San Kamphaeng and Mae On are two adjoining districts to the east of Chiang Mai. The districts are popular destinations for tourists as they are home to some of the region’s more unusual attractions. San Kamphaeng is the location of quite a number of the factories and sales outlets for Chiang Mai’s thriving handicraft industry. Bo Sang’s umbrella making factories and silk production centres are the flagships of these.
Key attractions in San Kamphaeng and Mae On are hot springs, sacred caverns, Mae Takhrai National Park and the serene village of Mae Kampong. The area is a destination of choice for activities fans as it is home to the Flight of the Gibbon Zipline camp, the Crazy Horse Buttress rock-climbing centre and the acclaimed Chiang Mai Highlands golf course.
WHAT TO SEE
Bo Sang Village
Bo Sang Village is the epicentre of the Northern Thai umbrella making industry and home to Bo Sang Handicraft Centre. A tour around the centre takes visitors through the whole process of creating the umbrellas and hand-fans. This begins with cutting bamboo strips to size, lacquering them, stretching sa (mulberry) paper over the frameworks and then artists adding colourful designs. A sales outlet at the centre sells the finished products at attractive prices. The Bo Sang Umbrella Festival every January is a celebration of this handicrafts industry.
San Kamphaeng Thai Silk Factories
In addition to umbrellas, San Kamphaeng is home to a collection of handicraft factories which sell everything from silver jewellery and semi-precious gems to Thai silk products and accessories. Thai Silk Village and Shinawatra Thai Silk are one kilometre apart. Both centres walk visitors through the various stages of hand-producing premium quality silks. They sell a huge choice of products covering everything from little silk flowers to bedding sets with handbags, men’s suits and ties in between.
#1 Thai Silk Village: #120/11, Chiang Mai – San Kamphaeng Rd., T. Sanklang, A. San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai 50130 | Open: 09:30-18:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 338 357 | Facebook | Map
#2 Shinawatra Thai Silk: #145/1-2, T. Tonpao, A. San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai 50130 | Open: 08:30-17:30 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 221 076 | Fax: +66 53 212 538 | Website | E-mail | Map
San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
Despite the name, the San Kamphaeng hot springs are actually located in Mae On. A geyser at the park shoots springwater high into the air. The runoff from this feeds the hot-water stream and pools in the park. The waters are said to rejuvenate the body and visitors have a choice of bathing in tubs, group tubs or a covered swimming pool. Masseuses offer traditional Thai massage services while a cluster of shops close to the front gate sell a nice choice of souvenirs. A tree-shaded picnic area and a restaurant round off the amenities at San Kamphaeng hot springs.
San Kamphaeng Hot Springs: #1, M. 7, T. Ban Sahakorn, A. Mae On, Chiang Mai 50130 | Open: 08:00-20:00 (Daily) | Admission Fees: Adult 100 B / Child 50 B | Tel: +66 53 037 101-2 | E-mail | Map
Mae Kampong Village
The village of Mae Kampong is a charming spot and features a collection of home-stay accommodation and cafés serving up gourmet coffees brewed from local beans. The buildings are built over low tree-shaded hills. Apart from being a pleasant place to spend a few relaxing days, Mae Kampong has its own waterfall and is the location of the Flight of the Gibbon Zipline centre.
Muang On Cave
Muang On Cave is an interesting stopover on the main road out to San Kamphaeng’s hot springs and Mae Kampong Village. The cave’s entrance is on a hill. Long naga snake statues line the flight of steps leading to it. The cavernous interior is full of stalagmites, stalactites, rock formations, Buddhist statues and religious shrines. Highlights are a reclining Buddha and what looks like the remains of a fossilised dinosaur.
Muang On Cave: A. Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai 50170 | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Entrance Fee: 40 B | Map
Mae Takhrai National Park
As it is not on the mainstream tourism trail, Mae Takhrai sees fewer visitors than the other Chiang Mai National Parks. This park has lots to do and see. Visitors may catch glimpses of deer and gibbons plus wildflowers. There is also a three-kilometre trekking path, the 15-metre high Tat Moei Waterfall and majestic mountain peaks. A longer trail leads to the summit of the 2,000-metre Doi Lanka.
Mae Takhrai National Park: #36, M. 3, Ban Mae Wan, T. Pa Miang, A. Doi Saket, Chiang Mai 50220 | Open: 08:00-16:30 (Daily) | Admission Fee: Free | Tel: +66 96 680 2727 | E-mail | Map
WHERE TO STAY
The Giant Chiang Mai
Located close to the myriad draws of Mae Kampong, The Giant Chiang Mai is a community operated establishment right in the middle of unspoilt forests. The Giant’s rooms have been crafted from timber and come with rattan and hardwood furniture, premium bedding and fabrics, balconies and wireless internet. Bonuses for guests are free breakfasts and a restaurant-coffee shop with open-air decks…more info & booking
The Puka Boutique Resort
The Puka is a superior San Kamphaeng accommodation choice and boasts a collection of heritage villas and suites equipped with full modern amenities. Guests will find they have free mini-bars, personal safes, media players and cable televisions, wireless internet, balconies, bathrobes and facilities to make coffee and tea at their disposal. Onsite facilities are a restaurant serving Thai and international food, a bar, a swimming pool and a business centre. Airport transfers are also available …more info & booking
This resort offers exclusive accommodation at affordable prices. Chalets here are equipped with air-conditioning, internet access, mini-bars, televisions with a varied choice of satellite stations, terraces and bathrobes. The onsite bar-eatery serves breakfast, Thai dishes, desserts, craft beer and nectar-like cocktails. A shaded swimming pool and a function room are the other chief amenities at Baanpong Lodge. It is located in the southern Mae On sub-district of Ton Pao…more info & booking
San Kamphaeng Lake View Resort
A few kilometres from Baanpong Lodge, the San Kamphaeng Lake View Resort is another top accommodation choice without a big price tag. Rooms here are spread around a central pond and garden and are decorated in a pleasing fusion of heritage Lanna and modern styles. There are bigger rooms available for family groups. A swimming pool, a karaoke lounge and fully-fitted conference room round off the key facilities here…more info & booking
The Resort at Chiang Mai Highlands
This opulent resort offers the enticing bonus of being within walking distance of one of the best golf courses in Asia. Chic rooms at the resort feature super-comfort beds, air-conditioning, seating areas, mini-bars, satellite televisions, bathrooms with bathtubs, outdoor rain-showers and verandas. In addition to discounted green fees on the Schmidt-Curley designed golf course, the Highlands Resort has a swimming pool, a spa, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and a restaurant…more info & booking
HOW TO GET THERE
During the day, white songthaew shared taxis run from a rank near Warorot Market, and the west bank of the Ping River, and terminate at Mae On Market. The market is at the junction of Highway 1317 and the access road for San Kamphaeng hot springs. En route, the songthaews stop at Bo Sang and San Kamphaeng Town. Getting to other destinations in Mae On requires hiring a red songthaew, hiring a car or motorbike, or booking a private tour with the local tour agencies. The Puka Resort and Flight of the Gibbon are among the establishments which offer transfer services from Chiang Mai.