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The Perfect Scooter Road Trip Chiang Mai To Pai – Waterfalls, Hot Springs, And More


by Nada Charette



Embarking on a scooter road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai is an exhilarating adventure that offers a glimpse into the beauty and charm of Northern Thailand. This scenic journey takes you through stunning landscapes, picturesque villages, and exhilarating mountain roads, providing an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking to explore the hidden gems of the region.


Chiang Mai, known as the cultural capital of Thailand, serves as the starting point for this road trip. With its rich history, ancient temples, and vibrant markets, taking some time to explore the city before hitting the road is a must.


From Chiang Mai, the road trip heads northwest towards Pai, a small town nestled in the mountains. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking views, deep valleys, and winding roads that will make your heart race with excitement.


Pai, often referred to as a hippie haven, offers a laid-back atmosphere and a myriad of attractions. From soothing hot springs and majestic waterfalls to vibrant night markets and delicious street food, there’s something for everyone in this charming town.


After exploring Pai, the road trip continues with the famous Mae Hong Son Loop. This loop takes you on a thrilling ride through the remote countryside, passing through villages inhabited by various ethnic tribes. You’ll have the opportunity to witness their unique cultures and traditions, making the journey even more enriching.


As you make your way back to Pai from the Mae Hong Son Loop, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the beauty and diversity of northern Thailand. The stunning landscapes, warm hospitality, and delicious cuisine will leave a lasting impression.


This article will guide you through each day of the scooter road trip, providing you with insights on the best routes, must-visit attractions, and essential travel tips. So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure as we take you from Chiang Mai to Pai and back!


Planning Your Scooter Road Trip

Before embarking on your scooter road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai, it’s important to plan and prepare to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are some essential tips to help you get started:


1. Renting a Scooter: Make sure to choose a reliable and reputable scooter rental company in Chiang Mai. Ensure that the scooter is in good condition, has proper documentation, and comes with insurance.


2. Safety Gear: It is crucial to wear a helmet and other protective gear such as a jacket, gloves, and closed-toe shoes. Safety should be your top priority during the road trip.


3. Map and GPS: Obtain a detailed map or download a GPS navigation app to help you navigate the route. Familiarize yourself with the roads and key landmarks to avoid getting lost.


4. Fuel and Maintenance: Fill up your scooter’s fuel tank before setting off each day. Keep an eye on fuel stations along the route to ensure you have enough for the journey. Regularly check your scooter’s tire pressure, brakes, and other essential components to avoid any breakdowns.


5. Weather and Season: Consider the weather and season when planning your road trip. The best time to visit is during the dry season from November to February when the weather is pleasant. It’s important to be prepared for changes in weather and pack accordingly.


6. Accommodation and Reservations: Book your accommodation in advance, especially if you’re traveling during peak season. There are plenty of options available in Chiang Mai, Pai, and the surrounding areas, ranging from budget guesthouses to luxurious resorts.


7. Packing Essentials: Pack light but include essentials such as comfortable clothing, swimsuits, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and a rain jacket. Don’t forget your camera to capture the breathtaking landscapes along the way.


8. Local Customs and Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and etiquette of Thailand. Be respectful to the locals, dress modestly when visiting temples, and follow the rules of the road.


9. Travel Insurance: It’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers scooter riding and any unforeseen circumstances. Check with your insurance provider to ensure you’re adequately covered.


10. Road Safety: Take caution while riding and be mindful of other vehicles on the road. Be aware of the sharp bends, steep roads, and occasional potholes. Always stay alert and drive at a comfortable speed.


By following these planning tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your scooter road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai. Now, let’s dive into the exciting details of each day’s journey!


Day 1: Chiang Mai to Mae Malai

On the first day of your scooter road trip, you’ll embark on an exciting journey from Chiang Mai to Mae Malai, a small town located approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Chiang Mai. This leg of the trip will introduce you to the beautiful landscape and smooth roads that lie ahead.


After a hearty breakfast, head towards the Mae Malai market, where you can experience the vibrant local culture and grab some delicious snacks to enjoy along the way. From there, hop on your scooter and start your adventure.


The route to Mae Malai is relatively straightforward, as you’ll mainly follow the Mae Rim-Samoeng Road. This road offers scenic views of mountains, lush greenery, and rural communities. Take your time to soak in the surroundings and make stops at points of interest along the way.


