defined Pai District as non-interested destination that had a few sightseeing attractions, and did not focus Pai District as the main destination. On the other hand, the explorer tourists saw Pai District as the destination that provided authentic culture and nature. Therefore, these two types of tourists had different practices while they were in the destination. The first left after having their break or lunch, but the latter tried to stay longer and created relations with local people. Moreover, the number of organized tourist groups was higher and had more power of purchasing than explorer tourist group. Therefore, tourism development and promotion policy of government focused on Mae Hong Son, the main district, more than Pai District, Thus, Pai District was translated by relations between explorer tourists and local people only.


Thom's Elephant Camp, Pai
Thom's Elephant Camp, Pai

Before the law announced in 1921 that capturing wide elephants was against the law, Pai District was the area where wild elephants roam about.. That time, Thom‘s family business was taking the wild elephant from the nearby forest, then training them for work in transportation and pulling logs and timbers in the wood cutting business.

In 1921, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) decreed in the Wild Elephant Protection Act that all wild elephants were the property of the government, to be managed by the Department of the Interior as the King's representative.

In 1992, The Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act,  protects wild elephants, but excludes registered draught animals.

Begining late 1980s, Pai  trekking agencies  used the same four main activities as those in Chiang Mai with :

1- Trekking,

2- Visiting hill tribe villages,

3- Bamboo rafting,

4- Elephant riding.

The hills surrounding  Pai are lovely scenic landscapes for hiking. This area has hosted organised treks for decades now.

Visiting hill tribe villages
Visiting hill tribe villages
Advice when visiting hill tribe villages near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Thailand.


Bamboo rafting
Bamboo rafting
Leisurely ride down the scenic Pai River in a unique bamboo raft


Elephant riding
Elephant riding

Life of Pai, one of Thailand’s most pleasant places

1889 photograph of a Shan woman
1889 photograph of a Shan woman
By Felice Beato (1832 - 1909)


At the beginning of 20th Century, Pai was still a small agricultural  village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism.  At the very beginning Pai was only a stopover points for tour  groups on the way to Mae Hong Son. The tranquility of this village was discovered by the Hippies of the 1960s who made Pai one of the heavenly remote escape from  modern world. Then in 1980s Pai appeared in Lonely Planet Travelers Survival Guide. Western backpackers eventually turned Pai into a backpackers hub in Northern Thailand. Then 2004 and 2006 local Thai movie makers used Pai's scenic locations as background setting for romantic stories of young city lovers. Almost instantly, Pai became Bangkok city young people's destination for romantic holiday experience. A place for tons of essential Facebook snaps upload. 2010 onward young adventurous Chinese from Mainland China began to arrive in small group.

Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, Pai town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In the environs of the town are spas and elephant camps.


Mountain route to Pai in the 1950
Mountain route to Pai in the 1950
(Remark: the above is an unreliable old photo. Bases on estimating the weight a carrier carrying, the cargo can only be Tea Leave. And there was no tea plantation in Pai District in the 1950)

In the late 19th Century there was already a mountain road between Chiang Mai and Ban Wiang Tai (Today Pai). That jungle route took a week to walk. This ancient Shan people settlement Ban Wiang Tai has  developed into today modern town Pai.

And alone the mountain route from Pai to Mae Hong Son is settled with more new immigrants today.

Pai Distrit has a different ethnic history from other areas in the north Thailand that made the area consist of a diversity of ethnic cultures.

Around 1251, Shan was the first group of people who immigrated into the area. In the past, Shan State used to be an independent state, but now it is under the government of Burma.

The political conflict between Burma government and Shan State drove people down to settle their new accommodation in Mae Hong Son province at present. Historically, Chiang Mai and its satellite cities was once the Lanna kingdom.

Since the kingdom had a conflict with the Shan State and, in the end, the Lanna troops won the Shan army in 1481, the area was claimed to be part of the Lanna kingdom, however, Shan people were allowed to continuously live in the area.

