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Mae Chaem

Travel Guide

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Up until recently one of the least accessible spots in northern Thailand, the small Chiang Mai provincial outpost of Mae Chaem is now proud possessor of no less than three sealed roads: the 100 kilometre, winding Route 1263 to Khun Yuam, the relatively straight and flat 45 kilometre Route 1088 linking up with Route 108 near Ob Luang National Park and the scenic Route 1192 passing along the foot of Doi Inthanon to Chom Thong. Mae Chaem is now connected to the outside world and tourists are trickling through.

The small town itself, quite busy as a market and now transport centre for outlying villages, was originally settled by people of the Tai Yuan branch of the Northern Tai ethnic family, though the surrounding villages include Shan, Red Karen, Lawa and Blue Hmong settlements. There is a busy little market, a couple of interesting Lanna-style wats and some handicrafts in the form of woven Tai Yuan-style sarongs for which the village is famous. You can visit the weaving centre on the edge of town.

Mondays in particular see the town come to life, when from daybreak until midday a farmers’ market (Talaat Kad Chan) sets up around Wat Chang Koeung, just one block south of the town centre. It's small but lively and lots of fun with loads of interesting and unusual fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and knickknacks on display. Karen and Hmong from the surrounding villages hit the town to sell, buy and stock up on the week’s gossip and news. It’s an old style market reminiscent of Shan State ones over the border, with many vendors just setting up their wares and products on mats on the floor.

Mae Chaem is an interesting spot to break up long journeys, with both decent accommodation and eating options, and though at present there are few opportunities for organised trips into the surrounding area this may soon change. The views are stupendous, with the northwestern slopes of Doi Inthanon overlooking Mae Chaem, and the scenic Chaem River passing through the valley and surrounding paddy fields. If you do have your own transport then it might be a good place to base yourself for exploring nearby Inthanon, while avoiding the more touristy area around the park itself, and it makes a useful stop if you’re doing the Hot, Mae Sariang, Khun Yuam, Chom Thong loop.

Mae Chaem is a small town laid out along the banks of the Chaem river, which separates the town centre and most of its facilities on the east bank from the residential area to the west. A bridge over the Chaem provides the town’s focal point and it’s around here that you’ll find the market, police station, ATMs and convenience stores. One block south of the Route 1088 as it heads off for Inthanon is the post office and small hospital on either side of Wat Chang Koueng. The lively Monday Market sets up here too.

The Route 1088 Ob Luang and Route 1192 Inthanon roads diverge a few kilometres east of town, while crossing the bridge in town takes you to the nearby Teen Jok Handicrafts centre and on to outlying villages.

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Text and/or map last updated on 19th August, 2015.

Last reviewed by:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.

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