Mae Sai: 8 Attractions And Natural Wonders

Mae Sai is a town on the northern side of Chiang Rai in Thailand. It is a beautiful destination named after the Mae Sai River, surrounded by endless mountain ranges, serene lakes, interesting caves, and vibrant markets. Mae Sai District, specifically the town, is a major border crossing between Myanmar and Thailand.

Mae Sai And The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a famous attraction and a popular stop when visiting the town. It is where the borders of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar meet. At this meeting place, you’ll be captivated by the natural beauty and panoramic views of the Mekong River, its tributaries, and the Golden Buddha Statue.

The Golden Triangle got its name from the CIA. It was used to describe a large area that overlaps the mountainous regions of these countries. This area was given this name because it was one of the most significant opium-producing areas in the world, and opium in this area was “worth its weight in gold.”

Today, the Golden Triangle is not what it once was. Thailand has made significant steps towards cranking down on drug trafficking, banning opium sales, and supporting local communities in this area. Because of its history, hundreds of tourists visit the Golden Triangle yearly.

When visiting Mae Sai, you can make a day trip to the Golden Triangle and hike to the Viewpoint to see where the Ruak and Mekong rivers meet. At this tributary meeting point, you’ll see magnificent views of the river and surrounding landscapes and witness the meeting point of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.

After your scenic hike, you can explore the captivating Golden Buddha and take a boat trip down the Mekong River. During your boat trip, you can stop and shop for handmade curios in the village of Don Sao and continue until you get to the ancient ruins of Wat Phra That Doi Pu Khao, a temple believed to have been built in the 14th century.

Once you’ve explored the temple, you can continue your boat ride to The House Of Opium Museum, the last stop of your boat trip. At this museum, you’ll get a first-hand look at a collection of items used during the opium boom.

If you wish to extend your Golden Triangle trip, consider visiting the Four Seasons Golden Triangle Tented Camp. From here, you can explore a few more nearby temples and museums.

Natural Wonders And Attractions

There are a multitude of natural wonders and attractions in Mae Sai. When visiting this exquisite destination, you’ll be taken aback by its beauty. The best time to visit this town is from June to October or December to February. Avoid visiting during the monsoon season between May and November, as it gets understandably wet, and you will see less.

Most of the attractions in the Mae Sai district are natural attractions and historical sites. Some of the more popular attractions you can include in your visit are:

Wat Rong Khun

Wat Rong Khun is a famous attraction in Chiang Rai and is also referred to as the White Temple. This temple is not just a historic landmark but is filled with artwork. While most temples in Thailand are gold, this temple is entirely white and decorated with Buddhist-inspired imaginary and modern artistic influences.

The temple was designed and is owned by a famous artist called Chalermchai Kositpipat and has been open for visitors since 1997. Besides visiting the temple, you can also visit the museum and art gallery, which is close to the temple. You may not spend the whole day at the temple, but its artistic design and beauty make it a great place to explore and take photos.

Tham Luang Cave

Tham Luang Cave is a karstic cave system beneath the Doi Nang Non mountain range. This remarkable cave system is also called “the great cave of the sleeping lady.”

There are many tunnels, narrow passageways, a stream of water, and stalactites and stalagmites throughout the cave. The first section of the cave is open to the public, and you can go on a guided tour from November to April. During the other months of the year, the cave is prone to floods and is not open to visitors.

Wat Tham Pha Jom

Wat Tham Pha Jom is a series of underground caverns and a hilltop temple in Thailand. The caves were previously a meditation spot for monks. So if you’re looking to visit one of the highest temples in Thailand, this is it.

This temple is truly awe-inspiring, and once you’ve seen it, you can explore the underground caverns and caves. The caverns and caves house two towering Buddha statues and a museum with a stunning display of artifacts related to Buddhism and Thailand.

Baan Dam

The Baan Dam Museum is also known as The Black House. It is likely one of the strangest, most intriguing attractions in Chiang Rai. If you’re looking to spend the day in Chiang Rai, this is an attraction you should strongly consider visiting. It’s not a temple, museum, or art studio but a mix of all three.

