Pai is a small town in Northern Thailand located in the Mae Hong Son Province. You may have heard of the comparisons between Bangkok’s infamous Khao San Road and Pai. Despite having a similar heavy backpacker presence, Pai is a bit more chilled out than Khao San Road. The small town has a festival-esque vibe and is filled with harem trousers and topless travellers on motorbikes. Having said that, Pai is a beautiful tucked away town surrounded by mountainous views and kind, yet hipster, Thai’s.
If you can stomach the three-hour winding bus journey from Chiang Mai to Pai, it’s a great spot to explore and meet many fellow travellers.
Pai has a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants for a range of budgets. You can’t walk down the street without spotting a café serving an indescribable amount of herbal teas. What’s not to love?
Where to eat?
Plernpai Vegetarian Cafe
An entirely vegetarian cafe with a number of vegan options, Plernpai Vegetarian Cafe serves delicious and fresh dishes that you will fall in love with. Ranging from smoothies to buddha bowls and burritos, this spot can satisfy any craving. The cafe is a short walk from the main town and is easily accessible. It’s a bit more expensive than other places but a great treat.
Chew Xin Jai
This vegetarian restaurant is as local as it gets. Either choose from the menu or order from the buffet available. The restaurant is labelled as vegetarian on a sign outside the restaurant, this looks a bit like the number 17. The best budget restaurant around and the food is great - perfect for those on a tight budget. Lots of fake meats available and offers a range of curries.
Charlie and Lek
With vegetarian and vegan options available, there's a selection of Thai dishes which can all be served with brown rice. You can also sit in The Pai Pub, on the opposite side of the road, and order from the restaurant. Now, that’s a service.
Art in Chai
Tea, tea and more tea is what you will find at Art in Chai. A very relaxed atmosphere with plenty of vegan options. As well as vegan baked goods you can also find veggie burgers and a vegan breakfast. Not the cheapest one to visit but worth a go, particularly if you’re a tea fanatic.
OM Garden Café
A popular and cozy garden cafe that attracts a lot of visitors. Offering vegan and vegetarian options such as salads, soups and juices. A lovely atmosphere but the cost stacks up pretty quickly here, especially if you're on a budget.
Where to go?
Walking Street is right in the centre of Pai and is only small but you can end up walking around for hours. The strip comes alive as the sun goes down and well into the evening. You can find little trinkets and homemade gifts as well as a large amount of street food vendors. A must-see for any visitor in Pai.
The Land Split
This is an odd one but the land split itself is not why you should go. After you walk up a little incline to see the split, you come back down to the bottom where you’re served homemade juice, wine and fruits from the lovely family that look after the place. It’s all free of charge. The genuinely nice chap serving the food is the reason to go. Lovely food and even greater company. If you rent a bike for the day, this little stop won't take up much of your day but will remain with you for all the right reasons.
Pam Bok Waterfalls
A small but still delightful waterfall. Easy to get to on a bike and a lovely view. You can dive into the water as well, super cold but very refreshing.
Mary Jane Café
The Mary Jane Cafe can be located across the river running through the town. If you walk past Edible Jazz Garden Cafe you'll come across a bridge to get to the Cafe. The Cafe has live performances with some excellent reggae talent. A very relaxed environment with lots of seating and hammocks.
Edible Jazz Garden Cafe
You can probably guess, Edible Jazz has some of the best Jazz performances in Pai. The open garden cafe is filled with hammocks and benches, offering an extensive list of cocktails. The music performed here is an absolute must visit for nightlife. On a Sunday evening, there's an open mic night that’s great to watch.