THAILAND > Mae Hong Son Province > Pai Town
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Pai town in Thailand
Pai Town in Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand
Pai is a popular destination for travellers as it is a small rural town located in the northern parts of Thailand and has a casual and relaxed vibe.
The small Pai town is easy to walk around with majority of guesthouses, bars
and restaurants clustered.
thatched-roof bamboo huts, Buddhist temples and a Muslim mosque.
Pai is in Mae Hong Son Province. 50 miles/80 km north of Chiang Mai. A misty town on the Myanmar Border. At 600 meters above sea level, surrounded by high mountains. It lies along the Pai River with a population around 3,000.
Northern Thailand is a land of natural resources rich in mountains, tropical forests and a variety of culture including Sukhothai, Lanna, and a diversity of ethnic groups such as Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, and Lolo.
Before it declined this decade, Northern Thailand was continental tourist destinations of ethnic tourism in hill tribe trekking tours.
In the last decades of the 20th century, Chiang Mai was a center for ethnic
tourism popular among young western backpackers,
The decline in ethnic tourism this century was a result of national socio-economic changes and changing composition of tourist populations
Pai District is in The Mae Hong Son Province in the northern part of
The northern part of Pai District is adjacent to Burma. The eastern and southern parts connect to Chiang Mai.
Pai Town is in between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai. 110 kilometers from Mae Hong Son and 135 kilometers to Chiang Mai.
The route between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai is steep and has 762 curves through the mountains
Mountains in Pai District
Pai District geography is plain surrounded by mountain terrains. Is about 508 meters above sea level with Doi Mae Ya as highest point at 2,005 meters.
This high land is a beautiful forestry area.
Pai District has a tropical climate and is covered by fog a whole year.
The weather of Pai District :
(and its effect on the Pai River)
1- March - May : Very hot (around 38 degree Celsius) in summer;
2- June - October : Lot of rain in rainy season;
3- November - February : Cold at average around 13 degrees Celsius in January, winter
Winter is the high season for tourism.
2018 October Rainy Season
As you can see the high raise level of rushing water down from mountain with mud particles.
2019 April Hot & Dry
As you can see from the low level still water which has been clear down from mud and sand condensation.
Pai District has several rivers. The Pai river is the main river with six other small rivers originated from the same mountain range.
The river water have been water sources for living and farming of the people here.
Pai River flows from Pai District through Mae Hong Son until it meets Salween River in Burma.
Rainy seasons cause floods to Pai District. The latest serious flood was in 2005.
Pai is a town in the Mae Hong Soon Province of northern Thailand. It sits in a valley on the banks of the Pai River. It's known for its nearby gorges, hot springs like the Tha Pai Hot Spring and waterfalls like Mo Paeng Waterfall. Downtown, food stalls and handicraft shops line Pai Walking Street. West of town lies Baan Santichon, a traditional Chinese village with clay houses and eateries serving Yunnan cuisine.
The downtown of Pai District has changed to tourism town since the early
Almost all resident living in down town are having some form of tourism related business.
Recent tourist types had become more various and had more number of private mass tourists (both foreign and Thais) in the area.
The growth and changing in Pai District tourism configuration had gradually occurred since 1999 but Pai District was developed into significantly important and nationwide tourist destinations after the broadcast of movies and media after 2006.
The new type of tourist was more attracted on diverse activities providing in
this era, such as Thai boxing training, yoga, cooking course or night life
Al-Israa Mosque in Pai
... whose speakers fill the town with the call to prayer several times a day.
Motorcycle for rent at 100 Baht a day
Pai is a small town with motorcycle rental service that you can rent to explore the landscape on your own!
Bicycle rental is also available at 50 Baht a day but less popular then motorcycle. You just have to walk around and ask where to get one.
Improved Road Surfaces
Road surfaces have improved now to sightseeing areas such as villages, water falls, hot spring and canyon. With a rented motorcycle, tourists be able to go to these attractions by themselves.
Most tourists to Pai today do not use guide in order to reduce expense. Thus the importance of trekking guide role has decreased
PAI BUS STATION
Pai Bus Station is a small station located in the centre of Pai town. This is the terminal for mini-buses (converted vans) to and from Chiang Mai. The ticket booth is on the left hand side.
Many restaurants alone the road around the bus station.
Pai Bus Station is at the centre of Walking Street (Night Market)
Taxi Cabs/Songthaews/Tuk-Tuks driving on the street aren’t common in Pai.
Pai was featured in two popular Thai-made romantic movies,
1- Movie : The Letter จดหมายรัก Jod Mai Rak 2004
2- Movie : The Memory รักจัง Ruk Jung 2006
After the two movies, Thai tourists to Pai began catching up in numbers since 2006. Prior to 2006, only western foreign tourists predominated.
During high season, Thai and foreign tourist numbers swell to the point that Pai experiences traffic jams, as well as shortages of electricity, water, and petrol.
The impact of the two movies on Pai showed there were three tourism model in
The first one was constructed in 1980s as ethnic tourism expanding from
tourism in Chiang Mai. After the area had been named in tourist guidebooks, the
number of backpackers in the area had increased and they began to build their
own community inside the area. The dense networks of these backpackers provided
new norms and vision on Pai District. In this tourism configuration, Pai
District was defined as the destination for relaxation and enjoying live music,
international foods, and nature. Pai town, the center of the district, gradually
turned into a hub for backpackers in 1990s.
