Just 50 km east of Chiang Mai, driving along a small road between forests and mountains, we reached Mae Kampong town. It is a small village of just over 130 houses and 370 inhabitants, which has become a model for community tourism in Thailand. In Mae Kampong, its own inhabitants are in charge of managing the tourism offer, and they directly pocket its benefits. There are no big hotel chains here, and amazingly not even a single 7 Eleven!
Origin of the town and its ecotourism transformation
Mae Kampong was established about 100 years ago, when several peasants living in Doi Saket area moved to present-day Mae Kampong, attracted by the prospect of growing tea. At an altitude of 1,300 meters, Mae Kampong is ideal for growing tea, a plant that has yielded many benefits in northern Thailand. Later, they also incorporated coffee cultivation, and today there are many cafes in the village, where they serve locally grown coffee to tourists.
There are over 130 houses in Mae Kampong, and about 20 of them offer homestays.
Homestays at Mae Kampong
In the early 2000s, some residents of Mae Kampong began offering visitors the chance to stay in their homes. Homestays are private local family houses that have adapted to accommodate some temporary guests. Host families provide the traveler with the opportunity to experience the local lifestyle by sharing time and space.
One can come to town, find a homestay and stay the night. The cost usually ranges from THB 500 to THB 700 per room/night.
Activities you can do in Mae Kampong
Most visitors go to Mae Kampong simply to hang out and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, without doing much other than having an occasional coffee, strolling through the shops and eating in the local restaurants. That’s exactly what we did on our last visit, and it was great. You have to know that if you go on a weekend it will be crowded, as it is a very popular getaway among northern Thais. On the other hand, everything will be open, while during the week many shops may be closed.
☕ Have a coffee with views of the town
Chomnok Chommai Café is on the way to the local waterfall, at the end of the town, and from its terrace you will get spectacular views of Mae Kampong village. Quietly having a coffee there while enjoying the views and the pleasant cool temperature is pure bliss.
🌭 Try the local sausages
In any of the various restaurants in town you can try the famous hot sausages of northern Thailand. Mae Kampong’s are delicious. In my many years based in Thailand I have tried quite a few, and I’d say these are the best ones I’ve eaten so far.
💦 Visit the small waterfall
Just after you exit the town there is a small waterfall, Namtok Mae Kampong, which is worth visiting while exploring the village surroundings by foot.
🐒 Enjoy the most famous ziplines
Flight of The Gibbon are the most famous ziplines in Thailand, and also the most expensive. Their office is located at the beginning of Mae Kampong town. It is an activity in which you spend a couple of hours sliding from one tree to another, enjoying the jungle views from above, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot some of the gibbons that inhabit the area. You’ll find all details here.
Combine Mae Kampong with caves and hot springs
A great full-day plan from Chiang Mai is to visit Mae Kampong Village and combine it with Muang On Cave and Sankhampaeng Hot Springs. You will definitely need private transportation to squeeze all of this into one day.
We at InThailand Travel plan to offer this tour soon, as an option for travelers visiting the city of Chiang Mai.
How to go from Chiang Mai to Mae Kampong Village?
The best way to get from Chiang Mai to Mae Kampong is by private transport. Otherwise, from Warorot Market (Chiang Mai’s central market), vans depart regularly for Mae Kampong for 150 THB. The trip lasts 1.5 hours.