Natural aircon: that is one of the main attractions of the northwestern Thailand valley resort known as Pai. If you find Asia swelteringly hot, Pai is the place to go to breathe, a real chill-out zone.
Just try not to get travel sick on the way. The reason: from the nearest attractive town, Chiang Mai, Pai famously lies at the end of 762 bends, near the border with Burma. So, take some motion sickness pills and a plastic bag just in case.
That said, more seasoned travelers might find that the bends fly by without upset. Despite hearing countless horror stories, this blogger was fine.
Like a spa, Pai is healthy and wealthy in water. For a start, it has a river on which you can go tubing, if you are brave. The current runs fast – Formula 1 speed by the leisurely standards of tubing.
Another attraction for the adventurous is trekking. You can embark on two- and three-day treks to Karen, Lahu, and Lisu villages or do your own thing and, as many people do, take a shower in a waterfall.
Try Mo Paeng waterfall, which lies nine kilometres from Pai – a doddle to get to by car or motorbike. If you fancy going on foot, the journey takes about two hours and is relentlessly scenic.
Shaded and spectacular, Mo Paeng makes a great place to unwind for an hour or two. You have three cool clear pools to choose between. Just mind how you tread on the smooth rocks.
If you lack co-ordination, you might prefer to loaf at the hot springs that lie eight kilometres south of Pai in the national park. They are fun – seriously hot, if pricey – expect to be hit with a fee of about 200 baht (USD6.70), half the cost of all-day admission to Paris' Louvre by today's currency conversion rates. Then you have the choice of lolling in a stream or on-site 'bathtubs'.
Bit of a buzz
Pai's lazy atmosphere lures both the Bangkok smart set and scores of guitar strumming back-to-nature types. Even the heart of town feels like an extension of nature.
The food that the legion local restaurants dish up is fresh and cheap – as is the cost of a room for a night. You can pick one up for as little as 150 THB a night in low-season. In high season – October until February – when the weather is even cooler than usual, prices jump.
Still, the resort, which people say feels how Chiang Mai was 20 years ago, has minimal-to-no flaws, aside from perhaps its growing popularity. It is hard to think of anywhere in Thailand with more allure than tiny Pai. Butterflies and dragonflies abound.
Pai is located on Route 1095, which links Mae Hong Son with Chiang Mai. Pai Airport fields daily 35-minute flights to and from Chiang Mai International Airport. The journey by bus or minivan from Chiang Mai takes between three and five hours.