In 2006, Pai District was used as a location for Thai romantic-comedy movie.
The image of Pai District was shaped by the movie‘s story line which impacted
Thais‘ perspectives on the destination.
After that, Pai District has been focused by domestic tourists as the
romantic destination and the number of domestic tourists in the area was
incredible increased. The new tourism configuration was constructed by having
Thai tourists as focal actors.
A small Lychees fruit garden in Santichon Village
From Poppy fields to Lychees garden
In 1989 there were new Chinese people migrated to the Santichon Village to plant Litchi fruits.
These Yunan Chinese people has connection with drug producers in golden triangle area and eventually they became middle mem in drug dealing.
Traffickers used Santichon Village as distribution center of drug trading and created drug problems in Pai District and Thailand as a whole.
The high profit of drug dealing also made other poor hill tribe people Lisu Villages got involved.
The situation was serious in the late 1990s and Santichon Village and some others hill areas in Pai District became warning zones of government.
The drug business was quite underground activities thus it did not affect the increasing numbers of tourists to Pai town.
In fact, many international backpackers came to Pai to use cheap opium.
Tourists come here for costumed outdoor photography
China Town of
Santichon Village (Ban Santichon's China Town or Yunnan Chinese Cultural Centre)
Pai District used to be a backpacker hub 20 years ago, by now has progress from rural area trekking to a destination for filmic mass tourists.
A popular tourist attraction, which has more than 1,000 Chinese hill-tribe
The popular dishes in the restaurant in Culture Centre – braised pork’s leg with Chinese bread. Support the community by buying local souvenirs. Take a horse ride for sightseeing.
Mud houses for two are for rent at Bt1,000 per house, two-bed houses for four at Bt1,500 and six-bed houses for 12 people is at Bt4,000.
The fall of Local Trekking Tour
Since 2000 Trekking tourism in Pai District started to decline because changes in hill tribe villages.
The hill tribe villages nearby Pai District had changed through economic, transportation and communication development in the area. Their lifestyle became closer to modern lifestyle of having electricity, television, and house architecture.
Thus, the quality in term of trekking tour was drop and decreased impression of foreign tourists usually wanted to see something more under developed.
This situation made the incentive explorer tourists left Pai District and went to the new emerging trekking destination in other countries, such as Laos and Vietnam.
Guest houses with local architecture style
Guest houses with local architecture style are backpackers's perception on Pai District.
Village houses were built with bamboo, grass Tong Teung leaves from tropical tree Gloriosa Superba L.
This style of guest houses are lowcost in construction, suited to local culture and nature, and also provided satisfaction for tourists who wanted to change from their normal life in concreat city to experience the rural lifestyle close to nature.
There were two types of tourists came to visit Pai District :
1- Organized mass tourists
2- Explorer tourists
Both organized mass tourist groups defined Pai District as non-interested destination that had a few sightseeing attractions, and did not focus Pai District as the main destination. On the other hand, the explorer tourists saw Pai District as the destination that provided authentic culture and nature. Therefore, these two types of tourists had different practices while they were in the destination. The first left after having their break or lunch, but the latter tried to stay longer and created relations with local people. Moreover, the number of organized tourist groups was higher and had more power of purchasing than explorer tourist group. Therefore, tourism development and promotion policy of government focused on Mae Hong Son, the main district, more than Pai District, Thus, Pai District was translated by relations between explorer tourists and local people only.
Thom's Elephant Camp, Pai
Before the law announced in 1921 that capturing wide elephants was against the law, Pai District was the area where wild elephants roam about.. That time, Thom‘s family business was taking the wild elephant from the nearby forest, then training them for work in transportation and pulling logs and timbers in the wood cutting business.
In 1921, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) decreed in the Wild Elephant Protection Act that all wild elephants were the property of the government, to be managed by the Department of the Interior as the King's representative.
In 1992, The Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, protects wild elephants, but excludes registered draught animals.
Since the 1980s, Pai trekking agencies used the same four main activities as
those in Chiang Mai with :
2- Visiting hill tribe villages
3- Bamboo rafting
4- Elephant riding
The hills surrounding Pai are lovely scenic landscapes for hiking. This area has hosted organised treks for decades now.
Visiting hill tribe villages
Advice when visiting hill tribe villages near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Thailand.
Leisurely ride down the scenic Pai River in a unique bamboo raft
Life of Pai, one of Thailand’s most pleasant places
1889 photo of a Shan woman
By Felice Beato (1832 - 1909)
At the beginning of 20th Century, Pai was still a small agricultural village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism. At the very beginning Pai was only a stopover points for tour groups on the way to Mae Hong Son. The tranquility of this village was discovered by the Hippies of the 1960s who made Pai one of the heavenly remote escape from modern world. Then in 1980s Pai appeared in Lonely Planet Travelers Survival Guide. Western backpackers eventually turned Pai into a backpackers hub in Northern Thailand. Then 2004 and 2006 local Thai movie makers used Pai's scenic locations as background setting for romantic stories of young city lovers. Almost instantly, Pai became Bangkok city young people's destination for romantic holiday experience. A place for tons of essential Facebook snaps upload. 2010 onward young adventurous Chinese from Mainland China began to arrive in small group.
Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, Pai town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In the environs of the town are spas and elephant camps.
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