Pai Fields and Mountains

When I chose a yoga retreat in Thailand to celebrate my 28th birthday I was prepared for the questions from cynical friends and family and the answer was no, I wasn’t trying to “find myself”.

I was simply desperate to get back out to South East Asia, I had 9 days in total, including travel time, and I was going alone. With a backpack full of yoga pants I set off to the very cool, laid back and unique little corner of northern Thailand – Pai.

The Retreat


The Yoga school is in a stunning peaceful rural setting, overlooking yellow fields against the backdrop of smouldering mountains, on the outskirts of Pai. There isn’t a better scenery to immerse yourself in when stretching, relaxing, meditating.

The retreat is run by the warm and hilarious yogi – Bhud, who takes on a group of maximum 12 students, teaching them yoga, pranayama breathing, meditation, sinus cleansing, yoga philosophy.

The daily schedule becomes a comfortable routine that lets you spend five days with a quiet unbroken focus on your own body and mind. I mean literally quiet – the first half of the day is spent in silence.

The Yoga

Bhud in Plank

If you’re an experienced yogi you will find the yoga practice quite mild as it is aimed at all levels and indeed half of our group had never tried yoga before. However, an experienced yogi will also know that even in a practice that at first appears “easy”, there are always opportunities to take yourself further and deeper into a pose. It’s a small enough group to allow personal attention from Bhud to those who might be struggling or those who want to be challenged further.

Upside down yoga

There were a few times, as we sat chanting ‘OM’ or making ‘bumble bee noises’ during breathing exercises when I felt grateful to be so isolated – if an “outsider” was to drop in on us they’d surely think we belonged to a cult. But I set my awkwardness aside and immersed myself in the daily practice; it wasn’t long until I felt the benefits – more energy, better sleep, clearer mind and quiet contentedness.


Yogi breakfast and lunch

Increased energy may be surprising given that there are three vegetarian meals a day, without any snacking in between and with the first meal served at 9.45 am – after two hours of morning practice. As Bhud explained, the body adapts quickly and invigorates itself through other energy-giving sources – the sun, fresh air, pranayama breathing, yoga poses.

All meals are prepared skillfully and lovingly by Muk who owns and lives on the land where the yoga sala is located. Muk grows her own vegetables and herbs and transforms them into flavourful, colourful meals and juices. She also runs cooking classes in her magic kitchen!

Bhud and Muk are really an incredible duo and I wondered how they didn’t feel drained after giving so much of themselves to every fortnightly retreat. It must be all that yoga!

Getting There

I flew from London to Chiang Mai, with a few hours stop-over in Hong Kong. With only two days to explore the many wats and the lively night bazaar of Chiang Mai, I took in as much of the atmosphere as I could.

Pai lies north west of Chiang Mai and is a 3 hour bus ride away – also accessible by air from Chiang Mai airport. I booked my seat a day in advance, on an early-morning mini-van, leaving from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station. The journey takes you along winding mountainous roads so pick a seat at the front and stock up on travel sickness medicine. Arriving in downtown Pai, you can arrange with the retreat to be collected, just let them know in advance which bus you’re catching and your ETA.

Location and Accommodation

Silence zone

Accommodation ‘In Pai Resort’, is a 10 minute walk away from the yoga retreat and is a private, clean space to digest the lessons of the day. Free wi-fi will let you catch up with the ‘outside world’. Don’t expect to make frequent trips into Pai over the 5 day period of the retreat.

The 5 night retreat costs approximately GBP270 (12,500 Thai Baht), all inclusive of accommodation, food and a full daily programme. This is not a sponsored post; all experiences and views are my own.

11 Days In South Africa Unplanned
Travel Photography: Tom Robinson, Uttarayan Kite Festival
  • This is a beautiful part of Thailand I didn’t get to visit. I have always loved open spaces close to nature. This would be the perfect place to recharge batteries. Oh and the food looks so good.

  • Wow I loved your post! I am planning a trip next year with a friend to Thailand and we are looking at places to visit. I think this place would be perfect to relax, although I better learn some basic yoga. Was 9 days enough in Thailand? We are trying to figure out how long we should go for, right now we are thinking 2 weeks.

  • ::Ahh, great article, Victoria! I am going to take this retreat in Feb 2014 (by myself, too), counting down the days!

    I will be flying in to Bangkok – would you recommend taking the overnight train up north or flying? Did you feel safe travelling by yourself?

  • This sounds brilliant. I did something similar in Bali and loved it so I’m always on the lookout for one somewhere different.

  • Victoria

    Hi Michael, thanks for reading! 🙂
    You’re right, it was absolutely the perfect place to relax. If you can, get a couple of days in Pai before or after the retreat, it’s a really quaint but fun spot though it’s fast becoming popular with tourists.
    My 9 days included travel time and to be honest I didn’t feel like it was enough. Two weeks would be fine if you’re staying around the same area (Chiang Mai and Pai should be fine in that time) – Chiang Mai has a lot to offer in itself and there are a lot of side trips I wish I’d had time to do. Let me know how it goes; I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time!

  • Victoria

    Thanks so much Stefanie, and glad you’re doing the retreat!
    I felt a lot safer than I’d anticipated – didn’t have any trouble whatsoever but of course make an effort to stay safe just as you would on any trip. If you’re staying on in Thailand for any length of time after the retreat then it’s unlikely you’ll be on your own; a lot of travelers do the retreat and seemed to make plans to continue travelling together afterwards.

    I flew into Chiang Mai via Hong Kong and took a bus so I have no first hand experience in travelling up from Bangkok; however, if you’re planning to take the train, I would really recommend this blog for info: A really useful resource.

    Let me know what you thought when you’re back 🙂

  • Victoria

    Hi Monica, give it a go when you have the chance. I’ve also had my eye on this place to try:

  • Haha, I really laughed at this one: “There were a few times, as we sat chanting ‘OM’ or making ‘bumble bee noises’ during breathing exercises when I felt grateful to be so isolated”

    I can relate! Thanks for sharing your experiences ;-D

  • yolande

    can you please give me details and contact site to book yoga in Pai please

  • Hi Yolande,

    The Yoga Retreat website is