The Black House is covered in art, and the architecture is a very dark spectacle. However, if you’re not into anything eery or a bit morbid, you should avoid visiting this attraction.

Doi Nang Non

Doi Nang Non is a natural attraction and mountain region that spans from Mae Sai to the border of Myanmar. Doi Nang Non has many waterfalls, hiking trails, and hidden caves to explore. If you’re looking to spend a day out in nature, surrounded by forests, valleys, villages, and the beauty of Thailand, Doi Nang Non is a beautiful place to visit.

You can take a Songthaew or a scooter to explore this route. However, a scooter is better if you want to explore deeper into the mountainous region and visit the remote mountain villages on your own schedule.

Mae Sai Market

Mae Sai Market is buzzing with locals that commute daily between Thailand and Myanmar. The market is filled with stalls selling many trinkets and curios, and locals purchase items like jewelry, homeware, and anything else they can’t find on their side of the border. The market has temporary and permanent stalls and is open daily from morning to night.

Wat Phra That Doi Wao (Scorpion Temple)

Wat Phra That Doi Wao is a recently refurbished temple on a hill next to the Mae Sai market. It was named after the giant scorpion statue on its premises, facing Myanmar. The idea for the sculpture was that the scorpion would deter invaders from the then Burma. The panoramic views from the temple’s coffee shop are spectacular, and refreshments are readily available.

To get to the Scorpion Temple, you can go through the market and park your car (if you have one) at the foot of the temple steps. You can leave your car there for a full day for a small amount – about 20 baht, and explore the temple grounds at your leisure. Entrance to the temple grounds is free.

Phahee Mountainview Cafe And Camp

Phahee Mountainview Cafe and Camp is situated in the village of Phu Phahee and is a quirky coffee shop with an incredible view of the mountain ranges and agricultural land. This coffee shop offers a variety of homegrown coffee, and tourists can buy some of this delicious coffee before heading to their next attraction.

It’s best to visit this little coffee shop on a clear morning or as the sun sets to get the best views.

Exploring The Best Restaurants In Mae Sai

Most of the restaurants offer authentic Thai food, while others serve Asian food. There are also a couple of pizza restaurants, Italian restaurants, steakhouses, and cafes.

Some great restaurants to add to your list are:

Chan Ka Phak

Chan Ka Phak is a Thai/Asian restaurant that caters to vegetarians and vegans. They serve lunch and dinner and have a relatively limited menu. Chan Ka Phak is roughly 10 minutes south of Mae Sai and on a farm. Some recommended dishes are northern Thai-style vegetables, spring rolls, and fried fish. There is a beautiful outdoor seating area, and if you’re up for dessert, they offer a delicious bowl of homemade ice cream.

Yin Ping Yunnan

Yin Ping Yunnan is an elegant Chinese restaurant with an extensive menu that serves various Chinese and Thai dishes. The menu items are in English and are accompanied by photos making it easy to order.

Some of the most popular dishes are pork with steamed buns and sweet and sticky rice. Many also visit for the prawns fried in ginger and the Szechuan-style hot and sour soup. Still, all the dishes are delicious, and this is an excellent spot for a family dinner, date night, or dinner with friends.

Golden Triangle Restaurant

The Golden Triangle restaurant is a buffet-style restaurant with an array of food catering to those with specific dietary requirements. Most tourists stop at this restaurant after a tour of Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle. The food is primarily authentic Thai food, but a few Western-style dishes are part of the buffet.

Sukhothai Noodle Sailomjoy

Sukhothai Noodle Sailomjoy is an Asian and Thai food restaurant that’s relatively affordable. Some signature dishes are pork satay, Khao Soi, and Sukhothai noodle soup. Sukhothai Noodle Sailomjoy also has a variety of freshly made smoothies on the menu and is one of the more popular restaurants for tourists and those living in Mae Sai.

