Pai is a small town in northern Thailand‘s Mae Hong Son Province near the Myanmar border, about 146 km (91 mi) northwest of Chiang Mai on the northern route to Mae Hong Son. It lies on the Pai River. The town has thesaban tambon status and covers parts of the tambon Wiang Tai of Pai district.
Once just a quiet village in northern Thailand, Pai is now a booming town that is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop stretching between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Noted for its picturesque valley and relaxed atmosphere, Pai is a favored destination among backpackers and tourists wishing to explore the region. With Pai’s location in the foothills of the mountains there are several options for trekking and visiting hill tribes. Also just outside the city are elephant camps, hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. Additionally, the Pai River offers tubing and whitewater adventures.
Tourism and development
Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Burma. Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism. Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, the town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In the environs of the town are spas and elephant camps. Further outside of town, there are several waterfalls and a number of natural hot springs varying in temperature from 27-93 °C (80–200 °F). Some resorts tap the hot springs and feed hot water into private bungalows and public pools. As Pai lies at the foot of the mountains, many tourists use it as a base for trekking and visiting hill tribes like Karen, Hmong, Lisu, and Lahu. Another notable attraction is the town’s excellent Wednesday Market which brings large and colorful crowds of local villagers and tribal people from all around the Pai Valley.