The weather of Pai District :
(and its effect on the Pai River)
1- March - May : Very hot (around 38 degree Celsius) in summer;
2- June - October : Lot of rain in rainy season;
3- November - February : Cold at average around 13 degrees Celsius in January, winter
Winter is the high season for tourism.

2018 October Rainy Season
2018 October Rainy Season
As you can see the high raise level of rushing water down from mountain with mud particles.

2019 April Hot & Dry
2019 April Hot & Dry
As you can see from the low level still water which has been clear down from mud and sand condensation.

Pai District has several rivers. The Pai river is the main river with six other small rivers originated from the same mountain range.
The river water have been water sources for living and farming of the people here.
Pai River flows from Pai District through Mae Hong Son until it meets Salween River in Burma.
Rainy seasons cause floods to Pai District. The latest serious flood was in 2005.

Mountains in Pai District
Mountains in Pai District

Pai District geography is plain surrounded by mountain terrains. Is about 508 meters above sea level with Doi Mae Ya as highest point at 2,005 meters.

This high land is a beautiful forestry area.

Pai District has a tropical climate and is covered by fog a whole year.

Pai District is  in The Mae Hong Son Province in the northern part of Thailand.

The northern part of Pai District is adjacent to Burma. The eastern and southern parts connect to Chiang Mai.

Pai Town is in between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai. 110 kilometers from Mae Hong Son and 135 kilometers  to Chiang Mai.

The route between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai is steep and has 762 curves through the mountains

Northern  Thailand is a land of  natural resources rich in mountains,  tropical forests and  a variety of culture including Sukhothai, Lanna, and a diversity of  ethnic groups such as Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, and Lolo.

Before it declined this decade, Northern Thailand was continental tourist destinations of  ethnic tourism in hill tribe trekking tours.

In the last decades of the 20th century,  Chiang Mai was a center for  ethnic tourism  popular among  young western backpackers,

The decline in ethnic tourism this century was a result of national socio-economic changes and  changing composition of tourist populations


Pai is a town in the Mae Hong Soon Province of northern Thailand. It sits in a valley on the banks of the Pai River. It's known for its nearby gorges, hot springs like the Tha Pai Hot Spring and waterfalls like Mo Paeng Waterfall. Downtown, food stalls and handicraft shops line Pai Walking Street. West of town lies Baan Santichon, a traditional Chinese village with clay houses and eateries serving Yunnan cuisine.

Movie : The Letter จดหมายรัก Jod Mai Rak 2004
Movie :  The Memory รักจัง Ruk Jung 2006

Pai was featured in two popular Thai-made romantic movies,

1- Movie : The Letter จดหมายรัก Jod Mai Rak 2004

2- Movie :  The Memory รักจัง Ruk Jung 2006

After the two movies, Thai tourists to Pai began catching up in numbers since 2006. Prior to 2006, only western foreign tourists predominated.

During high season, Thai and foreign tourist numbers swell to the point that Pai experiences traffic jams, as well as shortages of electricity, water, and petrol.

The results showed there were three tourism configurations constructed in Pai District.

The first one was constructed in 1980s as ethnic tourism expanding from tourism in Chiang Mai. After the area had been named in tourist guidebooks, the number of backpackers in the area had increased and they began to build their own community inside the area. The dense networks of these backpackers provided new norms and vision on Pai District. In this tourism configuration, Pai District was defined as the destination for relaxation and enjoying live music, international foods, and nature. Pai town, the center of the district, gradually turned into a hub for backpackers in 1990s.

In 2006, Pai District was used as a location for Thai romantic-comedy movie. The image of Pai District was shaped by the movie‘s story line which impacted Thais‘ perspectives on the destination.

After that, Pai District has been focused by domestic tourists as the romantic destination and the number of domestic tourists in the area was incredible increased. The new tourism configuration was constructed by having Thai tourists as focal actors.

China Town of Santichon Village
China Town of Santichon Village (Yunnan Culture Center)

Pai District used to be a backpacker hub 20 years ago, by now has  progress  from rural area trekking to a  destination for filmic mass tourists.

