Stop and stay at this peaceful paradise, in Thailand’s beautiful north.
Having lived in Thailand for a year and a half, I managed to travel widely throughout the country, usually on a tight budget, mostly seeking out cheap accommodation along the way. A couple of Christmases ago however, on a trip to the north of Thailand, my girlfriend and I decided to treat ourselves and ‘splash out’ on a place a little above our usual price bracket – although still, relatively speaking, very cheap – that had rave reviews online. That place was Bueng Pai Farm, in Pai, and it’s a place that’s stayed with us ever since.
Situated a little outside the small riverside town of Pai, about four hours from Thailand’s cultural capital, Chiang Mai, this collection of Thai-style bungalow cottages sits around a pretty man-made lake, surrounded by rice paddies, the rolling hills of Thailand’s north providing the quietly stunning backdrop. The rooms are basic but well decorated and comfy. Our cottage had a veranda right on the lake’s edge. Being a little out of town it’s best to have your own mode of transport when staying here. On the first day, we were taken, by the friendly owners, to rent a scooter – something neither of us had done before, but the quiet roads of the area are great for newbies – and it was by far the best way to see the surrounding area.
In Thailand, I’ve often wanted to stay relatively close to the action, by the beach on islands or near the decent restaurants and bars in towns, but staying a little out of the way, at Bueng Pai Farm, was a special experience. It was an enchanting place and is well set up for people who want to get away from the crowds. There are pleasant, outdoor tables to fill up on the delicious, organic breakfasts and watch the morning mist lift from over the lake. During the days, you can fish in the lake, take a dip in the ‘organic, natural’ pool, enjoy the complimentary tea and sit and read by your bungalow or at the ‘pond island library’. In the evenings there’s a fire pit for when it’s chilly, with popadoms to toast, and the night sky, away from the town, is illuminated with stars.
Pai itself is a quaint sort of town. Quiet and relaxed, there isn’t much but markets a couple of temples and wonderful restaurants and cafes to keep you occupied. It’s perfectly pleasant just wandering and making the most of these, for a few days, but beyond the town there are also some fantastic things to do. It’s mostly fairly touristy stuff but there are natural hot springs, where you can bathe, in the cooler sections, and boil eggs, in the hotter spots; there’s Pai Canyon, with its golden, snaking pathways weaving out across sheer drops, with beautiful panoramic views of the northern scenery. The hills and valleys of the area are lovely too, for driving around and exploring under your own steam with a car or motorbike, and there are some beautiful walks and waterfalls to discover, in the local area.
Pai also makes for a great first stop along the Mae Hong Son Loop, which is especially good if you pick up a car rental in Chiang Mai, but can also be done, as I did it, on public buses. This trip takes you from the history and culture of old town Chiang Mai, to the rolling valleys of peaceful Pai; then onto the ancient caves of Sop Pong, Pang Mapha, and the bustling, hill town, Mae Hong Son, surrounded by tumbling peaks and beguiling rice paddy-filled valleys, skirting the Burmese border; and, finally, takes you all the way back round to Chiang Mai. It makes for a great trip and provides some of the Thailand’s most unique scenery and culture, slightly off the usual tourist trail.
Whatever you do in the north of Thailand, stopping off at Bueng Pai Farm is sure to be a wonderful part of the experience. It’s highly affordable and probably downright cheap, for most, and is one of those places that’s well worth the extra money, even if you only stay a night or two. Certainly for us, as a couple, it was a great choice and one that we always look back on as a highlight, not only of our Christmas holiday but of our entire time in Thailand.