A small town tucked away in a picturesque valley in the Mae Hong Soon province of northern Thailand. It’s become a bit of a hot spot for backpackers looking beyond the city of Chiang Mai to the mountains, hot springs and waterfalls. Some have compared it to Khao San Road as there is a party scene, but I don’t think it’s quite there yet.
Most of Pai’s attractions are out of the main town so book a tour or hire a bike.
Best visited in early morning or late afternoon when it’s not too hot, the canyon offers beautiful views.
Doi Kiew Lom View Point
It was completely cloudy when I visited
Bamboo Rafting through Tham Lod Cave
Take a guided tour through three cave chambers on foot and by bamboo raft.
Conserve Natural Forest
Hidden in the hills just outside Pai town is Conservative Natural Forest. The project aims to restore and protect Thailand’s ecosystem. As Thailand has developed, thousands of trees have been cut down meaning many species are now endangered. On site you’ll plant a tree in the tree nursery to help reforest the area.
The project has also rescued two pregnant elephants from the riding camps, where they carried tourists for 8 hours a day. I was shocked to learn that elephants will be extinct within the next 70 years as there hasn’t been enough done to protect them. Many are killed for their ivory and hundreds still live horrendous lives in riding camps. I’ve seen some places advertising elephant rides without seats as more friendly, but even if you’re not sitting on one of the little seats the elephant still isn’t free to do what they want.
Removing elephants from the forests has also upset the delicate ecosystems, causing unchecked growth of dominant plant species and a reduction in overall seed dispersal. The projects long term goal is to reunite elephants with the ecosystems that need them. To do this the elephants need to learn how to forage and care for themselves in a safe environment. Once confident enough the plan is to release them into a wildlife sanctuary.
At Conserve Natural Forest you can feed the elephants fruit and gave them a bath in the river. Once you’re out of the water warm up by the fire with a big bowl of noodles (30B) and watch them wondering around. The experience was absolutely incredible and I would encourage anyone who wants to see elephants to do it here.
You can book through their website and they will tell you where to go to be collected.
Three to Four hours in a mini bus from Chiang Mai on windy mountain roads
Nearest airport is Chiang Mai
Visited November 2016