Nestled among the breathtaking peaks of the Dan Lao range in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, Doi Mae Salong is a picturesque hill just a stone’s throw away, 6 km, from the Burmese border. Home to the charming town of Santikhiri, perched gracefully along the ridge, this scenic spot is a true hidden gem in the heart of Mae Fa Luang District. Officially dubbed Doi Mae Salong in 1997, the area is encompassed by the sub-district of Mae Salong Nok, and serves as a delightful haven for travelers seeking a peaceful retreat amidst lush greenery, rich history, and a welcoming local culture.
Location: Mae Fa Luang District (Thai: แม่ฟ้าหลวง, mâe fáa lŭuang), Chiang Rai (Thai: เชียงราย, chiiang-raai)
Population: 13,236 people (5,187 households)
Altitude: 1,367 m (4,485 ft)
GPS: 20°09’56.5″N 99°37’36.6″E
Doi Mae Salong (Thai: ดอยแม่สลอง, doi mâe-sà-lŏng) is located in Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai province. It is home to a community of Chin Haw, descendants of the 93rd Guomindang Division that settled on Doi Mae Salong long ago. The village of Santikhiri (Thai: สันติคีรี, săn-dtì-kee-ree), where the Chinese community lives, is about 1,200 meters above sea level. The town has a beautiful scenic view of the surrounding landscape and a cool breeze all year round. The primary source of income for the community is the cultivation of oolong tea plantations.
In addition to Mae Salong sights described in the travel guide, you will encounter other amazing things and points of interest on your way to this lovely place. Most of them you can find in our travel guides about Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle.
It is a community founded by former Chinese soldiers of the 93rd Military Division, affiliated with the Kuomintang under General Chiang Kai-shek. They were active in combat in the southern China region during World War 2.
Later, as China underwent radical political change, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Mao Zedong successfully staged a coup and forced the Kuomintang to retreat to Taiwan. The 93rd Division was repeatedly attacked by pursuing CCP troops, forcing the soldiers to retreat into Myanmar (then known as Burma). But numerous clashes with the Burmese army resulted in the remnants of the 93rd Division being pushed back to Doi Tung and Mae Sai on the Thailand-Burma border.
Burma filed a complaint to the United Nations in 1953. The UN resolved to evacuate the abandoned division to Taiwan, but 30,000 soldiers under the command of General Li Wenfan and General Tuan Shiwen requested asylum in Thailand, as they were not sure about the future of Taiwan, which is just a small island. The Thai government permitted the asylum and assigned General Li Wenfan’s men to settle at Tham Ngob, Fang District, Chiang Mai.
In contrast, 15,000 men under General Tuan Shiwen’s command settled at Doi Mae Salong in 1961. This also employed General Tuan’s men to be a buffer against ethnic minorities, which resulted in Doi Mae Salong gaining infamy as a mysterious, forbidden land with drug problems and armed militants during this era. The Thai government tried to alleviate the local problems by transferring these soldiers to serve under the Supreme Command Headquarters.
Eventually, in 1972, the Thai Council of Ministers resolved to officially accept the National Army soldiers to live in Thailand, leading to the end of the opium trade, disarmament, and adaptation to the agricultural way of life by the soldiers. In addition, former Prime Minister of Thailand, General Kriangsak Chamanan, commissioned a project to teach the soldiers how to grow tea and three-needled pines to replenish the local trees on Doi Mae Salong.
The Chinese community there was also renamed Santikhiri Village, and the Chinese citizens were issued Thai ID cards in 1978, finally returning peace to Doi Mae Salong. The location is now a popular tourist attraction ever since.
It is situated on the highest peak of Doi Mae Salong above Santikhiri Village at 1,500 meters above sea level. It is located about 4 kilometers from the village, and there is a tarmac road leading up to it, though the road is quite steep and very winding.
Phra Borommathat completed its construction in 1996 and was dedicated to Princess Mother Srinagarindra. The chedi is constructed in applied-Lanna style on a square base, approximately 30 meters tall, and each side is 15 meters wide.
The exterior walls are made of grey tiles. There are three stepped arches on each side. The interior of Phra Borommathat contains Buddha images facing all four directions. The great bell is decorated in gold with carved patterns and placed near the applied-Lanna style chedi.
Phra Borommathat is the highest location of Doi Mae Salong and thus offers a comprehensive view of the scenery, especially in the evening. In the meantime, Phra Borommathat itself is also very distinctive from a far distance. Therefore, it is considered one of the symbols of Doi Mae Salong.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/6dufte3orgB6Yi9h8
The tomb is located on a hill to the north side of the village, diverting from the path to Khumnaiphol Resort, about 1 kilometer from the village.
Constructed in 1980, the marble tomb of General Tuan Shiwen is placed within a large, white Chinese pavilion with the floors paved with marble. Behind the tomb is a display of old photos showing the General’s history and contributions to the local community. At the front of the tomb is a slope with the gold Chinese alphabet “Tuan” written on blue background.
