Pai may have been just a plain stopover en-route to Mae-Hongson, from Chiang Mai for multi-national tourists and adventure seekers in the past, but not anymore.
The town’s scenery, rich natural resources, lush green rice paddies and farms, as well as authentic locals’ traditional rites and practices have grown on its visitors. The impression imprinted on the town’s guests has been passed on to many all over the world. That’s why virtually all the roads and runways now lead to Pai! According to the TAT’s (Tourism Authority of Thailand) record, over 100,000 people come to Pai each year, most of whom are foreigners.
Unfortunately, the boom in tourism has somewhat transformed the town. Many visitors, especially the Thais, find it hard to accept that this small village on Thai soil seems overcrowded with foreigners. Costs of accommodation and food in places have, as many put it, rocketed as high as Pai’s reputation. Even so, has Pai lost its charm?
To many, the answer is ‘no’! Pai’s charm does not lie just inside its town centre and its open-air street markets. (Many people still come to Pai for its natural beauty.) The vast green valley, filled with rice paddies and cultivated farm lands, the ice-cold air at the top of Huy Nam Dang National Park, the hot spring, the locals’ traditional way of life and warm hospitality of those living here remain a powerful magnet, attracting those who have been here as well as newcomers to Pai. Its enclosed location amid mountain ranges and a peaceful united community here still makes Pai heaven on earth for many Europeans and some Thais. Some have even relocated and settled for a new life in Pai.