Ohhh, Pai. One of my happy places. San Francisco feels gloomy and stressful today so I'm mentally transporting myself to Art in Chai, where I spent countless (literally. The lady definitely thought I was a degenerate) hours reading, FaceTiming, and journaling while sipping delicious Chai lattes.
It's fair to say that I might be a bit biased towards Pai because this is the town where I met my best friends while traveling. I was randomly assigned to a four-person dorm at Common Grounds, and two of my three roommates were Jess and John, a Canadian couple with whom I would later travel most of Vietnam. We later met Saawan, an American who also became part of the Vietnam travel crew.
It's easy to make friends in Pai because there's not a ton to do there. If you dream of a relaxing vacation, choose Pai over any of the beaches of Southern Thailand. Common Grounds is a hippie paradise with hammocks and floor cushions covering the outdoor common area. It's a block away from the night market, which was one of the least aggressive in terms of locals vying for your attention. The night market goods were also generally craftier, more unique, and less cheap-y than some of the other cities. If there's room in your bag, I would recommend buying your souvenirs in Pai over any other city in Southeast Asia. (Bold statement alert.)
Pai is where travelers go to nurse motorcycle wounds and hangovers by chatting for hours in the pools of a waterfall, playing guitar at a hostel, and drinking casually in hammocks while listening to live music. I honestly feel so much calmer just thinking about being there.