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10 Fun, Cheap, & Free Things to Do in Pai Thailand

10 Fun, Cheap, & Free Things to Do in Pai Thailand

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Are you looking for the top 10 things to do in Pai Thailand for free?

Of course, you are. Pai is the quintessential hub for stingy budget backpackers escaping Chiang Mai. Consequently, most visitors are as tight in their pockets as their elephant pants are on their behinds!

While I don’t wear elephant pants (damn they’re comfortable though), I did seek out the best attractions and things to do in Pai that didn’t cost a cent, I guess that makes me a stingy backpacker too!

Fun Things to Do in Pai Thailand For Free

There are plenty of things to do in Pai, and even the activities that do cost money are cheap.

1. Mae Yen Waterfall Hike

My favorite hike in Pai was the Mae Yen Waterfall Hike. The trail picks up in the jungle only a short distance from the center of Pai and leads through dense jungle and banana plantations.

In total, this hike takes around 4 hours return but is relatively flat and easy for most people. You'll cross dozens of rivers along the way, so make sure you prepare to get your feet wet!

Although not as impressive as Khun Korn in the neighboring region of Chiang Rai it is still worth the visit when in Pai, and guess what, there's no entrance fee!

Mae yen waterfall pai thailand
Best hike in Pai: Mae Yen Waterfall Hike

2. Stroll Down the Night Market

You'll find the night market on nearly all of the other lists of Top 10 Things to do in Pai Thailand. That's because Pai's Walking Street is one of the best in all of Thailand. Here, you'll undoubtedly struggle to not spend any of your precious Baht, since the street is filled with delicious Thai street food.

However, even if you are feeling stingy, the vibe at Pai's Walking Street at night is energetic and is definitely the place to be after the sunsets.

Location: Rural Rd Mae Hong Son

Pai walking street night market

3. Rent a Motorbike and Explore

If you don't rent a motorbike in Pai, then you're doing it wrong. By far, the best way to see Pai and the outskirts is to rent a motorbike and explore by yourself.

Okay, you can't rent a motorbike in Pai for free, but you'll find them all through the main town for cheap. Per day, a motorbike costs 200-250 Baht, so don't be fooled into paying more.

Once you've got your two wheels, hit the road without a plan, or pin some attractions from this list.

A brama cow in pai
Top 10 things to do in pai, rent a motorbike

4. Visit the Big White Buddha on the Hill

Do you see that big white Buddha statue on the hill? It's called Wat Phra That Mae Yen, and it's one of Pai's resident Buddhist temples.

Visiting Wat Phra That Mae Yen is free, and you'll find plenty of other travelers and backpackers here at sunset, which makes it a great spot to meet like-minded adventurers.

If you visit in the morning, you'll most likely find fewer people, most of whom will be meditating at the foot of the white Buddha. Funnily enough, the only people I saw were Farangs.

GPS Coordinates: 19.35015, 98.45463

Big white buddha on the hill in pai

5. Watch the Sunset at Pai Canyon

I was pretty surprised to find out that I was able to add Pai Canyon to this list of 10 things to do in Pai for free. This place is incredibly popular, especially for sunset, and still, no one is charging a cent to visit it.

Pai Canyon, or Kong Lan, is apparently referenced as Thailand's Grand Canyon. However, this is a little more than a slight exaggeration. The canyons have been formed by continuous erosion over several centuries.

While it can't really be compared to the canyon in Arizona, the Pai Canyon is still an impressive spot to watch the sunset and hang out with other budget travelers.

GPS Coordinates: 19.30613, 98.4525

Pai canyon, thailand

6. Stop By Yun Lai Viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint is a great spot to watch sunrise or sunset in Pai. The viewpoint is located on top of a hill approximately 15 minutes from the center of Pai.

Unfortunately, to get to the official viewpoint, you'll have to pay 20 Baht, so it's cheap. However, if you'd prefer to stick to a completely gratis itinerary, you can enjoy pretty much the same view at the cafe just before the Yun Lai Viewpoint.

GPS Coordinates: 19.36903, 98.39538

Yun lai viewpoint in pai for free

7. Drive to Ban Santichon (Chinese Village)

For those with a motorbike looking for more things to do in Pai for free, the Ban Santichon (Chinese Village) is a worthwhile addition to your spontaneous day trip.

