Welcome to Pai, Thailand (Pailand)
Pai has become a backpacker mecca of Thailand. The city is filled with young, dirty backpackers who are attracted to the area for its waterfalls, hot springs, and scenery. Make a trip up from Chiang Mai. It's only a three hour drive and you can do it by motorbike - with at least 125cc.
There are two hot springs you will hear about during your stay in Pai. One (Tha Pai) charges 300 baht per person and the other (Sai Ngam) charges 20 baht per person (plus another 20 for your motorbike). Although I can't speak for Tha Pai, I can tell you that Sai Ngam was perfect; and for a fraction of the price - it's a no brainer! Just know that it is a slightly difficult and curvy motorbike ride from town to the springs. Don't be intimidated - you can do it.
For directions, ask around for the "secret hot spring." Or, head out of Pai on the highway towards Mae Hong Son. Soon after crossing over one solid concrete bridge, you will see signs for the springs. It is about a 15 minute journey. Once there, strip down and jump right in. No bathing suit no problem - I went in my underwear.
Road to Pai
To get to Pai, my boyfriend and I rented a motorbike from Chiang Mai and made the 3 hour journey up north. This road is full of turns - 762 to be exact. This is not for the faint of heart as three hours is a decent amount of time to navigate through 92 miles of switchbacks. Our motorbike (rented from Happy Days Shop) was 125cc, the minimum required to make the journey. We still struggled at some points.
If you would rather not motorbike, there are also minivans from Chiang Mai to Pai for 150 baht. Many hostels will arrange these for you.
Tony's Guesthouse is far enough out of town to be quiet but close enough to be convenient. If you have a motorbike, it's no problem but on foot the distance could be frustrating. This is a better option for groups or couples because it is mostly just private rooms. Tony, the owner is great and is a new business owner. He speaks English well; take the time to talk to him and to eat his breakfast. If you eat there, you can sit in the morning with the view pictured on the right.
I was not a huge fan of the main drag in Pai. During the night market it was completely congested with tourists and was too commercialized for my taste. The charm of Pai lies in its nature more so than its city-life. Walking through the busy center requires Pai-tience.