How to get to Pai:
There are a few options: direct flight from Chiang Mai, shuttle bus, self drive car rental, and self drive scooter rental. After much hesitation, but going along with our budget instincts, we chose to do the scooter rental.
We got a 150cc scooter from Tony’s Big Bikes. They provided luggage storage for free, which was great because we couldn’t take our suitcases with us on the scooters! A dilemma I thought of while first deciding on the trip to Pai! (Another option would have been to ask the hotel we were staying with to hold them for a few days, or AYA bus company can transport your luggage to Pai for a fee).
The bike had enough horsepower to make it up the hills and was big enough to seat us comfortably and provide a steady ride. We rented smaller scooters around Thailand and I felt so unsafe on them (shaky, tiny, just not a smooth, comfortable ride). You’re going to be driving for quite a while and you will be navigating curves through mountains, so you should get a decent bike. It came out to 600 baht a day and we got extra insurance, just to be safe. The seat had storage plus they put an extra storage container on the back, which I was able to rest against during the drive too. They provided a wheel lock, helmets, and jacket with padding.
Pull out any gps and it’s a pretty straight shot (minus the curves lol). We drove around 55-60km/hr. We left around 830-9am and got there around noon after stopping for about an hour at a national park.
I looked up the drive from other blogs and despite all the warnings, we did it anyway and don’t regret it at all! To summarize: If you can ride a moped/scooter, just do it! The curves weren’t crazy. The drivers weren’t crazy. It wasn’t a scary ride at all. My butt DID go numb after sitting so long. IT WAS COLD (We went in January and wow that mountain air was sooo chilly). Wear layers.
Basically though, it was riding through the mountains and a few villages. We did see vans pulled over for people to puke, like other writers had mentioned. That made us realize we were lucky to be on the scooter. The open air and the shorter turns needed on curves made it a pretty pleasant ride.
Pit Stop- Huai Nam Dang National Park:
There were a few stops on the way that I wanted to hit, namely the Pong Duat Geyser and Huai Nam Dang National Park for the Doi Koi Lom viewpoint. We passed the geyser and realized it too late to want to turn back, so we continued on and pulled into the Huai Nam Dang National Park. It was $8/person for entrance to the park. This price gives you admission to the geyser, the main park/viewpoint, and the hot springs. They are all spread out a good driving distance from each other.
If you want to visit this place, stop at the geyser first, then the viewpoint, then the hotsprings. Or vice versa if leaving Pai. The viewpoint was just that- a view. There was a gift shop that was closed and they had some pizza/convenience store food items, however it was not worth the price if you only go here. Don’t waste your time. In Pai you will have similar, if not better views, for FREE. I wouldn’t go back, but I am a little bummed about not seeing the geyser.
Click to read my post on Getting Pulled Over in Thailand!