When most explorers are planning their trip to Pai, Thailand they see bright green photos with mountains looming in the backdrops. What may surprise you is that if you visit Pai in the dry season the scenery is going to be vastly different. Dry season in Pai runs from November through April and offers a unique perspective on this northern mountain town. A haze covers the landscape as farmers are burning their rice paddies for the next season’s crop and the lush greenery begins to incorporate a mixture of reds and yellows. And while the lack of rain does dry up many of the waterfalls you can still find a few of these oases in the right spots. Here are my top 6 ways to enjoy Pai during the dry season.
1. Pai Canyon
Any trip to Pai cannot be complete without a trek to Pai Canyon. During the rainy season the canyon is full of foliage but the dry season really opens up the view so you can more easily see how the hills wind themselves through the canyon. The ability to see further ahead can give you more confidence to venture further through the trails and discover less trodden parts of the landmark. The color variety of the leaves will leave you with a memory that will never fade.
2. Sunset Yoga at Pai Circus Hostel
If you are the backpacker variety of traveler you are sure to have glanced at Pai Circus Hostel. With rooms starting at just ฿200 it is the perfect place to rest for the budget traveler and provides many great amenities such as a swimming pool and a hilltop view of the city with a mountain backdrop. Another perk of staying at Pai Circus Hostel is their free morning and evening yoga classes. The late afternoon sessions occur at peak time for a sunset and the mountains provide the perfect setting to put your mind at ease. Talk about your perfect photo opportunity. If you choose not to stay at Pai Circus Hostel you can still pay a ฿100 entry fee, but if you just walk in like you know what you are doing this can usually be avoided.
3. Hike to Mae Yen Waterfall
The hike to Mae Yen Waterfall is a fairly flat and easy journey that even the most inexperienced trekker can accomplish. During dry season much of the brush is either dead or has been burnt away allowing for easier detection of the path. The waterfall itself is not flowing a great deal at this time but there is typically enough water to soak your feet and relax. If you are into it, the way is perfect for trail running. Also, the trek puts you in contact with a multitude of jungle critters. Along the way I came across swarms of granddaddy longleg spiders, colorful frogs, and snakes of both the safe and dangerous varieties. The walk takes around 3-4 hours to complete one way so be sure to start your trip early in the morning so you have plenty of daylight on the way back. The start of the trail is not too far from Pai Circus Hostel so you can knock out two items at once with this one.
4. The White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen)
Another wonderful spot to check out the sunset is the the White Buddha sitting high atop the hillside. Take a motorbike to the base of the temple where you will then walk up hundreds of steps to reach a giant White Buddha statue. In the dry season the shrine is fairly empty as I was the only one at the top for the majority of my visit. It could also be the fact that anyone who makes their way up will be sweating like a pig and this might detract a few from taking on the climb. It is a perfect viewpoint for the traveler who would rather not be near the backpackers at Pai Circus Hostel.
5. Jikko Beer
If the haze is too much to bare then head down to Pai Walking Street and look for a small roadside bar named Jikko Beer. This is not to be confused with the cocktail bar of the same name. Jikko Beer stocks a variety of local and imported craft beers to help you wash the taste of Chang out of your mouth. A perfect dinner would be to buy your food from one of the many street stalls and bring it to Jikko to enjoy with a quality beer that is not as common as it should be in Thailand.
6. Motorbike from Pai to Chiang Mai
Rarely is the best part of a holiday the end. Such was the way with the decision to take a motorbike back from Pai to Chiang Mai. The greatest benefit of making this road trip during the dry season is that it reduces the chance of being rained on. Rainy season is not worth the gamble. It is also a much cooler temperature aside from the months of March and April. The trip is right at 4 hours going a distance of 137 km but it will probably take you much longer because you will want to stop at the various national parks and coffee houses along the way. Rent your motorbike from Aya Service for about ฿700 and you can travel at your own pace among the twisty mountains between Pai and Chiang Mai. Aya Service is located on Pai Walking Street in Pai and next to the train station in Chiang Mai. And do not worry about what to do with your bags. They will transport them to the branch in your destination for free. A warning though, even though the roads have been repaved recently, it can still be a tricky journey for someone with little experience on a motorbike. The journey is not “Satan’s Hill” or anything of the sort but I would recommend a bit of practice before trying to tackle this journey. Get a strong grip because you will be using the handbrakes liberally.
There they are, 6 ways to make the most out of your trip to Pai in the dry season. Northern Thailand offers so much for nature enthusiasts so do not be afraid to experience something different. Just because the guidebook says that green is better does not mean you should keep yourself from seeing outside of the norm.
Pai is worth the journey no matter the time of year you choose to visit. The change of colors and blanket of haze gives Pai an eerie vibe. Even though it is strange it will still be an experience that few others witness. Any suggestions for activities that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments below.
Follow all my adventures on the social networks:
- Facebook (Tar Heel Voyager)
- Twitter (@tarheelvoyager)
- Instagram (@tarheelvoyager)
- Vimeo (Tar Heel Voyager)