Yet another two wheeled road trip!
After conquering the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam, riding across Bali to discover waterfalls and braving the island roads of Nusa Penida and Koh Tao, we had yet another daunting scooter ride on our list for northern Thailand: the infamous 762 curve trip up route 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai. Our reasoning was quite simple really, we had decent experience on a motorbike and had heard too many horror stories from people who had done this vomit inducing trip by minibus to attempt it any other way.
We rented our trusty steed at BedBike Motorbike Rental in Chiang Mai, a rental location we would highly recommend for its fair prices (1000 THB for a one week rental), good bikes and super friendly staff. The 125cc Italjet got us to Pai in just over three hours without a single hiccup! Here are some things we think you should keep in mind if you’re planing on attempting this trip yourself.
- If you aren’t 100% comfortable on a scooter, you’ll regret trying this road trip: The 762 curves, many of them on steep inclines, all in less than 150km are no joke.
- Fill up your tank before turning off on the 1095: Once you’ve passed this turn off, petrol stations are few and far between, so best to top up before reaching this point.
- Leave early: You’ll avoid traffic getting out of Chiang Mai and avoid the busiest part of the day on the 1095. We left just before 7:30 AM and had barely any cars passing us on the way to Pai.
- Wear helmets: Duh.
48 hours in Pai
We’re usually pretty good at doing our research before heading off to a new city, this wasn’t the case for Pai. Having spent a great deal of time looking into the logistics of getting ourselves there with our own wheels, we got to our destination without a clue what was actually waiting for us when we arrived!
It’s safe to say what we did find we fell in love with straight away. First off, the scenery is simply incredible. Pai is surrounded by rice fields and mountains on all sides. We were there in late January, and though the rice paddies were all dried up there was beautiful colors in the trees which much reminded us of autumn back home in Canada. The food is so tasty with great cheap backpacker friendly spots and incredible vegetarian / vegan options as well.
Two of our friends from home were in Pai with us for about 24h hours and we managed to get quite a bit done during that time together: visiting the Pai Canyon, hiking up to the big buddha, seeing the Pam Bok waterfalls and catching up over good food. The weekend started off incredibly well as we got upgraded to a suite (from a dorm!) upon arriving at our hotel, the Jikko Harem Pai, which is the first time that’s ever happened to us! Although now we can’t give you a recommendation on the dorms where we were supposed to stay, we can definitely say that the suite is a really nice treat, without forgetting that anyone staying there can take advantage of their amazing decor for some awesome Instagram content.
On our first day, we climbed the steps to the big buddha in the midday sun and were treated to beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. We were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for a while, which meant we could just sit and admire the views peacefully. We then headed to the Pai Canyon for sunset. After hiking up and down some very sketchy sandy paths, we found a spot to enjoy sunset and all sat there in awe. We ended the night at a restaurant/bar on the walking street, singing along to some live music and catching up with our friends.
The next morning we got back onto the scooters to drove down to Pam Bok waterfall which is about a thirty minute drive plus a five minute walk out of town. The water was absolutely frigid, as it gets quite cold in Pai during the nights, so none of us braved the jump off the rocks into the falls, but we still enjoyed it very much. Keep in mind that during dry season, there isn’t much water flowing through the falls but we still think it’s worth a visit!
We then had a delicious brunch at Bom Bowls, where you can create your own smoothie bowls with tons of ridiculous toppings at a very reasonable price (bowls start at 100 Baht, extra toppings 20-40 Baht ea.). After bidding farewell to our friends, we spent a relaxing afternoon catching up on some editing and writing before grabbing supper at another highly recommended spot: Charlie And Lek’s. This is basically everything you want in a local Thai restaurant with great prices, mouth watering curries and fabulous staff.
The second morning, before packing up our things to drive back to Chiang Mai, we got up to witness the sunrise over the Pai Canyon. This turned out to be a great choice as we got there just in time to see the sun creep over the mountains and the sea of clouds over the valleys below us, a sight we won’t soon forget. Making the extra effort to come back to a same spot with the hope of better conditions is oh so important if you’re hoping to improve your photography and we learned while travelling that it will pay off more times than not. Our last stop in Pai was Coffee In Love, a really cute place located off the main road with the amazing views over the valleys and some really pretty flower fields that made for some great photos! Do be warned that this place will get crowded with tourists in the middle of the day as it’s a stop on many organized tours.
To sum it up, there wasn’t a single thing we did in Pai that we wouldn’t whole heartedly recommend. This leaves us with the impression that we either got really lucky, or that this little Thai village is simply a paradise for backpackers, so we’ll just say you should make the trip as soon as possible and decide for yourself! Don’t forget to share this post with your friends if you liked it!