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So this week we did the infamous motorbike road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai on a 125cc scooter. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who aren’t confident on a scoot, because when you road trip Chiang Mai to Pai, you take on a treacherous voyage of 762 turns during the whole 3-4 hour drive. Technically, you can also to this road trip in a rental car, but lots of people opt for the daring scooter adventure.
762 turns! Just think about that for a sec. And the turns on the road to Pai aren’t slight, either… think, full-on U-turns going up and down hills with dirt blowing in your eyes and mouth. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the adventurers out there like me, it’s an awesome scooter road trip mission.
The views are unbelievable, and there are tons of places to stop along the way to have even more adventures. There are dozens of cute woodsy coffee stops too, and a few towns where you can shop or grab food on your Chiang Mai to Pai scooter trip.
These are only things you can do when you make the scooter road trip mission yourself, because the mini busses that regularly drive from Chiang Mai to Pai make only one stop to get food, if that.
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Scooter Road Trip Chiang Mai to Pai: Where to Get Scooter Rental
Aya Service is a company that has scooter rental offices in both Chiang Mai and Pai, and is the only one I know of/could find that allows you to get your bike in one city and return it in the other. This scooter rental Chiang Mai company runs shuttles between the two towns as well, and if you rent a moped to ride to Pai they will take your bags to Pai in the shuttle for you for free! How cool is that?
If you want to ride there and back, I’m sure you could rent a scooter for a few days and return it to the same shop. But, Aya is the cheapest rent I found (140 baht for 24 hours, aka like $4, although you should get the insurance for 40 baht for this journey). And, not a single person I met in Pai actually stayed there the amount of time they originally intended to. Pai wins your heart over and you will most likely end up staying way longer, so it may be best not to limit yourself by needing to return a bike when you could just get another one at the Aya in Pai.
I want to preface this with the fact that I am not actually entirely sure if all of these activities on a Chiang Mai to Pai scooter road trip can be completed in one day. We left pretty late (like 1pm) and made a lot of stops and explored a bit along the way. We personally didn’t have time to stop at all the places we would have liked to. But, I wanted to create this post to outline a perfect road trip adventure day from Chiang Mai to Pai for anyone who wants to do this, and what I will do next time! If you leave at like 7am, this would be one of the most exciting motorbike road trip days of your life.
I also want to note that this is obviously in the order from Chiang Mai to Pai, but you could do it in the opposite order from Pai to Chiang Mai as well (or do some stops on one way and some on the way back).
1. Leave Chiang Mai for Your Epic Road Trip to Pai
This is the boring and straight part or your scooter voyage. Get some snacks and a big water first for sure – our favorite snacks of Thailand have been tamarinds, coated nuts, sesame snacks, and banana chips! Once you take car of your Chiang Mai scooter rentat, get on the 107 out of town and just… Go. Right before you get on the 1095, fill your scoot up with gas to last you the whole way for your Chiang Mai to Pai road trip. There are a few gas stations in the mountains, but they’re tiny and far between!
2. Mok Fah Waterfall
After a little while (maybe 20 mins) on the 1095, you will eventually see signs for the Mok Fah waterfall. Turn left off the road and follow it until you see a ticket booth. You can pay 100 baht and it is a ten minute walk until the waterfall.
3. Stop for Coffee
There are way too many cute coffee shops on this road from Chiang Mai to Pai not to stop at one. I was in awe! Thailand coffee shops effortlessly accomplish the earthy, hippy, garden-y vibe that tons of city coffee shops in the west go for, but don’t quite get. Just check out this spot that we found to enjoy our latte!
4. Pong Deud Geyser
This one will come up as a little dirt trail on your right. It important to note that it is 6.5 km on a pretty sketchy and bumpy road to get to it, and is 300 baht entry, but for real when do you ever get to see a geyser?!
5. Viewpoints… Viewpoints Everywhere
If you ever see an epic view, which you will, pull off for a sec to take it in and get a photo. This is a possibility you have when driving yourself instead of taking the minibus, so take advantage of it! Below is one of the insane views we found:
6. Huai Nam Dang National Park
This national park comes up on your right.There is a huge sign that you can’t miss! The entrance is a few kilometers from the main road, and this park boasts really beautiful mountainous views for a 300 baht entry fee. Worth a little explore!
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7. Hot Springs
There is a huge hot springs resort that you will pass through past the national park and just about 8km south of Pai. These springs are a popular tourist destination! There are some bigger hot springs and also some smaller ones in the area as well, but the Tha Pai hot springs will be on your way into Pai and a great stop on your scooter trip from Chiang Mai to Pai. Make sure you have a swim suit and a towel to check these out for 200 baht!
8. Pai Canyon Adventure
Pai Canyon is just a few miles out of Pai. It’s a woodsy area with a raised trail with small cliffs on either side. It’s pretty cool; the canyon is very scenic and is fun to hike around and check out the views. Have a quick hiking adventure around here, or it is a great place to watch the sunset!
9. Pai Treehouse Resort
If you have time, watch the sunset at Pai Treehouse resort. This is one of those ridiculously Pinterest-y places that is just gorgeous and fairytale-like all around. Sit in this famous tree swing thing, or you can actually stay in the treehouse for only 500 baht a night for two people. Watching the sunset down by the river here was actually one of the most overwhelmed I have ever been by beauty before… It was unreal. Just look at that.
10. Go into Pai!
Aya lets you keep the scooter rental for 24 hours, so you don’t have to return it right away. The street markets come alive at night, so getting in after the sunset is the perfect time to shop. I went a little crazy on jewelry here; they have some of the most beautiful I have ever seen! There is so much to do in Pai, and some of the best vibes and people. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! Hope you got to check out some of these lovely stops on a Chiang Mai to Pai scooter road trip!
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Now You’re in Pai. What to do?
I drafted out an entire guide to Pai once upon a time, but it has been lost somewhere in the wind. I can still tell you where we stayed and what we did, though. Pai has some AWESOME hostels. Remember when I told you that everyone ends up extending their stay in Pai? Yeah, well they really do. We extended our stay so much we ended up staying at three different hostels, which I have listed below…
This place is not really close to town, which is really its only vice. Keep your scooter rented (or rent a new one) and zoom up to this hippie paradise. Pai circus has a pool looking over mountainous canyons, an awesome backpacker bar, and literal circus activities for a few hours each day on a massive lawn they have. Think – poi spinning, hula hoping, slack lining, juggling, and more!
This hostel had a great community vibe and was VERY central. It has got a cool hangout area and the dorms are nice and cool and spacious. It’s really close to Aya scooter rental and the markets, so it’s a good first night stop after your scooter Chiang Mai to Pai road trip.
This place will always go down in history as one of the most interesting hostels I have ever stayed in. Coming it at a whopping 28 bed dorm (or something like that), Spicy Pai prides itself on being a treehouse hostel with millions of beds stacked inside a v-shaped grass hut. Beds are all connected by ladders and topped with mosquito nets, and mine was the third level high!
Got your Southeast Asia Guidebook yet? Make sure to check Lonely Planet for the best guides!
Pai Treehouse Resort
On the way to Moh Fah Waterfall
One of the dozens of curves like this!
The amazing coffee shop we stopped at on the way!
The most beautiful sunset from Pai Treehouse Resort!
Another adorable coffee shop