Chinese Yunnan  Culture Center, Pai
Ban Santichon's China Town (Yunnan Chinese Cultural Centre)

A popular tourist attraction, which has more than 1,000 Chinese hill-tribe villagers.

The popular dishes in the restaurant in Culture Centre  – braised pork’s leg with Chinese bread. Support the community by buying local souvenirs. Take a horse ride for sightseeing.

Mud houses for two are for rent at Bt1,000 per house, two-bed houses for four at Bt1,500 and six-bed houses for 12 people is at Bt4,000.


Pai Bus Station is a small station located in the centre of Pai town. This is the terminal for mini-buses (converted vans)  to and from Chiang Mai. The ticket booth is on the left hand side.

Many  restaurants alone the road around the bus station.

Pai Bus Station is at the centre of Walking Street (Night Market)
Pai Bus Station is at the centre of Walking Street (Night Market)


Taxi Cabs/Songthaews/Tuk-Tuks driving on the street aren’t common in Pai.


Prempracha Transport
Prempracha Transport

This is the mini bus you will take from Chiang Mai to Pai.

Prempracha Transport operates service between Chiang Mai, Pai and Mae Hong Son
Their minibus (van) was modern, clean, comfortable and air conditioned. The buses stop halfway for toilet and snacks.

Minivan Service Between Pai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son
Prempracha Transport is a leading transport operator in Northern Thailand, servicing the routes between Pai and Chiang Mai, Pai and Mae Hong Son, and between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son routes.

Prempracha Transport mainly uses minivans to transport passengers.

Each minivan can take up to 14 passengers.

Prempracha Transport is the only authorised transport company that services the Pai district.

The minivan from Chiang Mai to Pai operates hourly from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm daily, while the minivan from Pai to Chiang Mai operates hourly from 7 am to 5 pm daily. The minivan from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son operates hourly from 7.30 am to 2.30 pm; from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai hourly from 7 am to 5 pm. For routes between Pai and Mae Hong Son, there is only one departure per day. The minivan departs from Pai to Mae Hong Son at 8.30 am daily, and from Mae Hong Son to Pai at 4 pm daily.

For routes between Pai and Chiang Mai, and Pai and Mae Hong Son, ticket prices are at 150 THB, and the trip duration is 3 hours. Routes between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai is priced at 400 THB and the trip duration is 6 hours.

Return Tickets Chieng Mai to Pai to Chiang Mai

Return Tickets Chieng Mai to Pai to Chiang Mai

Bangkok City  |  Chiang Mai  |  Pai Town  |

Moon Village
Artist Village in Pai
Pai Town
All About Coffee CafeArtist's Home
Ban Yai Nang
Morning in Pai
Tham Lod (Through Cave)
Chinese Yunnan Culture Center, Pai

Pai Town



PAI TOWN village home of artists around the world...
Pai town in Thailand


Pai is a popular destination for travellers as it is a small rural town located in the northern parts of Thailand and has a casual and relaxed vibe.

The small Pai town is easy to walk around with majority of guesthouses, bars and restaurants clustered.
 thatched-roof bamboo huts, Buddhist temples and a Muslim mosque.
Pai is in Mae Hong Son Province. 50 miles/80 km north of Chiang Mai. A misty town on the Myanmar Border. At 600 meters above sea level, surrounded by high mountains. It lies along the Pai River with a population around 3,000.



Pai Town in Mae Hong Sorn Province, North Thailand
Pai district is situated about halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Sorn, Pai offers one of the most fertile and beautiful nature in the North of Thailand, clean air and no pollution. People from many different tribes live here peacefully together and still maintain their traditional way of living.

Temple in Pai


All About Coffee Cafe
ALL ABOUT COFFEE - an artist's cafe

(Business moved to Chiang Mai in 2015)

Watcharee and her husband together with several friends are artists from Bangkok who run several of the shops. "All about Coffee Cafe" was an exceptional example of functional installation art.

