The San Kamphaeng Loop is a 62 km circuit that is home to six of the major tourist spots in the district. Each of these six tourist spots in the San Kamphaeng Loop is a must-visit for anyone in the area. The San Kamphaeng Loop’s tourist attractions give any traveler a good look at how far the small, but proud, nation of Thailand has come. It showcases a cross section of the country’s natural marvels through mountainous terrains, its artistic heritage through the hand weavers of San Kamphaeng and their deep-rooted culture aptly displayed in their museums.
The loop travels through three small, but beautiful towns of the Chiang Mai Province, namely Chiang Mai, San Kamphaeng, and Bor Sang. It is a rich intersection of the country’s art, culture, and handicraft. The region is also home to the country’s world-famous silk weave, known as Thai Silk.
Umbrella Village – Bor Sang
Umbrellas are a very integral part of the Thai culture, so much so that an entire town is now more popularly known as the Umbrella Village. The Umbrella Village; Bor Sang is the first stop on the San Kamphaeng Loop.
A common sight all across Thailand is its vibrant display of paper umbrellas in all storefronts and roadside shops where you can buy these souvenirs for throwaway prices. But the actual act of how these paper umbrellas are made can be seen in Bor Sang’s local artisan shops and stalls.
Traditionally the paper umbrellas are painted with floral patterns and traditional Thai sceneries and design, but with the time that too has changed, with the umbrellas being painted in exquisite abstract designs and contemporary forms. The local artisans there have even developed a new style of paper to use for the making of these umbrellas with a cotton blend which allows them to design and make more intricate patterns on the umbrella.
Bor Sang is filled with shops that sell these handmade umbrellas, traditional Thai pottery and other arts and craft related articles. Being a major tourist attraction in the Chiang Mai region, the shopkeepers are no strangers to tourists and are very friendly, helpful and approachable.
Bor Sang is also home to the Umbrella Festival that happens every third Friday of January in which there are numerous parades, exhibitions and beauty pageants that brings a lot of tourists into the village.
MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
In the mountainous Northern regions of Thailand, nestled in the bustling city of Chiang Mai is the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum. It was founded by the Bunnag-Beurdeley family. The gallery holds the artwork of the husband, Jean Michel Beurdeley, late wife, Patsri Bunnag and their son Eric Bunnag Booth. The museum hosts a lot of acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions on a monthly basis.
The Museum, apart from being home to countless pieces of contemporary artwork, also houses the iconic mirror wall. Along with the artwork, the museum itself is set up and decorated rather tastefully, with little murals here and there, tactfully arranged to reflect the contemporary school of thought.
MAIIAM is a rich, intense experience that everyone in Chiang Mai must have. The museum is a standing testament to how far Thailand has come and is a physical representation of how much further it can go.
Be sure to check out the exhibition schedule before you visit and beware of the crowds at each exhibition as they bring a large number of tourists. The museum works 6 days a week, with Tuesday being its weekly holiday and is open from 10 am to 6 pm.
Entry fee – 150THB (for students and 60+y/o – 100THB)
Roong Aroon Hot Springs
The Roong Aroon hot springs in Chiang Mai are a good place to kick back and relax. Set in a resort, they are about 5 km away from the Muang On Cave and a good 15-minute drive down the picturesque roads.
The resort is built around a hot spring that is surrounded by a garden for tourists to sit and gaze at the steam forming on top of the water surface. As an added incentive for tourists to stay longer near the hot spring, the hotel allows visitors to boil eggs in little wicker bags that are put into the hot spring.
Roong Aroon hot springs also have spa and jacuzzi services for a nice relaxing evening before resuming on your journey to the next stop on the San Kamphaeng Loop. Entry fee – 20THB
Other hot springs nearby: San Kamphaeng Government hot spring, Sippa hot spring, On Sen hot spring.
Muang On Cave + Wat Doi Photiyan
Less than an hours drive from Chiang Mai, the next stop on the San Kamphaeng Loop is the Muang On Caves. Thailand is famous for its caves and this is one of the must-visit caves in the country.
