Pai is becoming an increasingly popular tourism
destination, renowned for its tranquility and its beauty in all seasons.
pagoda that is more than 100 years old.
Visitors also come in search of the culture of this area,
with its ethnic Tai tribes living a timeless Burmese lifestyle. There are
Moslem villages and other tribes people, all living amongst the beautiful
mountain scenery that tourists sometimes compare to the Swiss countryside.
Visiting Pai by the land route is to travel a road that
reputedly has more curves than any other in Thailand. This road itself has
become something of an attraction for tourists. It is said that a monk
wanted to know how many curves there were on the road to Pai, so he took
tamarind seeds and from the taxi window he threw out one seed every time
they took a curve. At the end of the journey he found that 1,864 seeds were
gone, and that is the figure now generally accepted as the total curves on
the Pai highway.
Pai started to become better known in 2002, when several
tour agents added the city to their programs. Consequently, more Thais and
foreigners now visit Pai, adding up to several hundred thousand each year.
Sometimes, guesthouse capacity is insufficient for the influx. More
accommodation has been built, and coffee shops, restaurants ands bars have
also sprung up. Many of the business owners - about 30 percent, according to
local figures - are foreigners who have married into the local hill tribes
and decided to stay in this beautiful region.
bridge constructed in World War Two.
One very good business for the local people is the hiring
out of motorcycles and bicycles. You can rent an ordinary bike or a mountain
bike. Jamrad Krua-on, 59, owner of a bicycle rental shop, said that he
started his business 30 years ago. At first many people laughed at him,
saying that no one would want a bike, for the few tourists that did visit
Pai wanted to hire cars. After 15 years, however, Jamrad’s business was so
successful that people began to copy him, and the number of bicycle rental
shops now seems to increase in ratio to the increase in tourists.
Krua-on, 59, owner of a bicycle rental shop in Pai, Mae Hong Son.
Currently, about 50 customers a day rent bikes from
Jamrad’s shop, which earns him about 2,000 baht a day during the high
season. He is nonetheless worried about the flooding, which is having a
negative effect on tourism. Jamrad points out that the floods have not been
as bad in that area as many people believe, and he hopes everything will get
back to normal quickly.
The most popular trip for a day’s cycling is from Pai
city to the Maw Paeng Waterfall, bypassing farms and hill tribe villages.
The journey is about 10 kilometers but if anyone wishes to travel further to
see the hot springs a car is recommended.
Souvenirs and used books
are for sale and exchange.
There are many attractive temples that travelers can
visit, several of historical and architectural interest, repositories for
Tai tribal art and tradition. Some are centuries old, such as Wat Klang and
Nam Hoo temples. Both are very symbolic of the Tai tribe people and culture.
beer bars have been set up to serve visitors.
The night market is another great attraction, with its
local foods and products and handicrafts. In recent times small eating
places and bars have opened specifically to cater to Western tastes, for
those who find the local food something of a mystery.
During World War Two, Pai district was used as a transfer
point for Japanese troops and equipment, and the Japanese left behind them a
strong iron bridge that although it is not used today is very much a
tourists ordering local food.
Visit Pai, and you are traveling to a place that, although more people
are getting there now, is still less traveled than most. Now is a good time.
for rent that need to be serviced before release to tourists again.
building under construction to serve tourists during high season.
hill tribe sells handmade products on the wayside.
natural atmosphere in Pai.