While we won’t describe Pai as a “must-visit” stop on a tour of northern Thailand, it has many attractive attributes. The delicious (though often not Thai) food, gorgeous scenery, and relaxing vibe make it a worthwhile visit for those on longer trips or for travelers that desire a few days to do nothing and feel really good about it.
Pai’s primary attribute is unique in that to take advantage of it, you actually have to leave Pai. Even five minutes outside of the city the scenery transforms from western restaurants and unwashed backpackers to tranquil rice paddies and mountain vistas. Tread further afield and you can see across canyons, evidence of seismic activity, hot springs, and waterfalls galore. Drive outside of Pai in any direction and you’ll come away with a better appreciation for what makes northern Thailand so special.
While removed from the 1960s by time, technology, and floral patterns, the spirit of the transitory tenants of Pai remains similar to the flower children of that era. In some ways, this elevated Pai’s standing by supporting the mellow, slow-going atmosphere. In others, it detracted, largely in the form of near 20-hour bongo sessions by talentless musicians in neighboring bungalows. Regardless, one aspect Pai lacked in our view was a meaningful art presence as it’s often described as an “artist’s community.”
Pai has embraced the tastes of its visitors unlike any place we’ve traveled to before resulting in an amalgam of delicious-but-harder-to-find Thai food and okay-to-great western dishes. This trend is present even in street food where lasagna, bruschetta, and pizza stalls contend with the more traditional grilled meats or noodle soups. While the cuisine was not typical of the region, most of it was a welcome diversion – especially the delicious brunches offered at Boomalicious, Witching Well, and Om Garden Cafe.
A key sentiment shared by both foreigners and locals alike seems to be the view that “every little thing, is going to be alright”… This slower pace is further reinforced by both the robust cafe culture and the gorgeous views that inspire you to sip a little slower and sit a little longer.