Spend enough time in northern Thailand and eventually you’ll hear the comparisons between Pai (ปาย) and Bangkok’s Khao San Road. Although the comparisons are definitely a stretch, over the last decade the small town has started to resemble something of a Thai island getaway – without the beaches. Guesthouses appear to outnumber private residences in the ‘downtown’ area, a trekking agency or restaurant is never more than a few steps away and the nights buzz with the sound of live music and partying.
Despite all this, the town’s popularity has yet to negatively impact its nearly picture-perfect setting in a mountain valley. There’s heaps of quiet accommodation outside the main drag, a host of natural, lazy activities to keep visitors entertained and a vibrant art scene. And the town’s Shan roots can still be seen in its temples, quiet backstreets and fun afternoon market.