The other day my friend Kyle, who I grew up with in the valley, came to visit me in Chiang Mai where I am currently living. Kyle’s currently living in Vietnam and teaching over there and had a break so decided to visit.
We spent a few days exploring Chiang Mai, eating street food, wandering around looking for cool photo spots and even hit up the Night Bazaar.
One thing that we were told is a must do is to head up to the Northern town of Pai….so we rented scooters and took the trip.
The night before while eating at a food truck and chatting with some people who were there, the people we met were surprised that we were planning on taking motorbikes up to Pai instead of driving. (These were locals to Chiang Mai)
We had been told by a few other people to just drive slow and keep an eye out for the potholes that used to take over the entire road there.
That didn’t impact our decision at all and the next day we were off to Pai. From my condo it appeared that we only needed to make 3 or 4 turns and follow the signs to get out of Chiang Mai and onto the road to Pai….sometimes I’m not the best with directions, so Kyle and I ended up driving around Chiang Mai for about 30 minutes before we realized that we missed a turn.
That led to some laughs and us having to back-track a bit, but after a little more driving we found the turn that we were supposed to take and ended up on the road to Pai.
From everything that I read about the trip and the road we were expecting that it would take a few hours to get there because of having to drive so slowly to avoid potholes.
We didn’t expect that the road would be in absolutely perfect condition. For the majority of the ride, the roads were in perfect condition. I’m talking about them having just paved one side of the road and were paving the other side for portions of the road, while other long parts of the road were in better condition than roads I’ve driven on in the USA.
There were a few times where one side of the road was closed and we were supposed to wait along with all the other cars so 1 side of the road could go at a time…however the beauty of motorbikes is that you can just go along the side of the cars and avoid a lot of the waits.
After about 3.5 hours of driving through absolutely beautiful hills we arrived in Pai.
I personally thought the best part of going to Pai was driving through the fresh mountain air and just stopping and overlooking the views. There were a few different times where Kyle and I stopped and we just laughed because it really reminded us of the views you would see driving to our friend Colin’s dad’s house in upstate NY when we were in high school.
It felt like being back at home with my bro, but instead of being in cars or walking the street we were on motorbikes.
After getting to Pai we drove around a while to find the hotel we were staying in. That was quick and easy since the town is so small.
Our first order of business upon arrival was to find a good place to get a massage. Sitting in one position for a few hours is pretty rough on the body and certain parts towards the end of the road weren’t fully paved and we were bouncing around a bit on the motorbikes.
We walked around town for about 10 minutes (it’s a tiny town) and were looking for a massage place that had a bunch of flip flops/shoes outside so that we could see it was a good place. In Thailand it is customary to take off your shoes before entering a building.
We found one place and ended up getting an amazing 1 hour Thai massage where they stretch you like crazy. I’m talking about finding that point of stretching and pain and just playing around the with line to get the best stretch possible.
There were a few times where I thought I was going to cry a bit in pain, but then she released the stretch. After this I felt like a million bucks, actually I felt a little high. If you’ve ever gotten a great massage where you feel super super relaxed, you’ll know the feeling.
We then wandered around town for the night and did some bar hopping and street vendor hopping seeing who had the best foods.
Here’s a few of the places we stopped.
– Grandma’s Pancakes: we found this place at the end of the night and it was this old woman serving pancakes cooked right in front of you. We chose to get 4 of the pancake sausage combos and honestly I wish we would have gotten about 40 of these. They were so good.
– Ting Tong’s the Living Room: place with the cool lounge chairs
– Sabai Bar: we ended up hanging here to listen to some live music and play some chess. Very laid back feel to it.
– Fine Rice: this is where we had our main dinner. It was referred to Kyle as a great place and the food was pretty good, nothing too spectacular especially compared with most of the street food there.
On the ride back, we decided to stop and see one of the landmarks called “The Landsplit” and it was just that. In 2008 the land split.
Kyle and I weren’t really sure what had gone on but it seemed like it was run by a bunch of ex-pat 20-30 somethings with 2-3 local Thai people hanging out as well.
It wasn’t too much to look at, but the best part was that they brought out food and a rosella tea that was delicious. You basically just pay what you want and that’s how they run the attraction.
You also can write in one of their visitor books and we both chose to do that. I put a funny little message in the book with my thoughts so if you can find it you’ll get a kick…
here’s a hint: “been here 3 days, still haven’t found it…”
We were also planning on stopping to visit the #1 tripadvisor spot the Pai Canyon, although we ended up driving past it on our bikes and didn’t realize until about 20 minutes later and thought it wouldn’t be worth back-tracking.
Kyle and I have both seen a bunch of canyon’s so it wasn’t like we were missing much from what it seemed like from reading.
All in all, the trip was fun and it was great to breath some clean mountain air after being in Chiang Mai for the last month or so.
I’d say the best parts of the trip to Pai were simply stopping and just breathing and looking out over the hills and appreciating nature for what it is.
If you are thinking about visiting there, I’d do it. There are a lot of other nature based things to do up there when you arrive but Kyle and I were on a schedule since he needed to head back to Vietnam soon.
Have you been to Pai?