One of the highlights on this route is the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, located around halfway to Mae Malai. This stunning garden is home to a wide variety of plant species and offers nature trails, lakes, and breathtaking landscapes. Take a leisurely stroll through the garden or enjoy a picnic amidst the tranquility.


As you continue towards Mae Malai, you’ll pass through peaceful villages and picturesque farmlands. Take a break at one of the roadside stalls to savor some local fruits or enjoy a refreshing coconut water.


Upon reaching Mae Malai, you can explore the town’s local market and sample some delectable northern Thai cuisine. Mae Malai is also home to the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park, where you can learn about the eco-friendly process of making paper from elephant dung.


For those seeking a more adventurous experience, consider taking a detour to the nearby Mae Ngat Dam, where you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, or relax on a bamboo raft. This serene reservoir surrounded by lush hills is an ideal spot for unwinding and taking in nature’s beauty.


As the day comes to an end, find a cozy guesthouse or resort in Mae Malai to spend the night. Reflect on the exciting experiences of the day and get ready for the next leg of your scooter road trip to Pai.


Day 2: Mae Malai to Pai

Get ready for an exhilarating day as you continue your scooter road trip from Mae Malai to Pai. This leg of the journey will take you through winding mountain roads, lush forests, and breathtaking viewpoints, offering an unforgettable experience.


Start your day with a hearty breakfast and prepare for the scenic ride ahead. Leave Mae Malai and follow Route 1095, also known as the Pai Highway, as it winds its way through the mountains towards Pai.


The road to Pai is known for its 762 twists and turns, offering a thrilling ride for adventure enthusiasts. Take it slow and savor the ride, stopping at various viewpoints along the way to admire the panoramic vistas of the valleys and peaks.


Approximately halfway to Pai, you’ll reach the iconic Pai Canyon. This natural wonder offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and a series of narrow paths and cliffs to explore. Take some time to hike along the trails and capture memorable photos.


Continue your journey and make a detour to visit the Mor Paeng Waterfall. This beautiful waterfall cascades down a series of limestone rocks, offering a refreshing spot to swim and cool off from the summer heat.


As you approach Pai, you’ll notice the change in scenery, with rice fields and bamboo groves dotted along the landscape. The town itself exudes a laid-back vibe, with its vibrant night market, cozy cafes, and bohemian atmosphere.


Upon arrival in Pai, take some time to explore the town’s attractions. Visit the Pai Walking Street, where you can browse through a variety of unique handicrafts, clothing, and local street food. Indulge in delicious treats like mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, or freshly grilled skewers.


For a serene experience, visit the Pai Hot Springs, located a short distance from the town center. Immerse yourself in the natural hot mineral waters, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, and let the therapeutic waters rejuvenate your body and mind.


As the day winds down, find a comfortable guesthouse or resort in Pai to spend the night. Experience the bohemian nightlife, listen to live music in one of the cozy bars, or simply relax and soak in the unique atmosphere of this enchanting town.


Day 2 marks the halfway point of your scooter road trip, and you’ve already experienced the thrill of the winding mountain roads and discovered the beauty of Pai. Get a good night’s rest and get ready for more exciting adventures as you continue your journey the next day.


Day 3: Exploring Pai

Day 3 of your scooter road trip is dedicated to fully exploring the charming town of Pai and its surrounding attractions. Known for its relaxed atmosphere, natural beauty, and vibrant culture, Pai has something to offer for every traveler.


Start your day by visiting the iconic Pai Memorial Bridge, also known as the WWII Memorial Bridge. This historic bridge, which was originally built by the Japanese during World War II, provides a glimpse into the town’s past and offers a picturesque setting for photos.


Next, head towards the nearby Pam Bok Waterfall, known for its cascades and natural pools set amidst a lush jungle setting. Take a dip in the refreshing waters or simply relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.


Continue your exploration by riding up to the stunning Yun Lai Viewpoint. From here, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of Pai and its picturesque valley, surrounded by mountain ranges. It’s the perfect spot to capture panoramic photos and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.


In the afternoon, venture to the Pai Land Split, an unusual phenomenon caused by an earthquake in 2008. This unique attraction offers a chance to learn about the local agriculture and enjoy a refreshing glass of homemade roselle juice, a must-try specialty.


