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Getting To Pai By Mini Bus

Since living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for roughly 9 months, I have been able to explore many surrounding areas. A popular destination for many tourists located in the north of Thailand is a small quaint town called, Pai.

I have made one trip to Pai since living in Chiang Mai and have yet to write about my experience. On the first trip, I rode my motorbike to Pai which is about a 3.5 hour drive. The road takes you north of Chiang Mai and then you head deep into the lush, green mountains of northern Thailand. The road is famous for having over 750 turns!

Driving the road can prove to be problematic if you suffer from car  sickness especially, when traveling in a bus. The road is a lot more manageable if you are driving yourself but less common. Most travelers travel via minibus.

I am an English teacher and had a friday off due to a Thai holiday. I decided that spending a weekend in Pai, Thailand would be a great opportunity to get away from the “big city.”

Booking A Bus Ticket

There are two bus companies that I am aware of that provide bus transportation to Pai from Chiang Mai. The first is AyaService Chartered Bus which can pick you up from wherever you are in the city. Alternatively, you can go to the bus station that is on the east side of the city, outside of the moat. The bus station is close to Central Festival shopping center and the super highway. 

The bus station is split by a road but the bus company that charters trips to Pai is on the left side when driving to the super highway. I assumed that it would be a popular weekend to go so I booked our tickets a few days in advance which required me to physically go to the bus station.


The tickets are 300 Baht or $9.10 USD for a round-trip ticket. Not bad. I believe that the price for Aya Chartered Buses are about the same price. The main selling point that differentiates the bus company at the terminal is that there is assigned seating. This may not be a big deal for any other bus ride but if you are taking a bus to Pai then sitting closer to the front of the bus is essential to avoid getting sick.

Although I bought tickets a few days in advance, I was not able to get the front row of the bus. In addition, the bus departed at 4:30pm because I was not able to get the 5:3opm departure since it was already fully booked and is the last departure time for the day.

Almost Missing The Bus

On Thursday afternoon, I am sitting at my desk at school. My phone reads 3:22pm. I start to visualize everything that I have to do and the approximate amount of time that it will take in order to get ready. Clock out. Walk to my on campus apartment. Change clothes. Drive to the bus station. Ready… and GO!

It is 4:05pm. My gas gauge reads, “E.” Great. Fortunately, I make it to the bus station without running out of gas and I park the bike next to the station.

Fortunately, we make it to the minibus at 4:25pm with 5 minutes to spare. Whew. That was close. Normally, things in Thailand are on, “Thai Time,” which means that they are loose when it comes to departing or meeting people at a specific time. Well, that general rule applies to everything except bus departure times. We departed at 4:30pm, sharp!


Getting To Pai By Bus

While waiting the last few minutes until we departed the bus terminal I made sure that I had everything that I was going to need for the weekend. Spending money? Check. Passport? Check.

I have driven the road to Pai and I know what to expect. A curvy and hilly drive. I look at the driver and he is a middle aged Thai man chewing gum and not very friendly as I briefly exchange basic Thai. Here we go. Buckle-up.

The bus is completely full with 12 passengers. The beginning of the drive is straight forward as it is on the superhighway, an American freeway equivalent. The bus driver accelerates to high speeds while tail gating vehicles in front of us, quickly changing lanes as if we are an ambulance going to the hospital. Obviously, the driver drove as if he did not take any classes in physics as we would surely crash if the vehicle in front of us decided to brake.

After driving for about 2 hours, we start to climb into the mountains. The sun was sitting on the horizon and it was getting dark. The road started to become more curvy and we were gaining elevation.

The driver would pass every vehicle that we caught up to, even on blind corners. During the ride, I felt as if I was in a video game or scary movie except, there was no escaping reality.

At last, we arrived to a military check point and the driver had to pull-off the road  to fill out necessary paperwork. No one got out of the vehicle but it was an opportunity to be stationary and gain composure. But after a few short minutes we were on the road again, on the merry-go-round from hell.

At last, we arrived to Pai at around 7:30pm. I thought based on the speeds we were traveling that we had set a new land speed record for travel from Chiang Mai to Pai. I was already fretting my return journey that we would have to make on Sunday. But for now, I tried to push the thought to the back of my mind and let the realization that a relaxing three day weekend was ahead.

I was able to get check-in to my guest house called, Pairaidise. Checked-in and passed out by 9:30pm.

Nathan currently lives abroad as an American expat and is based in Hanoi, Vietnam. He enjoys learning new languages, meeting new people and exploring new places. Nathan has been living abroad since 2014 and likes to stay busy plotting his next trip.

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