Pai, Thailand. A place that holds a special place in many travellers’ hearts.

Rice fields beyond the horizon meet with a rainbow of colours from the blue skies, red earth and dark rock faces enjoying the cool wash from a waterfall.

Pai - Thailand-2

Pai has also changed dramatically. Fifteen years ago it was a lesser known, off-the-beaten-path destination. It swallowed hippies for days, sometimes years. Held up as a beacon for free ‘n’ easy mountain living.

Pai - Thailand-11

Today, Pai is part of the Northern Thailand ‘hit-list’. Hostel accommodation offerings have quadrupled, motorbike rental places swell to offer all manner of drivers a chance to travel the Mae Hong Son Loop. Local women give smoking gestures offering up illegal substances. Bandaged bodies limp around town eating Western offerings like lasagne and jacket potatoes.

Pai - Thailand-20

Don’t get me wrong. Pai is beautiful, but a contradiction in a lot of ways. It offers unique opportunities for nature lovers and yoga teachers. It also represents the very worse of mass tourism.

Fortunately with travel there is no right way or wrong way, only your way. If anything Pai may show you what you like and loathe. Pai could be that turning point for future travel destination choices. It could also represent the best of your backpacking experience in Thailand.

Pai - Thailand-12

Whatever it looks like for you, here’s Tripmasher’s Pai in pictures – the good and the bad.

Landscapes offering a colour-wheel to enjoy.
Pai landscapes offer up a colour wheel to enjoy.
Kitch overload at the 'Chinese Village'
Kitsch overload at the ‘Chinese Village’ in Pai.
Mo Paeng waterfall. Easy to ride to, but overly crowded.
Mo Paeng waterfall. Easy to ride to, but crowded.
Pai Canyon. Amazing colours and dusty climbing on offer.
Pai Canyon. Amazing colours, sunsets and dusty climbing on offer.
A well-trodden path for visitors to Pai. If you want your quiet moment then you'll have to wait for people to leave and finish posing for their "new FB cover photo".
Pai Canyon again. A well-trodden path for visitors to Pai. If you want your quiet moment then you’ll have to wait for people to leave and finish posing for their “new FB cover photo”.
Decent offering of live music. Rich was invited to play drums during our stay.
A decent offering of live music. Rich was invited to play the drums during our stay.
The flipside. People like me. Loud with Wolverine hands :)
The flipside. Loud people like me with Wolverine hands 🙂
Buddha on the hill.
Buddha on the hill with great views.
Amazing roads to ride.
Amazing roads to ride, but you won’t be the only ones. Watch for the evening riders coming back from mushroom shake moments.
Yep, it's a bridge, but an important one in WW2 and holding off the British advance. It appears on every town map. Always makes me laugh the reviews you read on places like Tripadvisor. If you have a map with a sight marked, the likely hood is that you will find other tourists there. Strange to think that you would visit Pai and be the only 'traveller'.
Yep, it’s a bridge, but an important one in WW2. It appears on every Pai tourist map. Always makes me laugh to read reviews on sites like Tripadvisor where people are complaining about it being ‘touristy’. If you have a map with a sight marked, the likelihood is that you will find other tourists there. Just-saying.
Accommodation for all budgets. Both good and bad depending on your view of travellers. If you think that a traveller in mid 20s and western then you are not going to like the burgeoning inter-Asian tourism, but if you think a traveller can be anyone, then you won't give a hoot about it. For the record we don't give a hoot!
Accommodation for all budgets. Both good and bad depending on your view of what is considered a traveller. If you think that a traveller is in their mid-20s and western then you are not going to like the burgeoning intra-Asia tourism, but if you think a traveller can be anyone, then you won’t give a hoot about it. For the record, we don’t give a hoot!
Red and white dragon fruit shakes with berries. The cooler environment offers up strawberries and mulberries to be mixed with your tropical dragonfruit. Yum!
Red and white dragon fruit shakes with berries. The cooler environment offers up strawberries and mulberries to be mixed with your tropical dragon fruit. Yum!

There it is. The good and bad of Pai in pictures.

Stay on the journey with us as next week where we travel the Mae Hong Son loop by public transport instead of two wheels. We find some magical places in Northern Thailand that are not Pai, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai (shock horror)!

Listening to the hypnotic album Moonbuilding 2703 AD by The Orb.

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Pai in pictures – The good and the bad
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