I recently spent 24 hours in Pai and this beautiful part of Thailand (as part of a Contiki trip that I recently won as a community writer for six-two!). Located in Northern Thailand, surrounded by rice fields and tea plantations, Pai is a picturesque compilation of hills, perfectly painted from a palate of different shades of green.
People from all around the world began flocking to Pai when word started to spread about this laidback and chilled town. It’s only a few hours (and 762 bends in the road) away from Thailand’s second biggest city, Chiang Mai. With delicious vegan-friendly eats, natural vistas and cultural experiences, it’s impossible to get bored here. Here’s what I got up to…
To kick off your 24 hours in Pai, head to The Pedlar – a new coffee house, brewing close-to-perfection cups. Pack your reusable coffee cups and grab one to go. There are plenty of shops waiting for you to explore – I fell in love with pretty much everything I saw! Local vendors offer everything from handmade clothes and shoes, to notebooks and bags, jewellery and artwork. If you can’t find anything that takes your fancy, wait until it gets dark and even more stores appear, with even more inviting souvenirs.
Once your hunger starts to kick in, cross over the bamboo bridge and explore the more undiscovered side of Pai. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants hidden down long stretches of rickety roads, some perfectly situated in the hills and some smack-bang in the middle, waiting for you to try each perfectly prepared dish. The food here is some of the best I’ve ever had. EVER.
Bom Bowls will sate your smoothie bowls addiction. Here, they’re cold and thick enough to actually cool you down in the humidity. Or Earth Tone will fill you to the brim with their rainbow-inspired, locally-sourced produce, so fresh you’ll start to worry that you won’t have room for all the street food you’re planning on devouring at the night markets later.
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Luckily, you booked in a Muay Thai class (available on the Northern Thai Highlights trip). Be prepared to kick, punch, block and SWEAT out everything you’ve consumed since arriving in Thailand. This traditional Thai boxing class will not only test your stamina, but also your reaction time, concentration and ability to comprehend orders in a timely manner, otherwise, BAM, you might get an elbow to the face. It’s known as the ‘art of eight limbs’ for a reason…
After cooling off with a dip at your hotel, and as the sun begins to swap shifts with the moon, make sure you head to the top of Pai Canyon in time to witness the radiant sunset. Easily accessible by taxi or tuk tuk, you won’t want to miss it. Be prepared to stand with the crowd, as it’s a popular, breath-taking experience – you’ll see why.
Before dinner, make sure you’ve packed your reusable containers and cutlery, so you don’t have to contribute to the wreckage that single-use plastics cause to our earth. I already know you’ll be stuffing your face multiple times as you wander down the main road – I was so indecisive when I saw the resplendent smorgasbord of local dishes on offer!
Food vendors typically charge 50-150 Baht per meal, which is considerably cheap for not only the quality but the quantity you’ll receive. From curries, noodles, stir fries and famous ‘khao soi’ (delicious rice and coconut curry), get ready to try ALL the food. Undoing your belt is perfectly acceptable, as is loading up on sticky rice and mango, and coconut ice cream – two of the best desserts Thailand has to offer. You can thank me later.
After you’ve feasted, bought crafts from the locals and soaked up all the chilled out energy, wind down at one of the local bars where there’s sure to be live music, cold drinks and the perfect atmosphere to relax and say ‘cheers’ to this beautiful town. After 24 hours in Pai, I now totally get why the locals say, ‘you’ll feel the love in Pai!’
Laura is a six-two community winner and she won her trip to Northern Thailand for submitting her story about the invisible ways that travel changes you! For your chance to win a free Contiki trip, join the six-two community and submit your travel story.