After spending a couple of days in Thaton and the surroundings, we headed up north to Mae Salong. As it’s becoming usual lately in our trip, we hitched all the way up to the little town, since transport here (limited to sawngthaew, which is like a van for up to 8 people) is not very regular and a bit more expensive. A winding mountain road leads over 20 km from the foothill to the top through beautiful woodland landscapes.
Doi Mae Salong village is a settlement up on top a high mountain peak, out in the middle of Chiang Rai’s mountain country, commanding a grand view of green mountain ridges stretching out to the far horizon in breathtaking panorama. The villagers are ethnic Chinese descendants of the KTM nacionalist army regime that took refuge in Thailand almost 50 years ago when Communist forces won the civil war in mainland China. Staying here gives you the feeling of having being transported to China. Chinese language rather than Thai is more frequently spokern here. Almost all the noticeboards are writen in chinese characteres. The food menu is mainly chinese. The land’s severe inclines boast terraces of tea and coffee plantations and there are tea houses all around.
An early morning visit to the interesting market (make sure you go there between 5 and 7 a.m.) gives you good chances to see and interact with the town residents and many tribespeople of the hill villages surrounding the town (Akha, Lisu, Lahu, Hmong and Karen among others).
We stayed in Shin Sane Guest House, one of the best guest-oriented lodges we have found so far in northern Thailand. The rooms were pretty basic, but laundry was free, internet access very cheap and the owner was very friendly and helpful, giving loads of information and even a handmade map of the area, so you could trek independiently through all the surrounding hill tribe villages. We did a couple of treks and ended up completely knakered (20 km trek in just one morning!!), all wet and miserable, since the monsoon caught us up on the way back, but feeling so happy to be able to trek alone on that marvellous sceneries and been received with smiles in the villages we visited.