As you ride back into town, make a stop at the Pai Canyon during sunset. The golden hues cast over the sandstone cliffs and the panoramic views of the valley create a mesmerizing sight. Take a leisurely walk along the narrow ridges, but make sure to watch your step.


In the evening, head into the heart of the town and explore the lively Pai Night Market. The market comes alive with street food vendors, local handicrafts, clothing stalls, and live music performances. Indulge in delicious Thai street food, shop for unique souvenirs, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.


If you’re up for some relaxation and rejuvenation after a day of exploration, consider visiting one of the many local spas in Pai. Pamper yourself with a traditional Thai massage or indulge in a soothing herbal sauna experience.


As the day comes to a close, take a moment to reflect on the beauty and charm of Pai. Find a cozy guesthouse or resort to spend the night, and get a good night’s rest as you prepare for the next leg of your scooter road trip. Pai has captured your heart, but there are still many more adventures awaiting you!


Day 4: Pai to Mae Hong Son Loop

Day 4 of your scooter road trip takes you on the famous Mae Hong Son Loop, a scenic and adventurous route that showcases the natural beauty of Northern Thailand. From Pai, you’ll embark on a journey through picturesque landscapes, verdant hills, and charming villages.


Start your day early to make the most of the journey ahead. Leave Pai and head west towards Mae Hong Son, the largest town in the region. The road is filled with twists and turns, offering breathtaking views at every corner.


As you make your way towards Mae Hong Son, you’ll pass through small villages surrounded by rice fields and stunning mountain vistas. Take the opportunity to stop by local markets or roadside stalls to sample delicious local snacks and interact with friendly locals.


Approximately halfway between Pai and Mae Hong Son, you’ll encounter the iconic Tham Lod Cave. Explore this magnificent limestone cave system, take a boat ride along the underground river, and marvel at the fascinating stalactites and stalagmites that adorn the caves.


Continuing on the Mae Hong Son Loop, you’ll ride through the quaint town of Soppong, famous for its laid-back atmosphere and nearby attractions such as the Lod Cave and the Pang Mapha Viewpoint. Take a break here to enjoy a delicious meal at a local restaurant and soak in the serene ambiance.


As you approach Mae Hong Son, you’ll be greeted by its famous landmarks, such as the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, a hilltop temple offering stunning panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Take some time to explore the temple grounds and admire the intricate architecture.


In Mae Hong Son, make sure to visit the picturesque Jong Kham Lake, located in the heart of town. This tranquil lake is surrounded by lush gardens and serves as a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Rent a paddleboat and leisurely explore the lake or simply relax in one of the lakeside cafes.


For an authentic cultural experience, visit the nearby Karen Long Neck Village, where you can learn about the fascinating traditions and customs of the Karen tribe. Interact with the villagers and witness their unique way of life.


As your day comes to an end, find a comfortable accommodation in Mae Hong Son to rest and recharge. Reflect on the beauty and diversity of the Mae Hong Son Loop, and get ready for the next leg of your journey as you head back towards Pai.


Day 5: Mae Hong Son Loop to Pai

On day 5 of your scooter road trip, prepare for an adventure-filled ride as you make your way back from Mae Hong Son to Pai. This leg of the journey allows you to revisit some of the stunning landscapes you encountered on the Mae Hong Son Loop.


Start your day early and bid farewell to the picturesque town of Mae Hong Son. As you depart, you’ll be treated to breathtaking mountain views and winding roads that will keep your adrenaline pumping.


As you ride back towards Pai, make sure to take your time and enjoy the scenic beauty that surrounds you. Take breaks at viewpoints along the way, such as the Pha Sua Waterfall Viewpoint, where you can admire the cascading waterfall and the sprawling greenery.


One of the highlights of the journey back to Pai is the stunning viewpoint at Doi Kiew Lom. This viewpoint offers a panoramic vista of the mountains, which seem to stretch endlessly into the horizon. It’s an ideal spot to take in the natural beauty of the region and capture some memorable photos.


As you ride along the serpentine roads, you’ll pass through charming villages and encounter friendly locals. Take the opportunity to stop at roadside stalls and try some local delicacies or purchase handmade crafts as souvenirs.


