Ban Rak Thai (บ้านรักไทย) is a tiny town in Mae Hong Son province in northern Thailand, surrounded by mountains and still home to Chinese style and Yunnan traditions brought here by Chinese settlers.
When we think of Thai winter tourist attractions, we imagine mist in the mountains, blooming flowers and a warm cup of tea. These factors combine to create a positive aura that makes us want to pack our bags and take a trip to travel through the thousands of twists and turns in the mountains to Ban Rak Thai.
The area was originally a deciduous and mixed forest that covered the hills and mountains everywhere. In those days, there were only five or six Hmong hill tribe families who made their living by growing opium, corn, rice, and vegetables on several plots of land scattered in the foothills of Tok Mok Mountain, the highest peak near Rak Thai Village, which is the natural border between Thailand and Myanmar.
Tok Mok Mountain is 4,134 feet (1,260 meters) above sea level.
The new history of Ban Rak Thai dates back to around 1961, when the 3rd Army of General Li Wenfan, the 5th Army of General Tuan Shiwen and the 93rd Division, after battles with the National Army of Communist China and the National Army of Burma came to seek political asylum in Thailand and settled in Fang and Mae Salong. The main occupations the Chinese soldiers engaged in in Thailand were collecting taxes in the border area at checkpoints and providing protection for merchants and merchant caravans that traveled for trade between Thailand and Myanmar.
Around 1967, General Li Wenfan, commander of the 3rd Army stationed at Fang, ordered Commander Kung Chao Long to bring 180 soldiers of the 93rd Division to be stationed along the border with Thailand, about 6 kilometers from where Ban Rak Thai is now. Since the soldiers and their families needed a place to live and something to eat, they began to develop the area where they arrived. First, they began to develop fertile land so that they could provide food for the military as well as income for their families from selling the vegetables they grew.
Later, the Hmong hill tribe began growing opium in the foothills and in the eastern part of the village near the reservoir. Several more families joined together to plant vegetable gardens a short distance apart at the foot of the mountain. Later, around 1973, some Chinese military families from the 3rd and 5th Armies moved here, building earthen houses with bamboo roofs, creating vegetable gardens, orchards and farms.
Over time, it became a small community that was renamed Rak Thai, literally meaning Lovers of Thailand. And this name was given for a reason, because the people living here are really grateful to King Rama 9, who gave them the opportunity to settle on this land and the Kingdom of Thailand, which has become their second home.
The highlight of a visit to Ban Rak Thai is an immersion in Thai-Chinese culture that blends together in an amazing way. The atmosphere of Ban Rak Thai transports us to provincial China and allows us to imagine ourselves in scenes of Chinese movies.
The tea products of Ban Rak Thai are widely recognized. Because of the hilly landscape and the cold temperature due to the sea level of 1,776 meters, the area is very suitable for tea cultivation. In addition, traditional Chinese steamed Mantou buns are very popular among Thais and are worth tasting.
There are also many other activities such as hiking, biking, boating, and horseback riding to the Myanmar border. And the picturesque scenery would be a good idea to fill your Instagram.
Lee Wine Rak Thai, a famous clay resort in Baan Rak Thai, is surrounded by tea plantations in the hills with beautiful views. It is also incredibly close to another popular spot, Pang Ung, which is perfect for those who want to stay at Baan Rak Thai and see the misty sea in Pang Ung at sunrise. Lee Win Rak Thai stands on steep hills, getting there can be a bit tricky, but you won’t regret the stunning views if you decide to visit this place.
It is worth noting that Baan Rak Thai is also famous for local wines such as: mulberry wine, peach wine, gooseberry wine. The place is also famous for green tea, oolong tea, and dried fruits.
The weather is very comfortable during the day and can be very cold at night. But for the sake of Thai winter, it is worth getting into the atmosphere of the area, surrounded by fragrant tea plantations.
In this area, the situation is the same as everywhere else in Thailand. The vast majority of guesthouse owners are not represented in any way or anywhere, so you can’t find them on any booking platforms. However, consider the following guest houses if you want to sleep in Ban Rak Thai modestly and without any frills.
This is a good quality accommodation, affordable, overlooking the river, where you can see the residential part of the Chasa Resort and Lee Wine Rak Thai. Check the location on Google maps.
You can book a room with a fan or air conditioning, or stay in tents. Reservations are made through the Facebook page. When booking, transfer half the amount, upon check-in, pay the rest.
Inside the rooms, wide beds with soft mattresses, warm blankets, a dressing table and a hair dryer. In a separate bathroom you will find soap, shampoo and shoes to wear in the bathroom. The rooms have hangers, shelves for clothes, a sofa, slippers for walking in the room. For breakfast, you will be served Yunnan fried noodles. Here you will also find unlimited toast and hot tea, because this village is famous for tea.
Fried noodles are served around 07.30 in the morning. If you would like to check out early to continue your journey, please let the host know so that they can serve your breakfast earlier than usual.
Another guesthouse located on the shore of the lake with stunning views of the surrounding area. Good value for money, even though some guests complain about poor soundproofing. The friendly hostess will always treat you to free tea or snacks, or cook Yunnan cuisine for a small cost.
