Recently we took a trip to Mae Salong, Thailand with our good friends along what some call the Mae Salong Loop. We departed Chiang Mai and circled counterclockwise through Chiang Rai, Mae Salong, and Chiang Dao before heading back to Chiang Mai. We will touch on Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao in upcoming posts, but right now we would like to share some of what we were so impressed by during our trip to Mae Salong.
Mae Salong, Thailand
Officially renamed by the Thai government to Santikhiri, Mae Salong is an ethnic Chinese village located 10 km east of the Myanmar border and 80 km west of Chiang Rai. Most of the village’s population are either refugees or descendants of refugees from the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Also home to at least four different hill tribes, each with their own languages, Mae Salong can definitely be labeled melting pot.
View Mae Salong Loop in a larger map
This once major opium producing village in the more prevalent days of the Golden Triangle has since been transformed into Chiang Rai’s largest producer of high-grade traditional Chinese tea, better known as High Mountain Oolong. Mae Salong is also known for its annual cherry blossom festival from December 28th to January 2nd. We look forward to being able to check it out this year.
Our Trip to Mae Salong
As we crawled onward from Chiang Rai through the sometimes unnervingly twisty and steep Northern Thailand mountains, past a partial road collapse, we began to see bits and pieces of the Chinese tea producing village of Mae Salong. Though we arrived during the day, it was noticeably small, quiet, and serene. As we later discovered, it only takes about ten slow driving minutes to pass through the village on the main two lane road.
Arriving at our home for the evening we were breathless as we peered out over the perfectly formed valley running parallel to the Northern side of the village. Just standing there looking over the edge didn’t feel real.
We admit, the curious thought of how much monthly rent might be for a bungalow perched on one of these picturesque hills skipped its way across our minds for a few moments. This place was even quieter than our recent trip to Pai. Actually, during most of our trip to Mae Salong we felt like we were the only people for miles around.
Our bungalow at the Maesalong Mountain Home was cozy, equipped with a comfortable mattress, a rattan mat, two large windows that opened up wide to the mountains, and a large western style bathroom with hot water. Also included was an extra thick comforter that would prove to keep us nice and warm during the cool northern Thailand night ahead of us.
After we were checked in we decided that we should head back up to the restaurant to watch the sunset over the village. We had no idea what we were in for as we step out of our door onto the walking path.
The green, blue, purple, and pink vistas were incredible sights to see. That, paired with the cool mountain air, contrasted sharply with the hot and hazy Chiang Rai we had parted with just a couple of hours earlier. Even the resident puppy was impressed.
As the sun set, the girls grabbed an extra layer and we all sat down in the open air restaurant to a traditional Yunnan meal and a couple of large Singha beers. We were so hungry and the food was so delicious that nobody remembered to snap a couple of photos of the feast.
After chatting about our lives back in our home countries and stuffing ourselves with spicy Chinese goodness, we retired to our respective bungalows for the night.
The next morning we woke up with our trip to Mae Salong coming to an end. We enjoyed some tea at the restaurant, but knowing that they didn’t serve an expansive breakfast we headed to Sweet Mea Salong, a small cafe on the edge of a hill just a little ways into the village. Once there we enjoyed a couple of different things on the menu.
After we were all just a little too caffeinated, we set off on the five-hour car ride to Chiang Mai. Our trip to Mae Salong was over, but we told ourselves that we would definitely be back soon…possibly for an extended stay. We’d like to thank Jmayel and Sacha for a wonderful trip.