Ton Po Restaurant

Ton Po Restaurant is an affordable local Thai restaurant that offers delicious coffee and freshly made Thai food and is one of the best places in Mae Sai to relax and enjoy the scenery. This restaurant is situated near the Tham Sao Hin Phaya Nak Reservoir, and the tables in the restaurant are alongside the water. Some of the most popular dishes are the Tom Yum Catfish, Fried Chicken Tendon, and the spicy catfish salad.

68 Corner Coffee & Bakery

68 Corner Coffee & Bakery is a Thai café offering basic meals like beef fried rice, vegetables, rice, and chicken steak. This little café also makes a delicious frappe and some of the best coffee in the town.

68 Corner Coffee & Bakery is relatively small, so you may miss it when searching for coffee spots in town. Still, if you’re looking to sit down for a cup of coffee, an iced frappe, or a quick lunch, this is a great spot to make a pit stop before exploring the rest of Mae Sai.

Kruasukhothai Restaurant

Kruasukhothai restaurant has multiple dining areas and offers upscale dining options. This restaurant caters to large groups and has a stage for live bands in the evenings. Kruasukhothai restaurant serves authentic Thai cuisine and is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Suppose you’re looking for a restaurant with entertainment and where you can enjoy a meal with a group of friends. In that case, Kruasukhothai Restaurant is one of the best in Mae Sai. You can even hire out the private karaoke room as extra entertainment.

Our Summary

Mae Sai is a beautiful destination with many natural attractions and historical landmarks. When planning your trip, make sure you include a visit to the white temple and caves and arrange a day of hiking and exploring the mountainous region of Mae Sai and its remote villages.

Stop by the market and purchase Thai and Burmese trinkets and souvenirs. Lastly, find an authentic Thai restaurant and enjoy a laid-back lunch with a view of the town.


Mae Sai is full of unique experiences. Don’t miss out on the Mae Sai Market, known for its variety of goods from Thailand and Myanmar. Also visit Wat Phra That Doi Wao and Wat Tham Pla, also known as the Fish Cave or Monkey Temple.

Local guided tours can offer deeper insights into Mae Sai. Consider Chiang Rai Green Tours or Chiang Rai Guided Tours for comprehensive and well-guided experiences.

You should definitely try Sai Ua (Northern Thai sausage), Khao Soi (Northern Thai curry noodle soup), and Lanna-style dishes like Nam Prik Num (green chili dip).

The best time to visit Mae Sai is during the cool season from November to February, when temperatures are relatively mild and comfortable.

You can cross the border into Myanmar at the Mae Sai-Tachileik bridge. Make sure you have a valid passport. A visa can be obtained on arrival, but check for the most recent regulations.

Mae Sai is generally safe. However, like any other tourist spot, keep an eye on your belongings. Locals appreciate if you respect their customs. For instance, when visiting temples, dress modestly, removing your shoes before entering.

The Mae Sai Border Market is an excellent place for handicrafts, jewelry, and clothing. Be prepared to haggle!

Try places like the Piyaporn Pavilion Hotel or Top North Hotel Mae Sai for local hospitality and convenience.

If you have some time, definitely explore Doi Tung, home to beautiful gardens and the Royal Villa. The Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet, is also a unique destination.

Taxis and songthaews (shared taxis) are common in Mae Sai. They’re quite reliable and affordable. Renting a motorbike or a car is also an option if you’re comfortable navigating local roads.

Thai festivals vary by season. Songkran (Thai New Year) in April is a massive water festival and Loy Krathong in November involves floating lanterns on water bodies. Check local listings for specific events happening during your visit.

Check out our prices for renting automatic scooters and maxi-scooters, semi-automatic motorbikes, and motorcycles with manual gear.

If you prefer to travel by car, be sure to read our guide on how you can save up to half the cost of a rental car in Chiang Mai.

For a complete list of our travel guides, see our Northern Thailand Routes and Travel Notes section.

If you find inaccuracies in the text or want to add interesting information for our readers, feel free to message us at any time.

Cat Motors Team

Was this post useful for you?

You can rate it by clicking on a star

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *