Guide to Chiang Mai and Pai in Northern Thailand
After spending the past couple of months working and living in Bali, I was so excited when The Tourism Authority of Thailand reached out to me for a press trip. I'd never been to Thailand before and an opportunity to explore Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai and Koh Samui was a total dream! A blog post will be coming soon on Koh Samui, but I wanted to use this blog post to highlight two of my favorite destinations – Chiang Mai and Pai in Northern Thailand.
Unlike Southern Thailand, you won’t find any seaside beaches or particularly tropical vibes in the North. Instead, expect to discover impressive mountain ranges, unreal waterfalls and lush jungles.
Here’s the perfect itinerary for visiting Chiang Mai and Pai:
Being that Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand’s largest city and is an easy hour-long flight from Bangkok, it's an absolute must-visit on your Thailand adventure.
Where to Stay
When visiting Chiang Mai, I recommend staying at Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai. The luxury resort is spread out over 60 acres and includes stunning gardens, massive pools, glamorous villas, and an incredible spa. When at Dhara Dhevi, I highly recommend getting a massage treatment. The masseuses use Eastern medicine to understand your ailments and target the precise spots on your hands & feet that will ease them. I get frequent migraines and the masseuse knew exactly what to do.
Where to Eat
If you want to enjoy delicious and authentic Northern Thai food, make sure visit to Baan Rai Yam Yen. The open-air restaurant is incredibly popular among locals, including the royal family, and was even featured on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown. So, you know it's good!
Top Things to Do
It's definitely not possible to visit all 300+ of Chiang Mai’s temples in a few days, so there are a handful you should definitely check out during your trip to the city. Wat Chiang Man, located in the heart of the city, is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple and is home to two Buddha statues that are 1,000 to over 2,000 years old.
Wat Suan Dok, in the city’s west end, is also stunningly beautiful. It's actually a burial site, so all of those white structures are the graves of royal Thai people.
Paying Wat Phra That Doi Suthep a visit is a must as well. From the foot of the temple’s Naga Serpent staircase to the tip of its chedi, the sacred temple is just beautiful. Its location on top of Mount Suthep just outside of the city provides visitors with an incredible bird’s-eye view of Chiang Mai.
To discover some of Chiang Mai’s cutest cafes and one-of-a-kind boutiques, wander around the trendy Nimmanhaemin Neighborhood.
If your stay in Chiang Mai includes a Sunday night, visit the city’s Sunday Night Market. The weekly market goes from 4:00 pm – 12:00 am and is set up along Ratchadamnoen Road (starting at the Tha Phae Gate). The market, also called Sunday Walking Street, is known for selling handmade, local handicrafts.
Once considered a “hidden gem,” Pai today is a hotspot for backpackers, yoga fans, and adventure seekers. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, the small town’s location in the North is nothing short of picturesque. This is contrasted with a great nighttime party scene because of all of the Western tourists. At the same time, it’s known for its party scene and westernized feel. But when you combine Pai’s location with its reputation, you’re in for some unexpected and amazing experiences.
From the get-go, the journey from Chiang Mai to Pai is quite an adventure. The town is a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. The journey is scenic, but it’s also famous for having 792 curves – a car ride that would make even the strongest stomach nauseous. Bring that Dramamine!!!
Where to Stay
When in Pai, be sure to book a stay at Reverie Siam. From the hotel’s charming and eclectic decor to its stone saltwater pool and homemade natural bath products, Reverie Siam’s commitment to unique luxury can be seen in every detail. With its location by the Pai river and idyllic mountain views, Reverie Siam feels like a little slice of paradise and honestly, very home-y.
Where to Eat
Whether you stay at Reverie Siam or not, I definitely recommend eating at the hotel’s Silhouette Bar and Restaurant. They serve delicious Spanish tapas (a cuisine that is found very rarely in Thailand) and, since the owner is a sommelier, they also have a wonderful selection of international wines.
If you're looking for a organic, vegan dishes, check out Pai's Earth Tone Cafe. Their food is so yum and they also sell raw baked goods to-go.
Top Things to Do
Go for stroll down Pai’s Walking Street. Evenings are the best time to go since that’s when the street turns into a lively Night Market. On the east side of Pai, you can visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen (the temple on the hill). The temple is home to a beautiful and HUGE white Buddha statue, and you can catch a panoramic view of Pai up there too!
Just outside of Pai, there's an endless list of outdoor sights and attractions. For a relaxing walk, head over to the Boon Ko Ku So Bridge. The bamboo bridge is more than 2,000 feet long and stretches out over vibrant green rice fields. It is genuinely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to and an incredible spot to take in Pai's natural beauty!
There are also waterfalls in the area, like Pam Bok and Mo Paeng. Some of them even have natural waterslides.
To experience more of Northern Thailand’s incredible outdoors, go for a hike up to the Pai Canyon. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Pai valley and a gorgeous sunset if you stick around until dusk. Just over an hour’s drive beyond Pai, you can also raft through the Tham Lod Cave.
Have you ever been to Thailand? What are some of your favorite places? If not, where would you want to go? Share them in the comments!
To see all of my photos from Thailand, be sure to check out my Instagram.
(Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. As always, all opinions are my own).
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