The Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon – six days

The price of this tour is on request

This is a sample itinerary. If you are interested in this tour, we will customize it according to your wishes. The Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon is the less-traveled route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. The total driving distance is 432,7 km. It is an exciting route with stops at Doi Inthanon, Mae Chaem, Mae Sariang, and Khun Yuam.

We can customize this itinerary to your wishes and requirements.

The Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon – six days

Day 1: Chiang Mai –Doi Inthanon

113 km, total driving time 2,5 hours

Doi Inthanon National Park
Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel for your five-day journey, titled The Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon. Our first destination is Sanpatong. If we travel on a Saturday, we will stop at the weekly morning market aka the Buffalo Market. Continue to Chomthong, where we will turn off towards Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. Doi Inthanon is a national park with excellent nature trails and thundering waterfalls. Our first stop will be the thundering Vachirathan Waterfall.

The Nature Trails of Doi Inthanon
From there, we will continue to the summit, where we will visit the shrine of King Inthawichayanon, after whom they named the mountain. After that, we will walk the short Angka Nature Trail with its ferns and cloud forests. Next are the two Royal Chedis, constructed in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. It is a popular destination for local tourists. Then it is time for a Thai lunch. After lunch, it is not far from the start of the magnificent Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail. With a local guide, we walk down the thundering Pha Dok Siew Waterfall to the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang, famous for its coffee.

We will spend the night in a bungalow overlooking the village’s rice fields.

Day 2: Doi Inthanon – Mae Chaem – Mae Sariang

229 km, total driving time 4,5 hours

Mae Chaem, the town of “teen jok” textiles

If your trip takes place between November 1 and May 31 we will hike the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. It is a fantastic hike with amazing views. Otherwise, we will make a shorter hike in the area around Ban Mae Klang Luang. After this, we descend the mountain towards Mae Chaem, a small town in the middle of corn and rice fields. This community is famous for its Teen Jok textiles. We briefly stop at a weaving center. Afterward, we will drive to Ob Luang National Park, where we will have lunch. After lunch, we will visit the Ob Luang Gorge, the main attraction of this park.

Wonderful Mae Sariang
From Ob Luang, we will continue to Mae Sariang along a road with beautiful mountain scenery. During the drive, we will make several stops to take pictures and stretch our legs. After arrival in Mae Sariang, you have time to relax at the pool or take a walk around town. Look here for things to do in Mae Sariang. This charming town has some exquisite Burmese- and Shan-style temples.

The American anthropologist Charles Keyes lived in Mae Sariang from 1967 to 68 and left a fantastic legacy of photographs and field notes of this anthropological research. You can explore Mae Sariang on your own or enjoy a beer (or a shake) at the Mae Sariang Bar overlooking the Yuam River.
Overnight at the River House Resort

Day 3: Mae Sariang

Mae Sariang – Mae Sam Laep – Mae Sariang 112 km, about 2 hours driving

The Salawin River, the border between Thailand and Myanmar
After breakfast, we will drive to the village of Ban Mae Sam Laep on the Salawin aka Salween River. This river forms the border between Myanmar and Thailand. On the other side of the river, there is a sign with the word “Kawthoolei“, which is the name of the mythical homeland of the Karen people.

There used to be a border crossing here, but the border has been closed for some time. We will board a local boat for a fantastic trip on the river to Sop Moei, a small Karen community. You will not see much going on on both sides of the river. There are no villages and no agricultural fields in this remote area.

Tourist looking at a river
The Salawin River in 2019. Picture by Alan Dovey.

The village of Sop Moei
It takes about 45 minutes to Sop Moei, where the river splits into the Salawin and the Moei rivers. The Salawin River continues into Myanmar; the border river continues as the Moei River. After our ride, we disembark and take a short walk, during which we visit the local school and chat with some of the villagers. Tourists very seldom visit this area. Back at the river, we board our boat for the trip back to Ban Mae Sam Laep.

It is time for lunch which we will enjoy in the village. After lunch, we will drive back to Mae Sariang, where you will have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the hotel’s pool or explore the town on your own.
We will spend another night at the River House Resort.

UPDATE: Since February 2021 there has been a civil war in Myanmar. The situation along the border can be volatile according to this article from June 2023. We visited Ban Mae Sam Laep in February 2024. It was very quiet. The boat service from Mae Sam Laep to Sop Moei has been resumed and there were boats coming and going. It didn’t look very different from the last time I visited, which was before the pandemic.

