Mae Chaem – The Lesser Known Side of Chiang Mai21 April, 2016
Contrary to popular belief, the land of smiles is more than just a shopping paradise. If you’re looking to get in touch with Mother Nature, perhaps you can consider the mountainous regions of Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai. Besides admiring the beautiful scenery, here are 3 things you can try while exploring Mae Chaem’s natural landscape.
Homestay with the Locals
For a fully immersive experience, why not try a local home-stay in the midst of lush greenery and natural sights? Located just 23km from the airport, the Ban Chunsongsang Home Stay is unlike your typical hotels and Bed & Breakfast (B&Bs).It is a tastefully crafted wooden cottage surrounded by a lovely garden. Starting from as low as S$27 (688 Baht), you can enjoy double rooms with the choice of a patio or a terrace. A two-bedroom bungalow for 4 persons is also available at S$51 (1298 Baht). On top of that, breakfast is provided with the choice of Continental, Asian or Vegetarian cuisine, and there is an on-site restaurant that serves highly affordable and authentic Thai cuisine. And, of course, the premises are equipped with free Wi-fi, so guests can also entertain themselves if they choose to stay in during the day.
Going to and from the home-stay is just as convenient. Parking on its grounds is free, so your rented cars will always be within reach. There is also a shuttle service running to and from the city centre. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, bicycles are available for rental.
Locals operating the home-stay speak fluent English, so the language barrier here is almost non-existent. For a more detailed list of information, check out Ban Chunsongsang’s website here.
Ban Chunsongsang Home Stay
Address: 15/3 Moo 2 (Sun Thon Muang Nuea Village) Tambol Samranrat Amphur Doi Saket, 50220 Ban Mae Ka Talat Luang
Telephone No.: +66 84 480 8902
Trek in Doi Inthanon National Park
Situated on the tallest mountain in Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon National Park, a.k.a. the ‘Roof of Chiang Mai’, is a nature reserve stretching over 482km2. Home to several tribes and unique flora and fauna, Doi Inthanon National Park is also known for its waterfalls, treks and scenic views. This is certainly the place to visit for any photography enthusiast or anyone looking for a respite from the concrete jungle.
There are two kinds of trekking trails available at Doi Inthanon National Park. The 3km Kew Mae Pan trail is the more family-oriented trail that focuses on the scenic viewpoints along the mountain sides, which are perfect vantage points to capture scenic pictures. It is 200 Baht per group to hire a local guide. This is usually done at the small office near the entrance of the National park.
For people seeking greater thrill and adventure, you can opt for a more advanced trekking trail that will take you through the highlights of the park. You can book a tour with Bon Voyage Thailand, an agency well-known for its unique, mix-and-match guided tours, flexibility, and affordable rates.
Pick-up can be arranged from the hotel at about 8.00AM to 8.30AM as long as you are staying in Chiang Mai. After a 2-hour drive to Doi Inthanon National Park by private transportation provided by Bon Voyage Thailand, the trek starts with an uphill walk for 3 hours. Lunch is provided and taken at the peak of the mountain for a panoramic view as you munch on your well-deserved meal. Trekking will continue for about 2 more hours before private transportation is arranged to a Karen Village, where a refreshing swim awaits your weary bones at the natural waterfall. The return to Chiang Mai City will take place around 6.30PM to 7.30PM.
Things to bring:
- Swimsuit or T-shirt to get wet in
- A change of clothes
- Insect repellent
- Cash in small change for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
- 1 copy of passport ID page for insurance purposes
For 2 persons, the price is at 4,400 Baht (S$173), for 3 persons at 6,600 Baht (S$260) and 4 persons at 8,800 Baht (S$346). Treks vary from Easy to Moderate to Strenuous to Tough. These are tiered based on the number of hours spent walking, taking into account factors such as terrain, weather conditions, and altitude. The walking speed would definitely be suited to your pace!
Bon Voyage Thailand
Address: 73 Kampang Din Road 1, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Telephone No.: +66 80 121 1053
Doi Inthanon National Park
Address: 119 Ban-Luang Amphur Chom Thong, Chiang Mai 50160, Thailand
Telephone No.: +66 53 355 728
If you would like to make a difference on your holiday, perhaps you can consider volunteering at the Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES) located in a small village 11km away from Mae Chaem Town. BEES aims to raise awareness of the suffering and exploitation of elephants, joining many others in the hope to bring an end this abuse. With the trekking tourism boom in Thailand, several elephants have been ill-treated and abused by their respective owners. Little do the tourists know that the tourism dollar is actually funding the continued exploitation of these beautiful and majestic creatures.
On top of that, BEES also rescues cats, dogs and even owls as a part of their wildlife conservation efforts. You can also join in their work by contributing in your own way.
BEES welcomes volunteers who seek to support their cause through their Volunteer program, which ranges from as brief as 3 to 4 days to a month. The job scope of a volunteer mainly consists of:
- Bathing the elephants
- Observing the elephants in the forest
- Learning about the elephants
- Preparing the elephants’ food
- Feeding the elephants
- Cleaning the elephants’ living area
- Helping to care for the other rescued animals at BEES
Other activities available:
- Planting trees to conserve the environment
- Cut grass, corn etc for the elephants
- Visit the local weaving village and support a group of elderly ladies who run a weaving club.
- Cooking classes. Learn how to make some local Thai desserts. Sweets in banana leaf or sticky rice in bamboo are recommended!
- Assisting in small projects around BEES or in a local area, such as building a shelter, clearing old building materials etc.
- Learn about Traditional Thai Herbal Medicine. The resident elephants are old and may need medication
You will experience living in the traditional bamboo style huts locals live in, with a communal bathroom, which does not include a heater. A water filtration system ensures that you would always have a supply of clean drinking water. The home-cooked food is authentic Thai cuisine and has received several compliments from guests. But their expression of satisfaction of going through such a unique experience still far exceeds the deliciousness. Transport arrangements can be made to and from the hotel you are staying in so fret not!
Meeting Burm and Emily would also provide the chance for you to learn more, not just about the elephants, but also about how other animals deserve to be treated better.
If you are willing to contribute and show your support, you can contact BEES here via their contact form or email! They do not aways have phone reception so emails are strongly encouraged.
Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES)
Address: 34 Moo,1 Ban Thung Yaw,Chang Keung, Mae Chaem 20570, Thailand
Telephone No.: +66 88 403 6028
Featured Image Credits: Shutterstock