Mae Salong North Thailand, A remote Chinese village in the mountains
After a 4 hour drive from Chiang Mai, through Chiang Dao and past glorious mountains, miles upon miles of countryside, open farmland and orange groves winding upwards into the hills…we arrived in Mae Salong, North Thailand.
Driving through Chiang Dao
Jmayel had booked a surprise trip away for my birthday and as the car pulled off the tarmac road onto the bumpy dirt track which lead us into our home for the next 2 nights, my tummy was filled with bubbles of excitement. I had been promised something good, “we’ve never been there before” was the only clue to where we were heading.
A further 60km up from Chiang Rai and less than 10 km from the Burmese border, Mae Salong is about as remote as you can get.
The small town perched 1,300m up in the mountains has been home to a community of Chinese Nationalists since World War II. The village hides a notorious past as being the opium capital of drug barons from the 60’s until the late 80s when the Thai government stamped out the opium fields and set up crop programs for the residents to earn a safe living. The area is now covered in a green sea of tea plantations. Since the positive change from drug capital to tea producers, Mae Salong is officially known as Santikhiri, or ‘Hill of Peace.’
Where To Stay In Maesalong
We stayed at ’Mae Salong Mountain Home,’ which is probably one of the nicest places we have stayed in our time in Thailand so far. (a close second to Ban Dalah in Pai) The views from the restaurant terrace and the bedrooms were to die for. If you want to get away from it all, relax and just enjoy being, then this is the place to do it.
Where To Eat In Maesalong
Western and even Thai Food choices in Mae Salong can be quite limited*, Chinese influence is prominent in the menus around town, with the traditional Thai style food taken over by simple Yunnan Chinese dishes.
Our hotel had an onsite restaurant where we had our dinner (Now with updated Menu since 11/2014). Breakfast however was hard to come by if you didn’t fancy fried rice. One morning our hotel had run out of toast and fruits, so we headed into the main town to seek other options.
* Since writing this Maesalong has developed a little more western influence in places and there are more food options available. Check out our review of ’Sweet Maesalong Cafe’
This time we ended up at Poo Salong, a little café/tea shop. Fresh oolong tea and bruschetta was our breakfast of choice, a little more morning friendly than the full on noodles and Chinese curry on offer at the hotel.
Poo Salong also have their own tea fields and sell the tea in their shop, along with homemade jam and mulberry wine which has a logo very similar to our blog don’t you think? ^^^
What To See In Maesalong
Mae Salong’s temple, Wat Santikhiri is well worth a visit for some outstanding views across the tea terraces and countryside surrounding the village. We witnessed some birds of prey reaching lofty heights above us while we took in the landscape.
There is a morning market in the town, where the hill tribes come to sell their wares and is nice to wander round, but be prepared for some pressure to buy and you will also need some haggling skills!
One of the other highlights of Mae Salong is being able to walk through the emerald green throng of tea bushes down to a fast flowing river. We started the walk at the set of giant lions, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel and just headed downwards following the dirt path right to the bottom. See map for directions to the lions.
View Mae Salong Tea Plantations in a larger map
Path through the plantations
We almost forgot we were in Thailand while in Mae Salong, its very Chinese flavored. Chinese tea shops dominate the town, where tea tastings are a must and the streets are lined with Chinese style lanterns.
There is a certain charm and culture about Mae Salong, and a very authentic feel in the air, it is a great little place to visit, peaceful, remote and well worth the drive. Plus you can stock up on all the Oolong tea and coffee fresh from the hills that you can carry.
Looking down on Mae Salong from the hill top temple
I’m already hankering for a trip back there, my packet of tea has almost run out so that’s my excuse for going again – yes I know I can get it from the markets in Chiang Mai, it’s just not the same as watching it growing in the fields!
Watch Our Road Trip to Maesalong with Sacha’s Father
Pet Friendly Hotel in MaeSalong:
*Other Useful information
Pet Friendly Hotels in other parts of Thailand? – Looking for Pet Friendly Hotels in other parts of Thailand?
Bringing a dog to Thailand – The ins and outs of Exporting a dog from the UK to Thailand.
Info we have categorized under Pets – Other Posts Related to Edens Dog Life in Thailand. Including cute dog videos and some Pet Friendly Hotel reviews too.
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Jmayel, Sacha & Eden El-Haj