The Tomb of General Tuan is situated at 1,300 meters above sea level and views Santikhiri Village down below. It is considered one of the best places to admire the view of the village. There are also two teahouses at the location, inviting visitors who would like to try some tea.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/Z8UZPPqMwD4nJVbW8
From 1970 to 1981, when Thailand was fighting the threat of Communism, Thailand employed the forces of former Chinese National Army soldiers to assist in fighting communists. As a result, many soldiers were wounded, killed, and disabled from the fight. To display gratitude for these soldiers’ sacrifices, the King granted permission for the soldiers to settle on Thailand soil.
To further show appreciation for the soldiers who helped to protect Thailand’s territories and promote and develop tourism at Doi Mae Salong, the local community agreed to construct a memorial museum. The village received funding from Chinese citizens overseas, donations from Thai citizens, associations, and believers in the cause.
The land on which the museum was to be built – with a total area of 11,536.50 square meters (2.85 acres) – was granted by the Supreme Command Headquarters of Thailand. The total construction cost is 11,532,297 Baht. Construction was completed in 2003, and the museum opening ceremony was held on February 20th, 2004.
The Chinese Martyrs’ Memorial Museum consists of 2 main areas: the museum area and the local product stores. The first area consists of 3 main buildings with Chinese architecture. The building to the left is the Museum Room 1, the middle building is the Chinese Martyrs’ Memorial of Northern Thailand, and the building to the right is Museum Room 2 and 3.
The first building tells the story of the struggles of the Chinese National Army soldiers in chronological order as follows:
– The historical background of the 1949 Chinese National Army (Lu Han, governor of Yunnan, revolted on December 8th, 1949)
– The Battle of Mong Ko, Tachilek (1950)
– The Battle of Mong Sard and the Attack on Yunnan (1951)
– The Battle at Salween River and the First Withdrawal to Taiwan (1951)
– Regroup at Chiang-La and the Second Withdrawal to Taiwan (1960-1962)
– The Battles in Northern Thailand
The exhibition displayed in chronological order each important event in which the Chinese National Army is involved, based on the date and time of each battle. Most of the exhibits display photographs of the battlefields and events and miniature models of the battlefields showing army movements and battle locations. However, there are only a few pieces of military equipment on display.
Additionally, there are no testimonial records of those who lived through these events documented or studied, which is unfortunate as there are not many people who have lived through these events still alive at present.
The central building is a memorial building. It is where the “spirit signs” of those who perished in the events are lined along the inner walls of the building, and there is a memorial ceremony dedicated to the fallen every year. Additionally, the exhibition displayed in Museum Room 2 presents the various contributions by the Chinese Association to Support Victims under the idea of “Love of Motherland and the Benevolence of Taiwan”. Such gifts are in the form of items or scholarships.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/ppbAuHwT3dqfL18v7
Tea is considered a cash crop of Santikhiri Village, and the tea plantations in the area exceed over a thousand rai (1 Rai = 1600 sq.m) with more than 2 million tea plants. Various tea plantations, tea factories, and dozens of teahouses lined the main road that cuts through the village. The most famous tea on sale is oolong tea #12 and #17, which has a delicious smell and taste and must be consumed in a unique Taiwanese method.
Every teahouse in the village, such as Rai Cha 101, Wang Put Tan, and Nai Pon Tuan Teahouse, will invite visitors to try out their tea. The tea house owners will also discuss how to brew tea, tea selection, and various tea brewing equipment and utensils. Visitors can also go within the tea plantations and observe the farmers harvesting tea and can take part in the tea harvest.
This tea plantation on Doi Mae Salong won a gold prize in the World Green Tea Contest. Even from the entrance, you can see the beauty of the tea plantations spreading over the area in terraces with mountains in the background. The scenery will make you feel like it comes from the land of dreams.
This tea plantation, called Rai Cha Wang Put Tan in Thai, has huge statues of a golden and silver lion at the main entrance, and three of the world’s largest teapots on display, as if to declare the pride of the tea plantation.
Many local and foreign tourists like to come here to be photographed against the picturesque tea plantations and to drink a cup of fragrant tea with local goodies in this magnificent and great place.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/SSQZvc8G3DwNHXfG8
If you haven’t forgotten, you are in a Chinese community that has carried its culture through the centuries, throwing its seeds onto the soil of Thailand. Therefore, it is time to pay attention to the local gastronomic delicacies that have been brought to this area from far away China, and visit the authentic Wang Put Tan Yunnanese restaurant, nestled in the middle of the village.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/tvZKUgapYzCyhVZd8
If you are traveling to Santikhiri Village from the Kew Satai Checkpoint or Ban I-Ko Sam Yaek trisection, you will find wild Himalayan cherry trees along both sides of the road, which go as far as 4 kilometers.
The trees will shed their leaves and display pink cherry blossoms, which are very similar to the beautiful Himalaya Sakura trees in Japan. Those fast-growing wild Himalayan cherry trees are native trees to the northern region of Thailand. The best period to admire the cherry blossom is from December – to February.