This coffee shop was a detailed wood structure, refurbished with rustic sophistication. Every bit of furniture had been built by Wat and her husband with hand tools during the low season. The artwork was hung with quiet precision that reflected their grace and good taste. Across the street was the Tea shop and the Mit Thai boutique that had works by the proprietor.

The serene Pai river runs from the northern border with Burma through Pai town and along virgin jungle to Mae Hong Sorn. Hardy adventurers use this route for exciting rafting.

How to get to Pai?
Start from the main tourist hub: From Chiang Mai on route 1095 towards Pai it is 132 kilometer. The bus from Chiang Mai Arcade bus station takes about 4 hours.

Buses from Chiang Mai to Pai:
7.00, 8.30, 10.30, 12.30, 16.00

Buses from Pai to Chiang Mai:
7.00, 8.30, 11.00, 12.30, 16.30

From Mae Hong Sorn town: Along this route pine trees and wild vegetation line both sides of the gently rising road passing nice scenery along the way. In Mae Hong Sorn are motorbikes and jeep available for rent.

Population of Pai
Mainly Thai Yai (from Burmas Shane state) and hill tribes (Lisu, Lahu, Karen). In town mainly Thai, Thai-Chinese, some Thai-Muslim and some foreign residents.

Occupation in Pai
Agriculture - mainly garlic, rice, fruits, lychee, cotton

Climate in Pai
Cool season: 12º C - 28º C from November - March

Hot season: 24º C - 35º C from April - June

Rainy season: 24º C - 32º C from July - September

Tourist Attractions in Pai and around
Old temples:

Wat Nam Hu

Wat Phra That Mae Yen (mountain temple)

Wat Klang and Wat Luang (temples where Thai Yai / Burmese architecture is preserved)
Wonders of nature:

Ta Pai hot spring

Pong Duad hot spring

Mo Paeng waterfall (near Lahu village)

Mae Yen waterfall

Lod caves (these are beautiful and ancient caves on a large area where graves of prehistoric civilization was found. The area is a national park with lots of different birds.

Activities in Pai
padelling rubber boat along Pai river
adventure rafting and canoe along Pai river
explore caves or go mountain trekking
elephant riding through jungle
mountain bike cycling or motorbike-trekking (Nop's bike shop offers 2 - 3 - 4 days motorbike trekking with 250 ccm trail bikes around northern part of Mae Hong Sorn province. Guide available or on your own. Also available Honda Dream, good maps and other information.)
jungle-treks: Pai is well known as a base camp for trekks to hill tribes. Walk through green jungle and spend the night in a hill tribe village to experience their traditional way of life. In Pai there are local or hill tribe guides and porters available.
Herbal Sauna and Thai Traditional Massage as well as herbal medicine or Burmese Massage
Reading (Nop's book shop)
Thai cooking course at Peter's and Wandee's Hut in Mae Yen

Culture in Pai
Both local Thais and hilltribes still keep their traditions alive by their traditional dressing, house style, food and entertainment.

Here are some of the highlight festivals:

Loy Kratong (full moon night in November)
fireworks competition at Wat Luang (beginning of November)
Kin Wo (hill tribes New Year, February)
Thai New Year (13 - 15 April)
bamboo throwing festival (to ask for rain, May)

Facilities in Pai
Pai is a small town but can offer enough facilities such as a post office, hospital, long distance call and fax service. Accommodations and food are good and cheap. Most of the guest houses are in town and the scenic most beautiful ones are along the river. Local restaurants and western style restaurants are available (e. g. Chez Swan Restaurant, Thai Yai Restaurant) with home made brown bread.


Good Morning Pai
Good Morning Pai

Photo above : See the simple life in this town when you wake up a bit earlier than normal. Morning at the main road of Pai town. One can feel another kind of peace. Morning in Pai when a bare footed monk on his way for food offering from and a Muslim girl on her way to market on bicycle.

Mosque in Pai
Mosque in Pai
 ... whose speakers fill the town with the call to prayer several times a day.

