It was a dark and stormy night, when four adventurers set off to conquer the 762 harrowing bends on the steep and winding road from Chiang Mai to Pai. They were armed with safety gear and a sense of determination, but they knew this might be the last…
Just kidding, it was like 10am on a beautiful morning and who’s to say how adventurous we really are. There ARE 762 turns on the road from Chiang Mai to Pai though and they are indeed harrowing.
Chances are if you’re hanging out in Chiang Mai, you’ll eventually want to take the four(ish) hour trip up north to Pai. Pai is a beautiful, chill little hippy town tucked away in the mountains of Northern Thailand. It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai and a must visit while you’re here.
That being said, there are 3 ways to get from Chiang Mai to Pai, assuming we discount walking (ain’t nobody got time fa’ dat), hitchhiking (ain’t nobody’s momma got nerves fa’ dat) and flying (we classy but we ain’t rich.)
*Okay that’s enough “ain’ts” for this post and the rest of my life
ANYWAY- 3 WAYS FROM CHIANG MAI TO PAI LET ME AT ‘EM
At your own risk, my fellow devils of dare. Route 1095 takes you from the north of Chiang Mai to Pai and proudly boasts 762 turns on the way. The drive is mostly uphill, extremely windy and definitely not for noobies on a bike. If you’re an experienced driver and the weather is nice, a motorbike might be the way to go. Just prepare for a sore bum because it takes around four hours to get there.
Also, if you have a lot of stuff (like a huge, full backpack), this probably isn’t your best bet since it can be a little hard to maneuver a bike with a giant pack. Be super careful on the drive and hug the curves tight, and if it starts to rain, I would suggest pulling over and going super slow so as to avoid eating shit/ face planting/ busting thy ass like I so gracefully did.
I haven’t taken the bus but I have heard horror stories. Bus drivers drive notoriously fast in Thailand, whether it’s on a flat, straight road or spiraling up a mountain. They zoom up and down and basically every curve you go around, you feel like the bus is going to tumble over off a cliff. Imagine that 762 times.
Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to said the bus trip from Chiang Mai to Pai is awful and they ended up car sick, but if the weather is crap or you have a lot of stuff, I suppose there is no other option. It’s also the cheapest. I say take some drugs (legal, you savage!), hope for the best and chalk it up as an experience.
Rent a Car
This is what we did and yes thank you, we are indeed geniuses. Four of us split a car and drove ourselves from Chiang Mai to Pai. The drive was beautiful and not nearly as scary as I imagine it would have been on a bike or in a bus, our friend Zack was also an awesome driver which helped.
We plugged in our tunes, stopped whenever we needed to and sat back and enjoyed the ride. I highly recommend this option if you can afford it and if it makes sense on your itinerary. For four days with a new, well equipped sedan of sorts (What kind of car was it, Alexa? Uh… Black). It cost us 3,000 baht or around $20 per person. Worth it!
Once you get to Pai and finish puking your brains out, here are some awesome things to do while you’re in the area:
I had never done this before and was so glad I did, what a great way to let off some steam. This place was very welcoming to beginners but was also challenging for a friend who’s been practicing for seven years. Go to the early morning class to breathe fresh air and kick some ass.
Go to the Canyon
Located about 8km down along the road to Chiang Mai is an awesome elevated trail on rock cliffs with beautiful views over the mountains and valley. Be prepared with decent shoes (or go barefoot, like this monkey did) as parts of the climb and descent are definitely challenging.
DO SOME MUSHROOMS
I mean, if that’s your thing. Find a safe environment and people you feel comfortable with and head to Sunset Cafe to gulp down a mushroom shake. I’m not sure what the laws are but I’m assuming it’s legal since the shake is on the menu. Consult the status of your psyche before playing with the fungus among us.
Visit the White Buddha
GET LEGS on the climb to the White Buddha on your trip from Chiang Mai to Pai. The huge statue of Buddha sits atop a mountain, at the end of a seemingly never ending staircase. Once you get there though, you are graced with a beautiful view of the valley.
Do yoga/ meditate/ other crunchy shit
Pai is the place to do some yoga on a rock, find your inner self and eat vegan food. The community here is very artsy, holistic and full of dreadlocks. Have some juice, settle into lotus pose and find your third eye.
CRUISE AROUND THE MOUNTAINS ON MOTORBIKES
Northern Thailand is an absolute gem and in my opinion, there is no better way to explore it than on motorbikes in the fresh air with some of your favorite people. Rent a motorbike for about 100 baht (although you might splurge for a 140 baht bike, so as not to flirt with death) and get lost in nature.
I hope your trip from Chiang Mai to Pai is more pleasant than vomit inducing and I know you’ll have a great time in this peaceful little getaway in the mountains. 10/10 would visit again
Are you thinking of making the trek from Chiang Mai to Pai? Have you already been? Did you puke your guts out? Tell me your stories in the comments!
*** All photos by the beautiful Mel at IF YOU WANNA GO, JUST GO
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