You wouldn’t expect Pai, once the tranquil riverside realm of backpackers and "hippie" residents, to have great nightlife, but it does.
In this instance, size doesn’t matter: The nightlife in Pai is arguably more varied than the nightlife in much larger Chiang Mai! Some long-term residents of Chiang Mai make the 4-hour journey to Pai just to have fun on weekends. Not only is Pai easily stumbled on foot (no tuk-tuk necessary), there are plenty of healthy activities for forgetting about your hangover.
But don’t worry, the bars in Pai are just as easy to avoid as they are to find. Unlike other party places in Thailand, you probably won't have to worry about using earplugs to escape the thumping music. A midnight curfew shuts down 90 percent of the action in town aside from a small handful that choose to pay the fines to stay open.
Grab one of the free maps found all over town or ask a local where to find these great places!
For Craft Beer
The little Jikko Beer bar situated directly on Walking Street may be your only option for craft beer (for now) in Pai. Fortunately, the atmosphere is friendly, people-watching opportunities abound, and the place seems perpetually jovial.
If you want one of Thailand's usual three domestic beer choices, go somewhere else. For an international selection, Jikko is the right place!
For Hip-Hop Music
Although old-school 90s hip-hop music may seem slightly out of place in a "relaxed" riverside town, it can be nostalgic for some...ahem...older travelers. The large Why Not? Bar right in the center section of the Walking Street blasts beats from Dr. Dre and friends nightly. Ask about their happy hour special.
For Punk Rock
Ironically, quiet little Pai is home to one of Southeast Asia’s best punk rock bars. The Blah Blah Bar, just around the corner from the Walking Street past the Witching Well restaurant, is splattered with vintage posters and lots of punk swag from Berlin.
Drinks are cheap, and the only thing edgier than the décor is the music. The Blah Blah Bar is literally a shack. If you see a chained-up structure adorned with graffiti, come back later—you'll be happy you did.
For Live Music and Atmosphere
The Jazz House has it all: rooms, food, drinks, and music. The atmosphere is pleasant and chill most nights as talented live performers do better than the usual, well-worn covers so often heard.
The Jazz House is located off Walking Street on the road down to the river (turn left right before the temple).
For DJs and Black Lights
The Boom Bar just around the main bend of the Walking Street has DJs sweating over laptops and black-light art on the walls. Cheap drinks keep it popular with backpackers who stop in for food, socializing, and to enjoy the electronic music.
For a "Secret" Cozy Space
The Spirit Bar isn’t really a secret, but it feels that way. The narrow entrance is literally hidden in plain sight on the Walking Street. A very narrow alley near the 7-Eleven leads to a small-but-cozy outdoor space enclosed by buildings; look for the laser lights! Nice lighting, a fire pit, and live performers keep the peaceful little nook crammed on some nights.
Even though the sofas are made of concrete (really), the Spirit Bar is easily one of the coziest secrets in town.
For Pool and Lots of Socializing
The Yellow Sun Bar is the second-to-last stop for most people who are migrating toward the late-night Why Not Bar. By that time of night, it's one of the busiest, most social places in town!
Couches, a pool table, and seats facing the street create a very social atmosphere for young travelers. Open later than most, the Yellow Sun closes around 1 a.m. and is located conveniently on the way to the Don’t Cry Bar.
For Late Food and Drinks
The infamous Don’t Cry bar just across the river is one of the few open options after 1 a.m. Music, three bars, a campfire, an air-conditioned dancing chamber, and occasional fire shows keep people entertained literally until sunrise on some nights.
Catering to a very nocturnal crowd with the munchies, Pai’s only late-night food carts are parked strategically across the street.
Some bars located away from the main part of town have a reputation for allowing the open use of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. Before choosing to partake, understand that all recreational drugs are illegal in Thailand.
Don't get lulled into thinking regulations are lax because of the openness. In fact, penalties for getting caught are probably way worse than in your home country.
The police do sometimes raid these bars to make a show between the collection of bribes. Don't be a sucker!