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• Site Around City
 
 • Golden Triangle • Mae Kok River • Chiang Saen Lake • Doi Tung • Doi Pha Tang • Phu Chee Fah • Wiang Kalong • Hilltribe Museum and Education Center • Ho Watthanatham Nithat • King Mengrai Memorials • Oub Kham Museum • Rai Mae Fah Luang • Wat Doi Thong • Wat Phra Chao Lan Thong • Wat Phra Kaeo • Wat Phra Sing • Wat Rong Khun • Wat Klang Wiang • Chiang Saen National Museum • Wat Phra That Chedi Luang • Wat Pa Sak • Wat Phra That Chom Kitti • Wat Phra That Pha-Ngao • Chiang Sean Hall of Opium • King Mengrai Festival • Lychee Fair • Songkran Festival • Elephant Camp & Karen Village • Baan Haad Klai • Mekong River Trips • Hilltribe Development & Welfare Centre • Pamee Akha Village • Doi Hua Mae Kham • Laan Tong Mekong Basin Cultural Park • Nam Tok Khun Kon Forest Park • Doi Mae Salong • Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park • Doi Luang National Park • Khun Chae National Park
 
Doi Mae Salong
The cultural diversity, natural beauty, and history of Chiang Rai would seem to have its most powerful voice in the Chinese village layered about the peak of Doi Mae Salong about an hour northwest of the city.

Not surprisingly, all of these elements are also what makes it one of the most popular places to go. Close enough for a long day trip, and yet begging for at least an overnight (or two or three), Mae Salong is the largest Chinese-Thai village of northern Thailand; an expansive tea-growing community sprawled out on a ridgeline, amidst a miscellany of hill tribe villages.

While technically Thailand, the predominant cultural, architectural, and linguistic feel of Mae Salong is Yunnan, Southern China. Most conversations about town are in Chinese, and the main street is filled to the brim with tea shops, and shelves filled to bursting with tea ceremony accoutrements, herbs and candies. For those who need a more obvious sign, there is also the recently-erected giant Chinese gate by the side of the road at the northern entrance to the town.

Tea is the main produce here, without a doubt, and it is well worth any visitor’s time to sit and chat with teashop owners. The tea is served in the traditional style, piping hot from ornately carved stands and into tiny porcelain cups, creating a feast for the nose and palate.

While China forms the cultural backdrop here, there are other elements as well, speaking in their own clear voices. A mosque in town caters to the Islamic population, and the broadcast call to prayer adds a spiritual touch to the mornings and late afternoons. Hill tribe villagers move in and about on their own business.

For naturalists, a simple walk about town can turn into a do-it-yourself trek, as roads wind in and out and move up and down at incredible angles. One can head out into the hills, or just follow Main Street through its various meanderings. One of the best hikes is up to the doorway of Phra Borommathat Chedi, the mountaintop Buddhist temple overlooking Mae Salong. The view from this temple is the best in town.

The weather is almost always cooler up in the mountains, and there is a constant interplay of mist, fog, and cloud with bright sunshine during the cold season.

The history of Mae Salong, and other Chinese villages for that matter, is a living lesson in Southeast Asian history. The residents are the descendents of the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), which fled in 1949, after the Communist takeover; the other elements of the KMT escaped to Taiwan. The 93rd regiment, led by General Tuan Si Woen fought for many years against the Burmese army, and finally moved into Thailand in the early 1960’s in bits and pieces, changing their swords for ploughshares.

For the most obvious evidence of this history in Mae Salong, one need only peruse the black-and-white photos that hang about in restaurants (showing soldiers slogging through jungle), or spend some time in conversation with teahouse owners, although memories of these times are fading. The actual participants of this history are few and far between. One of them, 76-year-old Kwang Jow Foo, tends to General Tuan’s grave in the southern end of town.

To reach Doi Mae Salong, take the Chiang Rai-Mae Chan route for 29 kilometers, then turn left and proceed for another 41 kilometers (passing a hot spring). The return trip can be taken on routes nos. 1234 and 1130 which wind through Yao and Akha hill tribe villages. From Doi Mae Salong a road leads to Tha Thon, the starting point for the Kok River cruise, a distance of 45 kilometers. There are hotels and guesthouses to accommodate tourists and a paved road leading to the village.

 
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