Thailand's North


Global Mark : 14.89    Top Ten : No3

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


5 5 1 3 5 3 5 2 2 13.78

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
8 100% (8) 100% (8) 100% (8) 10 to 20 16.00

Description : 
A Chinese (Kuomintang) village set in beautiful mountains scenery with tea, coffee & fruits plantations

Comments : From the minorities point of view, out of a scale of 5, this place would score 6 : 95% of the population are Yunnan Chinese and the rest is composed of tribes people (Akha, Lisu, Lahu,...).

What to do ? Test your Chinese skills / Sip Chinese tea / Explore the surroundings villages : there are plenty of trails to choose from / Spend a day on a horse (B400) / Watch kids play football near the market (why not join them ?) / Get up the stairs to Phra Borom That for a good view of the surroundings / Continue up on the concrete road for a beautiful & peaceful sunset / Degust Yunnan food / Relax & enjoy ! 

What you may not like ? Not being here at the nicest season (winter, December to January, when the tea leaves are collected by tribes people in traditional costume) / The ugly houses among the superb natural setting / The apparent poverty of the tribes people which contrast with the apparent wealth of the Chinese / About the horse trek, not having the freedom to go where you wish to go and stop where you wish to stop / The Akha ladies who insist to fix a bracelet on your wrist even so you keep telling them you do not wish to buy anything nor take them in photo / After fighting the stairs, finding the temple's doors close (it actually open only in rare occasions) / Where there are Chinese, there are karaoke ! / The lack of "cheap" accomodation / 

How long ? You would need a couple of days to walk it all ! 

Where to stay ? 

bulletAkha Maesalong Guesthouse (053 765103), from songthaew stop, go toward tha ton, pass Gold Dragon Inn, road going up on your right / Rooms 100 / HW / Go there for the huge & cozy teak rooms and because a guidebook discourage travelers to go there so it is quite empty / What you may not like : the poor mattress, the noise from the road
bulletShin Sane (765026), next to the above / Rooms in house 100, bungalows w. HW shower in garden 300 / HW / Restaurant / Go there to follow the crowd but, truly, the rooms aren't as nice as the above.
bulletGold Dragon Inn (765009), on main road / Rooms or bungalows w. HW shower 200(1) or 300(2) / Much nicer than the above bungalows and even cheaper if alone...

Where to eat ? Plenty of small Chinese restaurants serve noodle & basic rice dishes (some even got baozi)

Bank ? Yes, there is one in town. Closes at 3pm. 

Internet ? No, not yet... But one was reported at Ban Basang (B25 per hour) so if you are waiting for a bus... 

Backpacker's Tips : Andrew Curtis, New Zealand (Oct 08)
« Never stayed here, but passing through it was wicked, great views from up by the temple. The bakery (can not remember the name but it is on the main road on right side if heading north out of town and looks like a flashish place) on the way north out of town has amazing chocolate cake and bottomless green tea… pricey but honestly was some of best chocolate cake ever and great terrace to hangout on and soak in views. If on a bike… find a road and ride along it into the back waters, great views, no tourists and interested locals. » 

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
« A nice little village but I think it is a  bit overrated. Nothing special morning market. A tea factory nearby : you can see the procedure to make tea. You can do trekking around the area through Hin Teak as far as to Mae Klaem, a very very small mountain village at the Burma border (actually there is no border). Mostly Lisu, Ahka and Chinese live in that area. Sometimes if you look closely you will find some poppy flower in the countryside.»

Leave Mae Salong ?
Transport really become apparent at 8am only. To Mae Sai, a direct truck will leave at 8 (B60, 1.5 hrs). After, it will depend on the demand. Songthaew go only to Ban Basang (B50, 1 hour) in theory regularly from around 8 to around 14 (more later if people). In Ban Basang, buses pass regularly to Mae Sai, Chiang Saen or Chiang Rai (B10). 
Going in the other direction to Tha Ton, yellow songthaew also depart regularly from around 8 to around 15 (B25, 45mn) to the turn off. From there, songthaew go to Tha Ton regularly in the morning (B20, 40mn).

Bus Schedules :

To Price Class Duration Time Nb Freq.
Ban Basang 50 songthaew 1 8 to 14 a few 40mn
Mae Sai 60 truck 1.5 8 1 or more na
Tha Ton Turn off 25 songthaew 45 8 to 15 a few 40mn

Notes : To Ban Basang, more if people, then change to Mae Sai or Chiang Saen / To Tha Ton turn off, more if people, then change to Tha Ton

The trip to Mae Sai : SSSSS / L&R / B60 / 1.5 hrs / Bed of a truck
I had been once again misinformed : I showed up at 6:40 to get a 7am songthaew to Ban Basang but was told the first available transport would go at 8 only. And no possibility to hitch so early... So I waited for the direct truck to Mae Sai. Sitting in the back is definitively the best way to enjoy the spectacular scenery (inside seats are reserved for the ladies anyway) but wear your pullover ! And as soon as you reach the highway, put on another one as speed increases to light speed !

See also the trip from Tha Ton



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