Pai is the main tourist centre in Mae Hong Son, Thailands remote North West province, and ideally suited to receive and entertain foreigners. It has a population of about 3000 who, at peak times, are heavily outnumbered by tourists, mainly backpackers (for whom Pai is almost a compulsory stop) and the more adventurous Thai and foreign tourists who have braved the minibus ride through the mountains.
Pai acts as a hub for activities and excursions, such as trekking (usually with an overnight stay at a hill tribe village), elephant riding, caving, rafting, off-road driving / motorcycling and visiting waterfalls, temples, hill tribes etc. The favourite way to get around for most is to rent a small motorcycle for about 80 Baht ($2.50US) per day or 2,000 Baht per month.
Pai contains a multitude of restaurants and bars, all very reasonably priced (modest meal for two about 100 Baht), many market stalls selling local food and goods, and shops selling any supplies you are really likely to need. Even a few small supermarkets! Of particular note are stalls run by local hill tribe people selling clothing, handicrafts, fruit etc.
As you would expect in Thailand, the town also boasts a number of beautiful Buddhist temples housing monks.
Of particular note is the night market which takes place on the walking street every night of the year. Stalls line both sides of the roads and a few of the side streets. Many local artists offer their work for sale as well as hill tribe people selling their tribal craft work, and an entire section of the market devoted to food and drink. Strolling down the walking street in the evening is one of Pai’s most popular activities.
Pai acts as a hub for activities and excursions, for example, trekking (often with an overnight stay at a hill tribe village), elephant riding, caving, rafting, off-road driving / motorcycling and visiting waterfalls, temples, hill tribes etc.
The Pai district is popular with tourists because there is so much to do here. We take two days off each week to rest and recover from hard training which provides an ideal opportunity to explore the local area. Hence a stay at our retreat can be a holiday as well as a training experience.
The seasons in Pai are quite distinct and vary as follows:
November – January
Winter season. Usually dry although occasional rain is possible. Warm in middle of day and afternoon. Night time cold enough to require hat and scarf. Mist hangs on the mountains later in the mornings than at other times of the year. Views in the morning amazing! This is the most popular season in Pai with tourists and the town tends to be relatively busy. Good for training as it is not too hot.
February – April.
Hot season. Very dry. Daytime becoming progressively hotter, peaking in mid-April (Songkran, Thai new year). Air cooler at night and before about 10.00am, middle of the day is hot. Land tends to look a bit dusty and at its least, green. Can get smoky from farming activity. Pai is at its least attractive at this time of year. The Thai Water Festival takes place in mid-April and can be a very fun experience.
May – June.
Early rainy season. Occasional rain. Air a little more humid. Daytime can be cooler if there is cloud cover but hot if there is a clear spell, nighttime warmer because of higher humidity. Land begins to turn beautifully green. Clouds often sit on the mountains creating awesome views.
July – August.
Peak rainy season: about half of the days will see some rain but may only be for a short time. Rivers and streams at their highest, waterfalls most impressive. Temperatures moderated by cloud cover and humidity. Training will often have to take place under cover. Plants at their most green and lush. Training aided by high humidity which seems to make the body more pliable and fresh, invigorating chi which comes together with the rain. Arguably the best time of year to come.
September – October.
Late rainy season. Rains dying down but the land still beautifully green, streams and rivers full. Warm and humid. Can be hot if no cloud cover. Views still awesome. A very popular time.
November to January dry, hot in the day but cool at night. Most popular time of year to visit Pai. Perfect if you do not like rain.
June to October rainy, but not every day. Humid. Not too hot in the daytime, warm but not hot at night. Views at their best, particularly later in the rainy season.
February to April hot and dry.
May intermediate between hot season and rainy season.