Make a detour to visit the Pong Duad Hot Springs, nestled amidst the lush forest. Relax in the soothing warm waters and let the natural minerals rejuvenate your body. The hot springs offer a perfect opportunity to unwind and take in the tranquility of the surroundings.


As you continue towards Pai, you’ll notice the landscape transitions from mountains to rolling hills and open fields. The final stretch of the journey is characterized by smooth roads and breathtaking views.


Arriving back in Pai, you’ll feel a sense of familiarity and connection to this charming town. Reflect on the memories you’ve made and the adventures you’ve had along the journey. End your day with a visit to one of the local cafes or restaurants, enjoying a delicious meal and recounting the highlights of your road trip.


Find a comfortable guesthouse or resort in Pai to spend the night, allowing yourself time to relax and prepare for the final leg of your journey back to Chiang Mai the following day.


Day 6: Pai to Chiang Mai

On the final day of your scooter road trip, it’s time to bid farewell to the enchanting town of Pai and make your way back to Chiang Mai. This leg of the journey allows you to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had and creates lasting memories as you ride through scenic landscapes.


Start your day with a leisurely breakfast in Pai, savoring the last moments of the town’s relaxed atmosphere. Before hitting the road, take the opportunity to explore any attractions or local markets you may have missed during your previous days in Pai.


As you leave Pai, the road takes you through the beautiful countryside, passing through lush green fields and rolling hills. Take in the fresh air and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding nature.


Along the way, make a stop at the Sai Ngam Hot Spring, which offers a natural hot pool surrounded by towering bamboo trees. Take a dip and let the soothing mineral-rich waters soothe your muscles before continuing your journey.


Continue riding through the scenic countryside, passing by charming villages and picturesque vistas. Take your time to appreciate the slower pace of life and the natural beauty that surrounds you.


Approximately halfway between Pai and Chiang Mai, you’ll come across the iconic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This sacred temple, perched on a mountaintop, offers a panoramic view of Chiang Mai and its surroundings. Make a stop here to explore the temple grounds and enjoy the breathtaking view before descending back into the city.


As you arrive back in Chiang Mai, take some time to return your scooter and bid farewell to your trusty two-wheeled companion. Reflect on the incredible journey you’ve been on, from the winding mountain roads to the charming towns and stunning natural landscapes.


Treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of Chiang Mai’s renowned restaurants, savoring the flavors of Northern Thai cuisine. Explore the city’s bustling markets or visit a temple to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the region.


Finally, find a comfortable accommodation in Chiang Mai to rest and reflect on the amazing experiences of your scooter road trip. Think back on the scenic routes, vibrant towns, and warm hospitality you encountered along the way, knowing that you’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.



Your scooter road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai has come to an end, but the memories and experiences will stay with you forever. This adventure through the stunning landscapes and vibrant towns of Northern Thailand has offered a unique and immersive way to explore the hidden gems of the region.


From the cultural capital of Chiang Mai to the bohemian atmosphere of Pai, each day of the road trip was filled with breathtaking scenery, thrilling rides, and enriching encounters with the local culture. Whether it was cruising along the Mae Hong Son Loop, swimming in natural hot springs, or exploring picturesque waterfalls, you’ve witnessed the natural beauty and charm that Northern Thailand has to offer.


Throughout your journey, you embraced the freedom and flexibility that comes with riding a scooter, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the surroundings. The winding mountain roads, lush valleys, and vibrant markets have painted a vivid picture of this enchanting part of Thailand.


As you rode through the Mae Hong Son Loop, you had the opportunity to interact with friendly locals, taste delicious regional cuisine, and witness the rich traditions and cultures of the hill tribes that call this area home. These encounters have provided a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diversity of the region.


Now that your road trip has concluded, take a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had. The memories of cruising through the mountains, exploring hidden waterfalls, and indulging in the flavors of Northern Thai cuisine will stay with you for years to come.


As you leave Northern Thailand, remember to carry these experiences and the spirit of adventure with you. The scooter road trip from Chiang Mai to Pai has shown you a side of Thailand that many travelers miss, and it’s a journey that will forever hold a special place in your heart.


Until the next adventure, keep exploring and seeking out new experiences. Whether it’s in Thailand or elsewhere, there’s always more to discover, and the spirit of the road trip will continue to fuel your wanderlust.