Most reviews about Pai focus on the hippie-esque atmosphere and seemingly balanced mix of Western hippies, Thai rastas, and muslims — providing an unique vibe which may be appealing to some, even if it isn't traditional. The volume of Western tourists dominated the town and honestly, didn’t offer much authenticity to the Thai culture. Most locals were fairly quiet, keep to themselves and observe.
Sunset Bar: Set on the opposite side town, across the river, is an outdoor pool bar and lounge. Though it's open all day, Sunset Bar starts to pick up around sunset (shocking). The setting: house music non-stop, ladyboy bartenders and foreign tourists looking for relaxing beverages like the “Shroom Shake."
Spirit Bar: Off the main stretch, you’ll find a blacklight lit alleyway with a man dressed as if he appeared from 1968 welcoming you. The back part of the bar provides a quaint outdoor stage set in the center of a garden equipped with a treehouse. There are unique seating options: cement beds, log stools and wicker benches scattered throughout the garden for your music enjoyment.
Witching Well - Western/Thai restaurant, where we enjoyed our first meal and seemingly the cleanest place we ate in Pai. Get the carrot cake :)
Big Little’s Cafe: Best Western breakfast we had in Thailand! This tiki hut-like cafe only sits eight, but offers something most travelers hope for — ability to see their food being made. Get he Big Hash 😃
Hot Springs: We didn't venture out for this (It was 87 degrees and 110% humidity that day and more heat didn't sound appealing), but have heard wonderful things about the natural hot springs outside of the town. The one more popular one Ta Pai, let's you buy eggs for boiling in the different pools!
The ride to Pai: This in itself is an experience. The 762 turns on your way from Chiang Mai isn't easy on the stomach — definitely advise motion sickness pills! The landscape quickly changes when you leave Chiang Mai into a vast jungle and on your way to Pai, you travel up, down and around dozens of mountains. You'll drive alongside backpackers on scooters, cargo trucks that are double-hitched and cattle on the side of the roads. Quite the scenery!
Rent a bicycle or scooter - First thing we did when we arrived was rent a bike for the day. Rates should range from 50 baht for a beach cruiser and 100 baht for a mountain bike. Great way to scope out the different sections of town, explore a little of the outskirts. Keep in mind, everything in the central part of town is a 7-minute bike ride, max.
LOOK OUT FOR:
Transport to Pai: Make sure you take preventative motion sickness pills 30 minutes before your transportation departs. And a pro tip: If you decide to take the 13-passenger minivan to Pai, try to reserve seats 1A, 2A or 3A -- they come with more leg room and closest access to the doors.
Walking around at night: Though the general population of Pai are friendly, there are some that see tourists as vulnerable. When traveling at night, keep to the well-lit streets, especially if alone or in a couple -- large groups seem to dominate any space fairly well. There aren't tuk tuks to take you around to different spots, so just be cautious.
Eating in Pai: Pai is known to cause food poisoning to its visitors, due to poor food hygiene and access to fresh ingredients. Even at the cleanest restaurant, you should be cautious at. Unfortunately, American Buddha Co. didn't leave unscathed :(
Pai wasn't the top of the American Buddha Co. list for favorite places we visited so far, but also not on the bottom. For first time Asia travelers or the ripe college graduates, this is a fun party spot with plenty of westernized restaurants, bars and familiar people. For those looking for more of a cultural experience, this might not be your place.