Long before tourists from both Thailand and abroad flocked to this small valley, hidden well away from the materialistic and busy world, several groups of hill tribe people made Pai and the area around this town their home.
In the area around Pai, and along the scenic route linking Pai and Mae Hong Son, the Lesu, Lahu, Karen, as well as the local Shan people have settled and built up their communities. Many of them were born here; some have fled their home country, Burma, to seek refuge on Thai soil. With less exposure to the universal pop-culture and strong cultural background, many of these ethnic minorities remain true to their origin, faith, and traditional way of life. These villages offer a great insight and an intimate experience of the world of simplicity and a self-sufficient lifestyle that coexist with, yet in contrast to the modern advancing world driven by materialism.
Getting there is not difficult as many of these villages are easily accessible by road from Pai’s town. The famous Pangmapha Distric, which is home to the Lesu, Lahu, Karen and Lawa people, is only 45km away from Pai. This distance makes day trips from Pai and drop-ins on the way through stunning mountain scenery along the curvy road to Mae Hong Son the perfect excursion option for both those staying over in Pai and heading towards that direction. If driving is not your option, you can turn to local tour operators in town. There are a number of them that offer day trips to the hill tribe villages, combined with other attractions and activities on the way. All you need to do is shop around.
Staying over in Pai is not a problem either. There is a huge range of accommodation for you to choose from, be it luxurious boutique resorts, hip and cozy guesthouses or even small trendy hotels. Continuing your journey to Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai is not that big a deal either for you can connect there by plane, car and bus. Buses and planes, connecting from Pai to both Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, operate on a daily basis. So, provided that you have time to shop around, leave enough room for adjustments or plan ahead, you’ll definitely find your visit to Pai and the near-by cities very rewarding.