You are probably aware that Thailand is a majority Buddhist Country and that the kingdom is scattered with unique and beautiful shrines and temples. Each one offering something different to the last. Thailand temples and shrines are so incredible that many of them have become hot spots for tourists trying to get a look.
Well, the Pai Big Buddha is one of the most impressive shrines you’ll come across in Thailand. The Buddha statue stands dominant in the picturesque Pai hillside- it can be seen from miles away all around Mae Hong Son. If you’re spending any time in Pai, I’d be willing you bet you see the Pai Big Buddha.
But seeing this impressive Big Buddha statue from the ground doesn’t quite do it justice. You need to hike into the mountainside an up the 353 stairs to get the full effect of just how incredible this religious attraction is.
Pai White Buddha or Big Buddha
What is the difference between the Pai White Buddha and the Big Buddha? Actually, there is no difference, it’s a different name for the same spot. The name is Thai translates to English as ‘Buddha Big’, but you can easily see where the nickname of the white Buddha comes from.
Hiking The Pai Big Buddha
Get ready to get a sweat on, because it 2 kilometres to the top. There are over 353 stairs, but the view once you reach the top is breathtaking. It will take around 20 minutes of continuous climbing if you’re in somewhat decent shape, and you’ll be burning a few calories on the climb! If you’re travelling to the Pai Big Buddha in the rainy season the climb will be a little more tolerable, but if you’re travelling during the peak season you might want to save the hike until late in the afternoon or early morning- and bring plenty of water.
At the top, the staircase opens out onto a viewing platform where the Buddha sits. It is an active religious site so remember to dress appropriately and behave as such. You’ll see food and drink offerings left out, candles burning and locals meditating and paying respect to the Pai Big Buddha.
You will have epic views looking down across Pai once you reach the top. Take a minute or two to catch your breath and you’ll see the luscious mountain ranges surrounding you as well as the rice paddies and fields, take some time to savour this view before pulling out your camera.
How Much Does The Pai Big Buddha Cost
Most temples or shrines in Thailand have some sort of entrance fee. Come to think of it, natural attractions, beaches and even bathrooms in bars have entrance fees in Thailand, (for westerners at least). The Pai Big Buddha on the other hand is free to visit. I expect that to change in due course as the locals get hungrier for those tourist dollars. But the time being it will cost you nothing.
That being said it is expected that you leave some amount of money as a donation in the donations box, it’s not required but it is polite. Usually a small note 20 to 50 Baht is sufficient.
There are a few small market sellers at the foot of the staircase where you can buy snacks and bottled water. You’ll also be expected to have your shoulders covered so if you need to, you can rent a sarong for 20 Baht.
How To Get The Big Buddha In Pai
There are few choices you have to get to the Pai Big Buddha, but as there is no public transport it Pai, at all. Most travellers find the easiest way to get to the Pai Buddha is to ride there themselves.
Ride A Scooter To The Pai Big Buddha
Most travellers in Pai will choose to rent their own scooter as an inexpensive way to get around. You can rent scooters in Pai for as little as 100 Baht per day, there are countless scooter rental shops scattered around Pai, you won’t have any trouble renting a scooter here.
Getting to the Pai Big Buddha will depend on where you’re are staying in Pai. Most accommodation in near the centre of town, which is a short five minute ride away.
Take A Taxi To The Pai Big Buddha
If you’re not comfortable riding a scooter then you can always recruit the help of a local cab drive to bring you instead. You’ll be best off negotiating a ‘day-rate‘ with the drive so you’ll pay a fixed price and he will wait for you, and drive you back to your accommodation afterwards. But taxi a taxi is going to be the most expensive transport option to get there. If you’re looking for cheap transportation but aren’t comfortable riding a scooter, you’ll be best off taking a tour of Pai.
Join A Pai Big Buddha Tour
Pai just like every other touristic area in Thailand is packed full with tour sellers, touts and kiosks. Agencies are on every corner and hostels and guesthouses also have a slice of the pie. So with the strong competition between ticket sellers, you can often bag yourself an incredible deal.
You won’t find a tour to only visit the Big Buddha, but the tours usually visit a few hotspots in on day, so you might visit the Big Buddha first thing in the morning, swing by the hot spring in the afternoon and end the day at the Pai Canyon in the evening.
A tour like this would cost around 500 Baht, which is less than you’d pay for a taxi. And you’ll get to visit a few other sights places for the same cost.
Tips For Visiting The Big Buddha In Pai
- Remember you are visiting a religious site, so you should follow the same dress-code and behaviour that you would at a temple, keep your voice low and be respectful. Public displays of affection are a no-go here, and will quickly land you in trouble.
- Meditation isn’t just for the locals, anyone can meditate at the top. And you will see a few westerners meditating with local Thai people.
- There is a small shop at the bottom of the stairs so you can buy bottled water for the climb. And you can buy snacks afterwards to replenish your energy, there are no shops at the top.
- Pai Big Buddha opening hours: Open from 6 am until 6 pm, so while you can catch a sunrise from the top. Unfortunately, the site closes around 30 minutes to an hour before the sunset.
Where To Next?
There is plenty to do in see in Pai and I’ve put together some guides to my faviorte things to in Pai, you can read more here.