The highlight of the entire cave experience is the Reclining Buddha statue inside, but along the way, there are a lot of inscriptions and drawings on the walls that date back to centuries before. Thailand has always been known for its caves and this particular one was used as a safe-haven during the Burmese invasion and is home to a lot of history.
The entrance of the cave is about 180 steps up the Naga Serpent staircase that tourists have to climb from the car park to reach the top. Being a cave, it has been lit up with fluorescent lights all over, this accentuates the face of the cavern and all its stalactites and stalagmites formations.
There is no need to worry about having to crouch down to get through the cave as the cave is quite big on its own, however, make sure that the paths you take are well lit and check with the people there before wandering off into any tall caverns. Muang On Cave is a must visit and is a day-long trip when combined with the hot springs nearby.
The San Kamphaeng Loop’s most popular destination is the Dutch Farm. The Farm is about 9.4 km from San Kamphaeng via Route 1317. It is a comfortable journey on a motorbike and the beautiful scenery will only add on to the experience.
According to their website, the Dutch Farm is based on Uncle Boon’s dream to build a farm that is like no other. He was inspired when he went to the zoo with his kids and saw that they were unable to interact with the animals, only look. The Farm was started by this Dutch family that believed that there should be a safe space for children to play with animals and understand them in a safe and controlled environment.
The Dutch Farm is home to not only ponies but a whole lot of white sheep and not to forget it also houses many picturesque scenes thanks to their green, golf course views.
The Farm is open every day and is also the largest pony farm in all of the Chiang Mai Province. There is no better way to end your trip around the San Kamphaeng Loop than to end it with some adorable animals on a picturesque farm.
Baan Jang Nak – A Museum of Elephant Wood Carvings
The last destination on the San Kamphaeng Loop is Baan Jang Nak – Museum of Elephant Wood Carvings. The Museum is about 10 km away from the Dutch Farm in San Kamphaeng and is easily accessible using a motorbike via Route 1317.
Baan Jang Nak is filled with intricately carved elephants, all made by wood. The museum itself is set up in a very traditional Thai style house, making the entire experience homely and personal. The amount of detail put into each of the carvings is unreal, with even the smallest nuances of an elephant captured on a block of wood. The museum is filled with elephants depicting different acts and once again showcasing just how important and special the elephant and all that it symbolizes is to the Thai people.
At the museum, tourists can also interact with and watch the artisans at work as they create masterpiece after masterpiece using their two hands and limited tools. Each corner of this museum is prettier than the last and Baan Jang Nak is definitely a place to pick up souvenirs to remember your trip to Thailand.
Tips for Tourists in Thailand
As you can probably tell by the amount of culture that the San Kamphaeng Loop has to offer, Thailand has a lot more than pristine beaches and quaint islands to offer. The country is soaked in rich culture, heritage and art history and it is important to keep in mind the following while visiting this beautiful nation.
While Thailand is quite well accustomed to tourists now, there is a very real language barrier that you will have to face. However, instead of reacting badly to it, appreciate the difference and find someone to help you. Thailand is also a very conservative country, so if you’re venturing into the rural parts of the country, dress as modestly as possible.
Thailand is a tropical country and that means it is a little warmer than other places, don’t leave your pullovers behind because the outside temperature does tend to get a little nippy in the evenings. And while roaming the streets and seeing the sights of Thailand, don’t forget to keep hydrated and carry a bottle of water on you at all times.
If you are going to be doing a lot of shopping from street vendors in touristy spots, brush up your bargaining skills and never settle for the first price quoted because five out of six times it will be an exorbitant quote.
When you have finished the San Kamphaeng Loop, you would’ve seen all the heritage and art culture that the northern parts of Thailand have to offer and will go back with a deeper understanding of the nation’s culture. Thailand is an experience like no other, follow the San Kamphaeng Loop and see it for yourself!