Located almost on the border of Burma in the far north of Thailand, Mae Salong hardly feels like Thailand at all!
Over 50 years ago, the town was settled by ex-Chinese Nationalist Army fugitives (the Kuomintang) fleeing from Burma after Communism strengthened its foothold in China. Ethnic minority Akha villages are within walking distance of the town and local women in their traditional costumes head to the market in Mae Salong to sell their wares.
The town was also notorious for being the base (in nearby Ban Hin Taek) of the infamous warlord, Khun Sa, who sold vast amounts of opium from here in order to fund his attacks against the Burmese government.
Today, the opium trade has been replaced by the production of oolong tea which shapes the landscape of the area and tourists are starting to come in dribs and drabs…
Places to stay in Mae Salong:
There are quite a few guesthouses in Mae Salong suitable for the backpacker budget with prices for a basic room as cheap as 100 baht! Mid-range options such as Mae Salong Mountain Home are around $500 THB ($14 USD) per night. Surprisingly, there are a few high-end resorts cropping up in Mae Salong lately, such as the fancy Phumektawan Resort, which are becoming more popular as the town gets more well-known.
Things to do in Mae Salong
This is motorbiking country and this is the way that many travellers get to Mae Salong. The windy roads, beautiful landscape and fresh air make for some of the best motorbiking journeys in the world.
Tea bushes are grown all over the area meaning the tea is fresh and delicious! Sip a cup in the morning as the mist rises over the mountains.
Visit the Chinese Martyrs Memorial Museum:
The museum is dedicated to the original settlers of Mae Salong, the 4,000+ Kuonmintang (Chinese National Army) who settled here after being driven out of Burma. If you want to find out more about their struggle, this is the place!
With gorgeous mountainous countryside, many hill-tribe villages (Akha, Hmong and Shan) in the area, Mae Salong is a fantastic base to go trekking.
The unique activity here in Mae Salong is pony-trekking with trips out to the surrounding hill-tribe villages. A four-hour trek will set you back around 400 baht.
Getting to Mae Salong:
Mae Salong is about a one hour drive from Chiang Rai and there are minibuses leave regularly from the town. The most popular way of getting to the village is by motorbike – push your Honda Click to the limit up these hills!
Where to go next?
- Chiang Rai: The small, artsy town of Chiang Rai is just an hour from Mae Salong, which is a great base to take jungle and mountain treks from.
- Chiang Mai: About five hours away you will find yourself in Thailand’s capital of culture, Chiang Mai, cram-packed with restaurants, nightlife, cooking schools, elephant sanctuaries, trekking companies and famous markets.