“You have to go to Pai!” Almost everyone who knew about my plans to travel to northern Thailand would say this to me. Health-conscious food, yoga, and meditation retreats – Pai is known to be a hippie paradise as some may describe. Maybe it was also because I visited Pai during the hot dry season, so there weren’t too many people around. In this post, I’m sharing my experience visiting Pai during the hot dry season, as well as mindful health tips and things to do in Pai.
Visit Pai during the hot dry season: Things You Should Know
- AIR POLLUTION
Hot Dry season in Pai runs between March and early May, and frankly, it is NOT the best time to visit Pai as this period of time is also known as the “burning season” or “smoky season.” I went in early May when the burning season was ending, but the air wasn’t 100% clear as you can see in the photos below.
- STAY HYDRATED
It’s HOT. Really hot. Like 40 Celsius during day time hot, so remember to hydrate yourself constantly. Bring your own water bottle to stay hydrated and to reduce plastic waste.
- SUN PROTECTION
I personally don’t use sunscreens at all, but if you get sunburnt easily, choose a sunscreen that uses natural ingredients as most sunscreens have chemicals that are harmful to our bodies and the environment.
- THE VIEW
The scenery during the hot dry season would be quite different from the images of Pai you saw on the internet. The waterfalls were actually dried out when I was there.
- SCOOTER SAFETY
I know it’s hot, but please wear a helmet if you rent a scooter. Sometimes, it isn’t about how safe you drive, it’s how other people drive.
Party and Drugs in Pai
- Although Pai is known to be a hippie paradise, besides seeing local westerners hanging around with dreadlocks and hippish clothing, overhearing people saying they’re studying for their yoga teacher training and discussing chakras, Pai seemed to be more of a “let’s get trashed” place to me than a wellness haven. People seem to be going to Pai to party these days, to take mushrooms, and to smoke weed. I’m all for conscious plant medicine ceremonies, but I don’t drink alcohol, and I never mix my medicines. Do everything in moderation, make conscious decisions and listen to your body.
- Although weed is legal medicinally in Thailand now, it’s still illegal for recreational use. Getting caught with any illegal drugs is a serious criminal offense in Thailand.
- BY BUS
From Chiang Mai to Pai, a one-way bus ticket is 150+ Baht. (If you bought it with your hostel or hotel, there’s always a commission fee.) The total duration is 2.5~3 hours with one bathroom stop. It’s 3 baht to use the toilet if I remember correctly. (7 baht for a tissue pack). There are 762 turns on Route 1095, which is the road from Chiang Mai to Pai. It could be a hard ride if you get car sick easily. Mint is a great natural remedy to help with motion sickness!
- SCOOTER RENTAL
Renting a scooter is the best way to get around in Pai. A 50 c.c. scooter for 24 hours is 100 baht at most of the rental places in town. They do usually keep your passport as a deposit, and you definitely need a driver’s license for motorbikes to drive in Thailand even if it’s a 50 c.c. one. However, everyone does it with or without. I hardly saw any police in Pai, but if you do get caught driving a scooter without a license, the fine is 500 baht, and you get to ride the scooter without a license for 3 days with your ticket.
Pai is famous for its natural scenery, and Pai Canyon is a popular sunset spot. Take a short hike to the viewpoint and get there early to secure a seat if you like taking photos. I did not dare to walk the narrow elevated path of the canyon as there aren’t any safety bars, and one missed step you are done. However, if you are an adventure seeker, be my guest. You can spend hours trekking through the trails!
Mindful Tip: It was really dry up there. Definitely bring and drink plenty of water!
Yun Lai Viewpoint
Recommended by a local, Yun Lai Viewpoint is actually a better sunset spot than Pai Canyon. The best actually! This hilltop gets a great bird view of Pai. It’s about 15 minutes drive away from the center of Pai. The drive up there was a bit steep but manageable on my 50 c.c. scooter. I was there in the early afternoon, and there weren’t that many people because it was hot as hell. I got the whole gazebo to myself tho.
💰Entrance fee: 20 Baht.
Pai Walking Street & Night Market
I love walking around the streets in the center of Pai. It’s quiet, quaint and cozy during the daytime. In the evening, all the food stalls are out, so you can grab yourself some traditional northern Thailand street food as well as checking out some arts and crafts by the locals. My favorites dishes were the vegan pad thai and fruit shake!
The White Buddha
The White Buddha has a somewhat challenging climb, with 353 steps of stairs to be exact. However, I found the sealed road and cheated with my scooter. If you’ve seen other big Buddhas in other Asian countries, this one actually isn’t that impressive. However, since it’s on a hilltop, the view is quite nice.
No one would expect you to wear a long skirt, dress, or pants under this hot dry season temperature, so you can rent a sarong to cover your shoulders and knees for 20 baht. You also need to take your shoes off when you’re at the top, and it could be quite excruciating because the ground is burning hot under the hot dry season sun!
Mindful tip: Always cover your shoulders and knees whenever you enter a Buddhist property in Thailand.
Pai Historical Bridge
The Pai Historical Bridge is a World War II heritage although it’s not the original wooden one. It was originally built by the Japanese for the invasion of Burma, using elephants and forcing villagers into labor. Nevertheless, the bridge became an important component to the village, so the villagers rebuilt it after the Japanese troops burnt it down when they left.
I love the view from the bridge overlooking the Pai River. You also get to walk down to the riverbank, watching locals walking their buffalos.
Tha Pai Hot Spring
Who goes to the hot spring in 40 Celsius degree? This girl! Tha Pai Hot Spring is a natural hot spring. All the pools there are between 35 to 38 Celsius degrees, and there’s actually a COLD spring so you can cool yourself off from the heat. (The trick is you have to get through a hot spring before you get to immerse yourself in the cold spring.)
The best thing about going to a hot spring in Pai during the hot dry season is that there aren’t that many people visiting, so you get the hot spring all to yourself. Taking a hot spring has health benefits. It is also known to be good for your skin.
💰Entrance fee: 300 Baht for foreigners. There’re free cold showers and change rooms.
Mindful Tip: Do not go to the hot spring if you are pregnant, have heart-related medical issues, or infectious diseases!