If you stay here overnight, be sure to visit the local viewpoint and watch the sun set behind the mountains surrounding Mae Salong, coloring the evening sky in incredible, raging colors.
Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/8bGSd2ems8hCjuUg7
If you want to travel in a private vehicle from Chiang Mai, you can rent a motorbike with an engine capacity of up to 300cc from us. However, if you’re going to rent a big bike with an engine over 500cc, you can look at companies like POP, Mr. Mechanic, or C&P Rental.
We recommend renting a car for anyone who has no experience with motorcycles or traveling as a family, as it is safer than riding a bike.
From the Chiang Phueak bus terminal, a bus to Tha Ton runs every hour. The ticket costs 100 baht, travel time over four hours. Once in Tha Ton, it would be best to take a taxi to Doi Mae Salong. The fare is 600 baht, travel time is about one hour.
As an alternative, you can get from Tha Ton to Doi Mae Salong by songthaew, it will only cost you 60 baht per person, but they only run 3 times a day, so in some cases it may be inconvenient. In this case, the travel time from Chiang Mai to Mae Salong will take 6-7 hours.
You can also hire a cab in Chiang Mai, which will cost you about 3,000 baht. The travel time is about 3 and a half hours.
From Chiang Rai Bus Terminal #1, go to Mae Chan. Travel time is about 1 hour, and the fare is 25 baht. Then, after reaching the terminus, take a bus to Doi Mae Salong. This bus runs 4 times a day. Travel time is about an hour and a half, and the fare is 60 baht. Total travel time, including waiting, is about 3-4 hours.
An alternative way is to take a cab from the reception of your hotel. However, the cost is 1000 baht, but the travel time is about an hour and a half.
In our opinion and from our observations, the weather widget from Meteoblue shows the most accurate weather forecast in Doi Mae Salong most often. Therefore, we are posting this for you.
If you don’t know what sights you want to see in northern Thailand yet, check out our Things to do in Chiang Mai travel guide
Mark Wiens from migrationology.com visited the place a long time ago, but he still remembers it with rapture and fondness.
Traveler and writer Len Rutledge said a few words about Mae Salong and Doi Tung. Doi Tung is not far from here, so it makes sense to visit them both.
The easiest way to get to Mae Salong from Chiang Mai is by public bus. The trip takes about 5-6 hours and costs about 150-200 baht. You can also book a private transfer, which will cost you about 5,000 baht. You can also rent a motorcycle from our rental shop. If you prefer to travel by car, then we recommend that you look at EconomyBookings or RentalCars, where you can find the best deals on car rentals in Chiang Mai.
Yes, Mae Salong is worth visiting. It is a beautiful mountainous area in northern Thailand that offers stunning views and plenty of outdoor activities. There are plenty of tea plantations, temples, and natural hot springs to explore, as well as local markets and restaurants. It is also a great place to experience the culture and history of the area.
Doi Mae Salong is located in Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand. It sits at an elevation of 1,400 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest points in the region.
Near Doi Mae Salong, there are several attractions to explore. These include tea plantations, temples, natural hot springs, local markets, and restaurants. There are also several hiking trails in the area, as well as a number of waterfalls and other natural wonders.
Yes, you can visit this place even in compact cars with an engine of 1-1,2L. But in rainy weather, it is better to prefer a more powerful car or a car with a manual gearbox. Also, be sure to pay attention to the fact that some roads here are narrow and winding and require good driving skills.
As in any other mountain region, it is best to use motorcycles with a manual or semi-automatic gearbox; the low gear will help you to easy ascend the mountain and reduce the possibility of accidents when descending the hill.
If you rent a motorbike with an automatic gearbox, for one rider, you should choose a bike with an engine capacity of at least 125cc, and for the rider and passenger, you should choose a bike with an engine capacity of at least 150cc.
The rainy season typically runs from May to October, with temperatures dropping to a more comfortable range of 25°C (77°F). During this time, the area experiences heavy rains and cooler temperatures.
The hot season in Mae Salong typically runs from March to May, when temperatures can reach up to 40°C (104°F).
The smog season in Mae Salong typically lasts from late February to April. During this time, the air quality can be quite poor due to the burning of crop stubble in the area. It is best to avoid the area during this time if possible.
Mountain marigolds bloom in the area around November-December. The best time to see the cherry blossoms is from mid-December through mid-February.
The best time to visit Mae Salong is from October to February, when the weather is cool and dry. This is also the peak season for tourism in the area, so expect plenty of visitors. However, the area can be enjoyed year-round, with mild temperatures and plenty of activities to enjoy.
Before you visit Doi Mae Salong, check out our motorbike rental rates and read our tips for safe motorcycle travel. Then, you can contact us to book your bike on this page. And please remember that Cat Motors does not provide motorcycle riding lessons or rent motorcycles to travelers without riding experience. On the homepage of our website, you will also find more information about scooter rentals in Chiang Mai. See you!
Cat Motors Team
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