Pai is undoubtedly one of the the most famous towns of northern Thailand amongst visitors to the country. Set in a picturesque valley a 3 hours steep and winding drive from Chiang Mai that counts a record of 762 curves, Pai is a predominantly chilled out tourism-oriented town with a river and fabulous picturesque countryside around it.
One of the attractions around Pai is the impressive Pai Canyon, or Kong Lan as it is known in Thai, and it is located 8 km from Pai along the road to Chiang Mai. A visit to the canyon is worth your time as it is an outstanding natural attraction with lovely nature walks in its surroundings.
Located on highway 1095 not far from the World War II Memorial Bridge, Pai Canyon is in Ban Rong Yang village, south of Pai. It is easily reachable by rented moped bike or with a tuk tuk ride, and its entrance is just off the main road, with the turnoff indicated by a brown sign. Entrance is free; the canyon is best visited early in the morning if you want to have the place to yourself. Just park your bike at the parking lot and start hiking up a 300 mt paved stairway that culminates to an elevated and open lookout area on the verge of the canyon that will reveal some of the hiking options.
The scenery up there is majestically beautiful and the views impressive; you would not expect such a nature behind the hills. The landscape is quite original, the scenic area offers an awesome 360° panorama best enjoyed at sunrise or sunset. Sit on one of the shaded benches or climb up the few steps to a wooden lookout platform, and marvel at the views from these vintage points, which include the ridges of giant strange rock walls nearby, the surrounding mountains and a population of teak trees, shrubbery and other flora. Even if you don’t fancy walking too far into the canyon ridges, the sights from the edge are just as rewarding.
Pai Canyon geological and topographic features are quite stunning. This unique geographical area has been formed by continuous erosion over decades until reaching the current condition. The carved narrow ledges and slabs that have survived the erosive actions of the elements have steep 30 meters deep cliff drops and a series of narrow walkways cut on the ridges of giant rock walls that snake out into the densely forested valley.
A walk through Pai Canyon will give you a little thrill and it is not for the faint-hearted. You can freely climb exciting rocks, and venture as far afield into the canyon as you dare, but at your own risk. There are narrow elevated paths with a 30 meter drop on either side so be careful where you tread, as they can be quite dangerous. There is nothing in the way of safety bars when the trails get narrow, and just one missed step and you fall down in a deep valley. You can spend at least a couple of hours hiking around the trails, negotiating steep twists and turns that sometimes necessitate the use of all four limbs. Amazing picture opportunities awaits you out there, but it is best to wear study shoes and not flip flops so you can access better locations.
The best times to walk the Pai Canyon are early mornings or at the end of afternoons, when it is cooler for the climbs and you get a great light. At dusk is when you get a perfect combination of scenery and temperature, and you might also catch a beautiful sunset. At other times, the area can become swelteringly hot and humid. Remember to bring plenty of water with you.
Pembok Waterfall are located on the way back to town and make for the perfect combination with a Pai Canyon hike. You need to head north on the main road from the canyon trailhead for about 3.5 kilometres along the left side of the river, across a high narrow bridge. Follow the trail that sets you off until you find the small pool under the picturesque waterfall. Pembok Waterfall sits in a narrow gorge with steep hills rising up on each side, therefore receiving very little sunlight through a small hole above.