Pai in the Sky: Go Green
Written by TTR Weekly
High up in Thailand’s far north, the village of Pai has been identified as the perfect site to develop a responsible and environmentally friendly tourism.
Surrounded by the forested peaks of Mae Hong Son province, Pai village stands in a lush green valley and made its name with Thailand’s young generation travellers as a chic cool season destination.
But that is not enough to ensure the village can develop year-round business to sustain a growing number of attractive boutique resorts, spas and nature related soft adventure tours.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand objectives is to work alongside the village’s tourism industry to develop a long-term and sustainable business to keep the area green and clean for future generations.
Pai is a key pilot project under the concept “Seven Greens,” which is intended to foster environmental awareness including active participation from all stakeholders in tourism from government agencies to media through to non-governmental organisations, tour operators and private service providers.
The “Seven Greens concept” aims to reconcile the challenges facing Pai’s environment and tourism to protect the environment and restore quality by raising environmental awareness and promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The Seven Green programme provides a conceptual framework and establishes practical guidelines. It facilitates the formation of strategic partnerships and provides a cooperative basis for green initiatives in the following areas.
- Green Heart: Urges tourists to be socially responsible and environmentally aware as well as to be part of global efforts to help protect and preserve the environment at all tourist attractions;
- Green Logistics: Encourages more environmentally-friendly tourism-related models of transport to minimise direct and indirect environmental impact;
- Green Destinations: Promotes responsibly managed tourist sites that respect the environment;
- Green communities: Supports community-based tourism in both urban and rural areas that places greater importance of responsible tourism management that also promotes conservation of the environment, local traditions;
- Green Activities: Promotes tourism activities that are well-suited to local communities. These provide visitors with engaging and culturally-enriching experiences without comprising in the integrity of the environment;
- Green Service: Urges tourism-related service providers to create positive first impression for visitors, and to win hearts and minds by attaining higher quality assurance standards whilst demonstrating respect, care and concern for the environment;
- Green Plus: Encourages Corporative Social Responsibility (CSR) among operators by encouraging them to give back to the communities where they operate. For example, by refraining from undertaking any acts that might cause environmental damage.
The small district of Pai in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, near the border with Myanmar, is tucked away in one of the country’s remote mountain ranges.
The village stands on a river of the same name, 111 km from Mae Hong Son’s Mueang district and 135 km north of Chiang Mai.
Initially catering to backpackers, the area gained popularity after it was discovered by Thai TV channels that promoted it as a chic, cool season destination often using it as a venue for fashion shoots.
From 2006 onwards there was a boom in travel during November through to February when temperatures can fall to around 8 to 10 degrees centigrade in the mornings and evenings. It shot to fame after a romantic Thai soap opera was filmed on locations using many of the small town’s landmarks such as bridges, river and the walking street market.
During the peak season, October to February, the village is packed with visitors and getting a room can be a challenge, although during the remainder of the year there is an oversupply of rooms. The official count is 350 guest houses and hotels offering 2,682 rooms.
The town’s most popular attractions is its walking street, packed with stalls and shops selling handicrafts, postcards, and T-shirts that sport a variety of rhymes playing on the word “Pai”.
The Pai River flows from the Daen Lao range 180 km through the province and is the main attraction for tours and soft adventure. During the rainy season the river is popular for white water rafting, while in the cool season the hot springs, caves, forest walks and elephant treks are popular.
Mor Paeng waterfall is located 9 km from Pai at Ban Mo Pang Moo 4 Mae Na Toeng sub-district and is a popular route for travellers who hire motor cycles.
Tha Pai Hot Spring is located in the Huai Nam Dang National Park, 8 km south of Pai. The hot spring is 2 km off highway 1095 at Km 87. Water temperatures range around 80 degree Celsius.
Muang Pang Hot Spring located in Baan Mueng Pang area, 28 km from Pai district. The site is much bigger with water temperatures of 95 degree Celsius.
Santichon Village is a U-narn Chinese community made up of people who emigrated from China 10 years ago. They have managed to preserve their culture, written language, Chinese dress and this is reflected in the traditional houses built from clay and rice straw.
Happy Air operates a nonstop daily flight Bangkok-Mae Hong Son route on Fridays and Sundays.
The other way is to fly to Chiang Mai first and link with the daily air services to Pai from there.
Kan Air operates a daily flight on weekday and twice daily flights on weekend from Chiang Mai to Pai. Meanwhile, Nok Mini provides twice daily flights to Mae Hong Son.
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