Nightlife in Pai, Thailand

A Guide to Bars, Music, and Entertainment in Pai

Bars in Pai, Thailand
Photo by Greg Rodgers

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 better -- and thrives much later -- than the nightlife in Chiang Mai! Plus, your late-night stumble back to the hotel will be a lot shorter and easier.

But don’t worry, the bars in Pai are low-key enough that you have to go looking for trouble to find it. Unlike other party places in Thailand, you’ll never have to worry about using earplugs to escape the thumping music. A midnight curfew shuts down 90% of the action in town, aside from a small handful of watering holes that choose to pay the fines rather than call it an early night.

Note: Pai is easy enough to navigate, so addresses have not been included. Just grab one of the free maps found all over town or ask a local where to find these great places!

Hip Hop

While old-school hip hop music may seem slightly out of place in a relaxed riverside town, it can be nostalgic for some travelers. You’ll find beats from Dr. Dre and others blasting nightly in the large Why Not Bar on the main Walking Street.

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.

Reggae

You’ll hear reggae sporadically around town, but it’s usually a guarantee at the Roots Bar. Cheap bucket drinks are a hit with rasta-scene-loving backpackers who usually don’t go there until late in the evening. Roots Bar is located in a cozy corner along the river, just past the Edible Jazz bar.

International Performers

The Edible Jazz bar has been a Pai staple for years, with nightly performances by traveling musicians from all over the world. The sit-down atmosphere is chill, and there are even hammocks. You never know who will turn up for the open-mic nights on Sundays. There are no cover charges, and drinks are surprisingly affordable, given the quality of entertainment.

Karaoke

Yes, if you must, you can belt out your best at the T-Bar, just on the outskirts of town. Drive the main road north toward Mae Hong Son to find the best karaoke setup in the area.

Cozy Space

The Secret Garden Bar isn’t really a secret, but it is a little tricky to find despite being located directly off the Walking Street. A very narrow alley near the 7-Eleven on the Walking Street leads to a small-but-cozy outdoor space, surrounded by buildings. Just look for the laser lights! Nice lighting and live performers keep the peaceful little nook crammed on some nights.

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. 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 conveniently on the way to the Don’t Cry Bar.

Late Food and Drinks

The infamous Don’t Cry Bar just across the river is pretty much the only thing open after 1 a.m. Music, three bars, a campfire, an air-conditioned dancing chamber, and a pool table keep people entertained literally until sunrise on some nights. Catering to a very nocturnal crowd with the munchies, a small kitchen serves up surprisingly decent food. Pai’s only late-night food cart parks strategically across the street.