We will drive to Ban Mae Sam Laep on this day because the drive itself is worth it. The Salawin River is very beautiful here. We will take it as it comes. We might make a boat trip but have to make sure it’s safe. If we can’t make the boat trip we will visit villages along the way back to Mae Sariang.

boarding local boat on Salawin River Sop Moei
Boarding the boat at Sop Moei to go back to Ban Mae Sam Laep

Day 4: Mae Sariang – Mae La Up – Khun Yuam – Mae Hong Son

190 km, about 5 hours of driving

Meet the Lawa people
After breakfast, we will depart for Ban Mae La Up in the highlands. We will stop at several places during the drive to enjoy the splendid views. Our first stop is the Karen village Baan Huay Horm, famous for its coffee. Of course, we will taste a cup of their coffee. Ban Huay Horm is not far from Ban La Up, a village of the Lawa people.

The Lawa are the indigenous people of Thailand and were already living here when the Thai people migrated from Southern China. With your guide, you will explore the village and meet some villagers. During our walk, we will visit the local silversmith, who will give a short demonstration of his craft.

After this, it is time to continue to Khun Yuam. Before arriving in Khun Yuam, we will stop at the Tai Yai (Shan) village, Muang Pon. This scenic village has a centuries-old monastery called Wat Muang Pon where we will stop briefly.

World War Two history in Khun Yuam
At Khun Yuam we will visit the Thai-Japanese Memorial Hall. This museum commemorates the presence of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2 and focuses on the history of the “Tai Yai” (Shan) of Khun Yuam. We continue the Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon to Mae Hong Son. Finally, we will arrive in Mae Hong Son, a town with Burmese, Thai, and Shan influences. We will spend the night in one of our favorite places in North Thailand, the lovely Fern Resort.

Day 5: Mae Hong Son

40 km, about an hour of driving

The capital of the Shan people
Mae Hong Son is a delightful place with a scenic lake in the center and marvelous Shan-style Buddhist temples. After breakfast, we will take a tour and visit the local morning market. Next to the market is Wat Hua Wiang, which has a beautiful ubosot. Mae Hong Son was once known as the “Siberia” of Thailand due to its remoteness. It is the “capital” of the Tai Yai people. The Living Museum is a small center with old pictures and information on Tai Yai culture and festivals. After this, we will visit the two temples on the Lake, Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang.

Woman with rings around the neck weaving
Padaung women in Huay Pu Keng, Mae Hong Son province

Meet the Padaung people
Mae Hong Son is also the home of the Padaung people, aka the Long Neck Karen. They came to Thailand as refugees from their homeland Myanmar in the 1980s. Here they became tourist attractions, and you can find many negative publications about them. However, we would like you to judge for yourself. It takes a short boat ride on the Pai River to get to their village, Huay Pu Keng. After this, we will go back to Mae Hong Son and drive up to Doi Kong Mu, a small mountain overlooking the town and the airport. On top of the hill is Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, a beautiful temple. We will spend some time here before we will walk down the Naga staircase.

Finally, we will visit the Su Tong Pe bamboo bridge. This bridge connects a village to an impressive Shan temple.

Overnight will be again at the Fern Resort.

Day 6: Mae Hong Son – Chiang Mai

10 km, about 20 minutes of driving

After breakfast, we will transfer you to the airport for the flight to Chiang Mai*. Alternatively, you can join our driver and guide who will drive back to Chiang Mai.

It is the end of your Mae Sariang Loop via Doi Inthanon trip.

UPDATE: currently (February 2024) there are no flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son and vv. You will have to join our driver and guide back to Chiang Mai.

Temple in the foreground with mountain in the back
View on Doi Kong Mu from Mae Hong Son

Highlights

Highlights:

Doi Inthanon National Park

Vachirathan Waterfall

Coffee and overnight at a Karen village

Nature Trails on Doi Inthanon (which one depends on the season)

Mae Chaem Teen Jok Textiles

Fantastic boat trip on the Salawin River

Meeting with Lawa people

Shan village Muang Pon

The Thai-Japanese Memorial Hall

The Mae Hong Son Living Museum

Meeting with the Padaung people of Huay Pu Keng

Burmese- and Shan-style temples of Mae Hong Son

 

Inclusions

What is included?

English speaking guide
Transportation
Accommodation
Entrance fees
Breakfast and lunch
Limited medical insurance

What is not included?

All drinks
Tips
Personal expenses