Artist in Pai Town
Artist in Pai Town

Pai - a small quiet town in Mae Hong Son province - always crowded with Thai and Foreign artists and backpackers. A number of artists stay here, enjoy themselves drawing, painting, writing and ...

Pai town
Adventurous foreigners on tight budgets were the first group to be lured by Pai's charming isolation. Its idyllic setting, tranquility, laid-back atmosphere and warm-hearted residents made it a sort of Utopia for those seeking to escape the pressures of city life.

Pai town
Pai, a tiny town halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son.

Halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, the mountain road makes a winding descent into a large green valley carpeted with rice paddies and fruit groves.
Mountains rise on all sides and butterflies flit along the streets. Here you'll find a tiny town called Pai, named after the river that runs through the valley.

3 hours drive from Chiang Mai along scenic Highway 1095, with its endless bends, this popular tourist destination only a decade ago was an insignificant rest-stop on the gruelling journey onwards to Mae Hong Son.
What was once a hamlet in a picturesque, lushly forested valley is now a burgeoning little town which seems more than ready to shed its backpacker-haven image and embrace mass tourism.

It wasn't until 2006, when Pai was featured in a popular romantic-comedy film, that it began to attract large numbers of domestic holidaymakers who today comprise the vast majority of visitors.
Now seen as a gold mine for entrepreneurs and land speculators, the place has undergone a series of major infrastructure upgrades, wreaking a transformation which has precipitated something of a crisis of identity. Scores of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, coffee shops and bars have sprung up along with Internet cafes, travel agencies and car-rental firms. There are 24-hour convenience stores on the main street, banks and currency-exchange booths all over. An increasing number of small and medium-sized luxury resorts plus live-music venues has brought colour but also sweeping change.

During the peak season one has to deal with noisy traffic, crowded streets and all the commercial hue and cry of a boomtown. It's time to admit, perhaps, that those seeking peace and quiet might be better off going elsewhere.

Despite all the unpleasant changes, however, the locals still display unconditional generosity and remain as friendly toward visitors as ever. Ironically, what little remains of Pai's former bucolic charm is to be found in venues opened by artistically minded entrepreneurs who have preserved some aspects of the local culture and architecture. Rows of traditional wooden homes now house stylish coffee shops, art galleries and boutiques selling creative souvenirs and quaint ornaments and decorative items.

Pai still offers a wealth of outdoor activities and travellers can choose to explore the countryside by bicycle, motorbike, car - on elephant back, even - or on board one of the bamboo rafts which ply the Pai River. Venture beyond the outskirts of town and a multitude of attractions await, from sites of historic interest and religious structures to waterfalls and hot springs.

Situated about three kilometres west of the town centre, Wat Nam Hoo is a must-see. The temple's ordination hall houses a 500-year-old, bronze Buddha image called Un Muang, revered by locals because of a supposedly miraculous feature: the statue's hollow topknot can be opened to reveal naturally occurring "holy water" within.

Another old temple that has stood the test of time is Wat Phra That Mae Yen, built on a hill east of town. From its tranquil compound one gets a panoramic view of the whole district, making this an ideal vantage point from which to watch the sun rise and set.

Pai's proximity to the Burmese border makes it a great place to gain insights into other cultures, too, since Lahu, Lisu and members of several other ethnic minorities have settled in nearby upland areas. Descendants of Haw migrants from Yunnan also live in the neighbourhood and their villages boast houses built in a traditional Chinese style, mouth-watering Yunnan delicacies, handicrafts, tea shops and a wooden, non-motorised ferris wheel.

Mass tourism has had both positive and negative effects on the lives of Pai's original residents. And while some observers see all this development as "progress", believing that it will inevitably lead to a new age of prosperity for all, many view it as the sad loss of a traditional way of life and point out that much of the profits are going to outside investors. But whatever one's point of view, it is hard to deny that Pai remains a rather special town, a place to which people are tempted to return again and again

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