The only inconvenience tourists may experience is that the hostess does not speak English and the English-speaking staff is not always on site. Nevertheless, the accommodation fee overrides any possible disadvantages, as rooms even in high season are available for only 400 baht per night.
Large rooms, large bathroom with good water pressure, hot water, clean towels, fast wi-fi (200Mb/s), a small terrace with a table overlooking the lake – what else does a tired traveler need?
Despite the fact that the outside of the house is earthen, the interior has a nice and neat finish. You will not need air conditioning here as it is always cool.
Camping located on the shore of the lake. The cost is 150-200 baht per tent. In the morning you will find a very wonderful atmosphere here, enjoying the view of the lake covered with thick mist. Nearby are many cafes and stores, which is very convenient for travelers.
Note that there is no hot water and there are stray dogs running around. But the main disadvantage is that there are no reservations. If you want to stay here, you first have to go to Ban Rak Thai, come to the campsite, and only then will you find out if there are any spots available. Nevertheless, we recommend this place. An overnight stay in a lakeside tent is always unusual, relaxing and reassuring at the same time.
Nice little family owned Yunnan restaurant with a very friendly owner. On the menu you will find both traditional and vegetarian dishes. Here you can also taste the local tea and, if you like it, buy it. The price of food starts at 40 baht. The staff speaks English.
On the outside it looks very simple and unpretentious, but this meal will blow your mind! Try the salad with fresh green tea leaves or the pork noodle soup. The owner of the restaurant is very friendly. It’s here.
In this cafe you will find a traditional Chinese meat and vegetable soup that you can cook yourself. The cost of the set is only 800 baht per pot, which will be enough to feed 4-5 people. Here you will also find the famous steamed Chinese buns.
The pot is filled with water or broth, and when the water comes to a boil, chopped vegetables, pieces of meat and other products are poured into the pot – and soon it all becomes a delicious soup.
As the diners eat, broth is added to the pot and more food is added, so that the hot meal doesn’t run out as long as the meal lasts.
As the name suggests, this cafe specializes in making Khao Soi, which was named the world’s most delicious dish in 2022.
However, in addition to Khao Soi, you’ll find noodles, meatball soups, salads, coffee, and even shrimp crackers. And the view of the lake during your meal will give you additional pleasure.
Although you can visit this Yunnanese village all year round, the best time to visit is November-February. During this time, the temperature drops to 30℃ during the day and 9℃ at night, the rainy season is over and the smoky season has not yet begun.
The rainy season in Ban Rak Thai lasts from May to October. Yes, we’re not wrong – it continues for six months. The rainiest months are June, July, August and September. During these months, it rains almost every day.
We advise avoiding travel between March and April, as it is common for farmers to burn straw from the rice harvest, and the sky is thick with smoke. Nevertheless, air pollution varies from year to year. For example, in 2022, there was only about a week of smoke, whereas in previous years, the smoke started in early February and didn’t end until early May.
If you are in Chiang Mai and prefer to travel by motorcycle, you can rent a motorbike from our company. If you prefer to travel by car, we advise you to use meta-search websites to find cheap car rentals. Read our article on how to rent a car cheaply in Chiang Mai. Travel time is about 4 and a half hours.
Since you will encounter a large number of attractions along the way, we encourage you to make your trip part of the Mae Hong Son Loop.
The cheapest way to get to Ban Rak Thai is a combined trip. First, you will need to buy a ticket for Chiang Mai – Soppong bus #612, which departs from Arcada bus station every 4 hours. The ticket costs about $8. In Soppong, at the bus station, you will need to hire a cab to take you to your final destination for about $30. Travel time is about 6 hours.
Ban Rak Thai is located in northern Thailand. More specifically, the village is located in the sub-district of Mok Cham Pae, Mueang Mae Hong Son District, Mae Hong Son Province.
The distance from Mae Hong Son town to Ban Rak Thai village is only about 40 kilometers, but nevertheless, because of the winding roads and the inability to accelerate on the road, you will spend about 2 hours of your time on this journey.
The drive from Chiang Mai takes about 4.5-5 hours
As this village has a Chinese cultural background and lifestyle, we recommend that you pay attention to the local souvenirs: green tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, dried fruits and candied fruits, tea sets imported from China and Taiwan.
The easiest way to do this is by private transport, renting a motorcycle or car. The travel time is just over four hours. Alternatively, you can take a public bus №612 (read the details above), but then you will miss many of the sights on the way that you could see traveling in a private vehicle.
If you want to hire a private driver, though, there’s no point hiring one to visit just Ban Rak Thai. After all, you will meet a lot of interesting sights on the way, so the trip may take you several days. As we mentioned before if you want to visit Ban Rak Thai you can also take the Mae Hong Son Loop which takes 4-5 days.
The rainy season in Ban Rak Thai typically runs from May to October.
Smog season in Ban Rak Thai typically runs from February to April.
The hottest time of year in Ban Rak Thai is typically from March to May.
The best time to visit Ban Rak Thai is typically from November to February, when the weather is generally cooler and drier.
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