“Pai is amazing and so peaceful”, “I am in love with its beauty”, “It is so different than any other town in Thailand”, and “You should visit it man” – I still remember how different people portrayed Pai and inspired me to spare a few days and visit this “secluded little town”, after Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.
Excited, and hopelessly driven by the whole gamut of descriptions, I booked the first minivan on a fine Sunday morning and left for Pai. The entire drive to Pai, as I remember was beautiful. It was green as far as I could see, and the timely glimpses of the Thai countryside were constantly adding up to the charm.
I was happy that I decided to visit Pai until I finally got there. There were more backpacker hostels in the town than there were local homes, trekking agencies and tourist cafes were seemingly all-pervading. Local Thai markets were becoming another Kao San Road. The Pai I was expecting was tragically lost somewhere.
I think the town must have had its charm a few years ago when there were not many tourists around. But as I found it in the monsoons of 2016 – which fortunately was not the peak tourist season yet – I realised that Pai’s original charm had already completely washed away as the waves upon waves of Westerners and Chinese tourists flocked here, right after a few nights in Chiang Mai.
In less than 24 hours in Pai, I found myself falling into a negative rut due to expectations about how things should have been and how they turned out to be. I expected a quiet, culturally rich town and it turned out to be everything else but that.
Most of the backpackers who like Pie like it because it’s cheap (which is a good thing) and everything – from imported food to imported beer to endless parties – is accessible at a stone’s throw away, given the small size of the town. But that was perhaps the reason why I did not like it. Because you go to Thailand and choose to explore the north to get local experiences, eat local food and drink local booze. Had I fancied an imported beer or wanted to lose myself in a party culture I would have headed south and not come to Pai in the first place.
To me, Pai turned out to be nothing more than a modern town and a hippie oasis that offers a perfect setting to smoke weed, get drunk, and enjoy late-night parties. Though I am not claiming that you must not visit Pai, or it doesn’t look beautiful anymore. It sure does. Also, if I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that no one does. There are dozens of travel blogs out there claiming Pai to be one of the best travel destinations in India. For example, this blog for things to do for couples where this couple travel blogger loved their stay in Pai.
And again, if you go a few dozen kilometres out of the town – in any direction – and you come across beautiful countryside. A host of natural, lazy activities, impatiently waiting to keep you entertained.
I especially loved some local attractions and exploring unknown villages around Pai, among a few other things. And they were pretty much the highlights of my time there.
Read: Pai Travel Guide
I think Pai can be so much more than a haven for western hippies, if only we travel a little more responsibly and try to protect its individuality and solitude. After all, travelling makes us realize what an amazing and distinct world we live in, and our every action makes it become more or less so.
Have you been to Pai, in Thailand? How did you find it?
Here’s my Thailand travel guide if you want more tips on what to see and do there