Travelers often end up in Pai after partying on Khao San Road in Bangkok or attending one of the famous festivals on the islands around Phuket. While this northern city is without question much sleepier than other parts of Thailand, Pai is still a backpacker haven and the constant stream of tourists means there are options to go out.
Pai is a small hippy town, filled with vegan cafes and Rastafarian bars. Virtually all of the accommodations in Pai are located within the city center or walking distance away, so it's easy to venture out at night and return to your hostel or bungalow on foot. Nightlife in Pai ends relatively early, due to a city-wide curfew of 12 a.m. This may seem early, but once you arrive and see how small the town is and how easily noise travels, you'll be grateful when you can get into your bed and drift peacefully off to sleep.
For such a small town, Pai has a lot of bars. Walking around the tiny city center, it may seem like there's nothing but bars. With such a heavy focus on backpackers, the city knows how to cater to its primary patrons. You can get a cheap Thai beer or well drink at virtually any place in town, but a few bars stand out for their extended selection or general ambiance.
- Jikko Beer: Jikko's motto is "good beer with friends," and is one of the few spots to enjoy imported craft beers in Pai. The extensive beer menu includes brews from around Asia, Europe, North America, and more, plus hard liquors and even a couple of ciders. The ambiance is perpetually upbeat and jovial, and it's a perfect place to socialize with fellow travelers.
- Why Not Bar: Why Not is practically an institution in Pai, and is the bar where many backpackers end up before the night is over. With its happy hour specials, strong drinks, and nightly DJs, it's no wonder this bar has been one of the most popular spots in Pai for years.
- Blah Blah Bar: This bar is located in a literal shack, which coordinates perfectly with the grungy vibe of this punk rock pub. Graffiti on the walls, vintage posters, and cheap beer all fit in with the overall ambiance.
- Spirit Bar: The Spirit Bar isn’t really a speakeasy, 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.
Pai doesn't really have any "clubs," especially when compared to the nightlife scene in Bangkok. Most bars close at midnight, but one spot is consistently open later, Don't Cry Bar. When you've got an itch to keep the party going, this open-air venue plays techno and electronic music late into the night.
As the night gets later, you're likely to come across people selling marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and other drugs in the street. They're often sold so openly, it may even seem like it's permitted. Before choosing to partake, understand that all recreational drugs are illegal in Thailand. Drug sales may even be a trap by an undercover cop hoping to catch tourists and later blackmail them.
The one late-night bar conveniently also has a late-night kitchen, so if you get a sudden craving for food while dancing and drinking at Don't Cry Bar, you can order a snack without having to move anywhere.
Most restaurants around the city close late at night, but food carts selling meat skewers, noodles, or other Thai dishes are never far away. As the bars are closing, there will surely be some food carts around offering end-of-night munchies to all the partiers before they head to bed.
It's common to hear music playing around Pai, from bands performing on-stage in local bars to informal drum circles that seem to just materialize from nothing. The crowd that Pai attracts tends to have a penchant for musical talent, and many of the hostels even offer some type of open mic event so their guests can sing or play an instrument. Whether you're looking to be entertained or create your own entertainment, you'll find many options in Pai.
- Jazz House: This chill bar provides live music almost every evening, not just jazz but other genres as well. There's no better way to wind down after a long day exploring than with a cold drink and being serenaded by Pai's best. If you're a performer yourself, ask about open mic nights to show off your skills.
- Yellow Sun Pai: It's virtually impossible to visit this hippie town without hearing some reggae music, and Yellow Sun Pai is the place to hear it live. Sit upstairs at this two-story bar to take in the music while you people-watch down below, all while sipping on a cold Singha beer or your cocktail of choice.
Tips for Going Out in Pai
- Lots of backpackers try riding a motor scooter for the first time in Pai, so be alert when walking around, especially at night.
- Pai's Walking Street turns into a night market every evening. Take a stroll through the stalls before barhopping to try Thai cuisine, pick up local crafts, and get an authentic taste of Pai life.
- January, February, and March are often referred to as "burn season" in Northern Thailand. Farmers across the region set flame to their fields to prepare for the upcoming grow season, leaving the air visibly smoggy and smokey.