If you drive to Yun Lai Waterfall, you'll probably pass it on the way. Here, you'll find a traditional Chinese immigrant cultural village much different from the typical Chinatown you'll see elsewhere in the world.

You can enjoy traditional Yunnan food, tea shops, and dragon architecture.

GPS Coordinates: 19.37103, 98.4027

Chinese village in pai

8. Visit Wat Nam Hu Temple

If you're still in a temple mood, then the Wat Nam Hu Temple is a less-visited but worthwhile place to visit in Pai.

The Wat Nam Hu Temple isn't as grandiose as Wat Phra That Mae Yen, but still has a tranquil aura complete with garden views and a large fish pond.

GPS Coordinates: 19.3649, 98.41315

Wat nam hu temple

9. Cross the Memorial Bridge

Another completely free activity is to visit the famous WWII Memorial Bridge located 13 minutes south of Central Pai.

The bridge was erected in 1941 by the Japanese who wanted better access between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son on the border of British-occupied Burma. The bridge was built in a fashion common of the era, using elephants to tow huge beams of wood. The steel-structured bridge which crosses the Pai river today isn't actually the original bridge from WWII, but a reconstruction.

Truth be told, this site isn't that great unless you're an avid history buff. However, due to its close proximity to the Pai Canyon, you may as well make the stop.

GPS Coordinates: 19.29745, 98.465

Girl on the krabi monkey trail

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10. Drive to Chiang Mai

The ultimate northern Thailand mountain drive! The drive from Pai to Chiang Mai or reverse is one of my favorite routes in Thailand and probably my number one on this list of things to do in Pai Thailand for free.

The entire journey is 130 km long and will take you roughly 3-4 hours of riding. The route winds up and down the winding mountain roads, with a total of 762 turns!

This road is definitely not one that you want to take if you're not confident on a motorbike. The hills can get steep and the turns are near hairpin on many corners. However, if you've got the skills and the guts to do it, it might just be one of your favorite Pai adventures!

Read: Ultimate Chiang Mai Itinerary (3 Days)

Pai rice fields driving from pai to chiang mai

Map of the Things to do in Pai

Here's a quick map to reference all of the locations for the stops and attractions listed in this blog.

Map of pai attractions

Travel Hack: Click on the map above and it will load on your Google Maps app. You can save it by clicking the grey star at the top, which will add it to "Your Places" on your Google Maps account. This way, you have a handy digital app on the go with all the Pai attractions.

More Things to Do in Pai

Alright, so if you're willing to spend a few extra Baht, here are some bonus activities worth considering. Yes, they aren't free, but they are cheap (like you).

Pam Bok Waterfall

There are a few waterfalls in Pai, and unfortunately, they all have an entry cost. The Pam Bok waterfall entry ticket is 200 Baht, which has gone up since I visited, but it's still kind of affordable.

Located only 20 minutes from the center of Pai, Pam Bok waterfall offers calm flowing rivers and a cavernous waterfall with a deep swimming hole. There's even a secret side trail at the back where you can find a sneaky jump spot.

Pam bok waterfall pai

Pai Bamboo Bridge

At first, you'll be excused for thinking that the Pai Bamboo Bridge is a bit of a tourist trap. To be honest, I did too.

However, the 800-meter, hand-woven bamboo bridge that stretches over green rice fields was quite an impressive stop and one that I'd recommend. Apparently, it was first built to serve as a raised path for monks who used the bridge on their daily walk from the nearby temple to the village.

Entry Price: 30 Baht

GPS Coordinates: 19.32302, 98.39441

Bamboo bridge in pai

Where to Stay in Pai

Outdoor swimming pool at pai village boutique resort

1. Pai Village Boutique Luxury

Boasting private wooden cottages situated within tropical gardens with a large outdoor swimming pool and on-site restaurant.

Pai yard guest house, thailand

2. Pai Yard Backpackers Cheap

Super cheap accommodation with incredible reviews. Clean rooms, good location, decent price, and good food.

Wondering where to go next, after Pai? I recommend visitin Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or even a quick hop into Myanmar is also a great option.

Before you do, make sure to check out some other relevant guides below.

Have any unanswered questions? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email, I answer every single one personally!

Hidden beach, railay beach

Plan Your Thailand Accommodation

Still in the planning stages of your trip? Perhaps you're booking on the fly. The below accommodation guides will help you plan where to stay in Thailand.

Top 10 things to do in pai thailand for free
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.