Look away now Mum – it’s Pai Canyon…

Last week we spent some days in Pai, the hippy mecca in Northern Thailand. We’ll pop some thoughts on the place as a whole on another post, but thought the canyon deserved a write-up all of its own.

Narrow trails head out above the trees 🙂

The place is very easy to find, probably best accessed by scooter or a short taxi ride from town. Simply follow the 1095 South from Pai for about 8kms and the canyon carpark is on the right side of the road (see the bottom of the post for a map). The canyon itself is hidden from view from the roadside, but once you ascend the steps you’ll see it in all its glory. We visited at around 10am and the place was pretty quiet, though already swelteringly-hot. I’d recommend going there at sunrise or sunset (the former would be much, much quieter) in order to get the best photos. It was pretty hazy when we were there – mainly due to the annual burning of everything in sight by the local farmers – so the photos weren’t too special…

I’m happy to say the ‘less is more’ Thai attitude to health and safety is alive and kicking in the canyon. From the top of the steps you have a couple of different route options to take, all of which will involve some severe bum twitching if you have any issues with heights or general clumsiness (I’m the one who’s awful with heights; Lisa’s the one who should have airbags stitched into her clothes). If we were blessed with such a natural wonder in the UK, it’d undoubtedly be fenced off with a dirty great ‘NO ENTRY’ sign outside it. We bravely chose our route and set off, immediately cursing the fact we were wearing flip-flops & sandals – all the rocks and paths are coated in dusty sand which has all the grippiness of a banana skin on ice (boots or trainers definitely recommended). People must have been injured stomping around here, but I’d say that as long as you’re careful and don’t act like a complete doughnut, you should be fine. A decent proportion of the small amount of folk we saw there only really went as far as the top of the steps and then turned back – if you’re a vertigo sufferer or really don’t have a head for heights, then this might not be your idea of the perfect day out…


My knees had soon assumed their default position of turning to jelly as the path narrowed and narrowed, with drops of LITERALLY a million feet either side*. In all honesty we only did a shortish loop around part of the canyon – in our defence we were still recovering from a volcanic bout of food poisoning (think of bats flying out of a cave at dusk and you’ll kind of understand).

*ok, probably more like drops of 50-100 feet, but they do have lots of sharp rocks of death at the bottom of them.

Starting to rot away…

Striding confidently (shuffling  like bambi) we made it across a narrow ridge and then descended to what appeared to be a nice, wide bridge, which actually turned out to be pretty rotten. Crossing that, we headed up some steepish climbs to the left which brought us out above the canyon again. By now we had just a short, narrow ridge to negotiate to take us back to where we began.

I’d have loved to have had more time/energy to explore the canyon – maybe one day…

John 🙂



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