High in the embrace of Northern Thailand’s hills lies Pai, a town of artistry and authentic soul. A haven for the poetic wanderer. Pai is an amalgamation of time honoured traditions, hill tribe narratives and a blossoming bohemian spirit. This blend gives Pai a distinctive artistic pulse.

It is a wonderful hippie town. In my opinion, the best vegan food in Thailand is found here.

View of Pai Valley From White Buddha Statue | Pai, Thailand

Ornate tin details on pastel painted old wall | Pai, Thailand

Love messages hanging display at Chinese Yunnan Village | Pai, Thailand

Pretty bohemian painted wall mural inside cafe | Pai, Thailand

Getting to Pai, from Chiang Mai, is a tight knitted road of twists and turns that takes approximately 3 hours by car. For those with a delicate stomach, ditch the shared minivan for a sturdy 4wd. That road? It's a journey, an adventure in itself. Leaving Pai, on my way back down, the aftermath of a storm the night before presented in a mosaic of mudslides, uprooted trees, and entangled wires.

But once you are there, the town is in a valley with rolling hills, meandering rivers and has a delightful tranquil ambiance. I do recommend a trip to what is known as Pai Canyon. But tread wisely; its untamed paths demand a careful step. I chose admiration from a safe distance.

View from lookout at Pai Canyon | Pai, Thailand

Aside from the indie night market, healthy vegan food options, handicraft boutiques, avant garde art galleries and hidden laneway shops, what I loved about Pai was the lanterns decorating the streets.

Colourful traditional lanterns along the night market street | Pai, Thailand

Lanterns at night illuminate the night market on a rainy evening | Pai, Thailand

Strung along a series of streets around the centre of town and night market, these lanterns added a festive and charming cultural vibe. Made of colourful silk and bamboo, these lanterns are colourful during the day and carry a soft glow at night.

The lanterns are believed to represent harmony, balance and unity and the gentle sway in the breeze a conduit for positive energy.

Lanterns are common throughout Thailand, with each region presenting a particular shape and design. The ones in Pai, reflect the influence of the hill tribes of the region and local craftsmanship.

Bright pink lanterns above a traditional wooden Lanna building | Pai, Thailand

Star shaped lanterns hanging above the street | Pai, Thailand

Pencil sketch of cultural lanterns from my artist sketchbook

Work In Progress: Playing with background colours for digital illustration

Work In Progress : Deciding on the colour palette for the final digital drawing

I’ve distilled this festive and energetic vibe in a digital pencil illustration, in an attempt to bring a piece of this magical lantern dance into your world.

Lanterns In Pai | Digital drawing by Unratio | 40x60 inches 

Until next time, 


September 03, 2023

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