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If you're not on a day trip out of Chiang Mai then continuing along route 108 from Hang Dong takes you to the next town up of Sanpatong. Currently still separated from Chiang Mai by some countryside it's more of a satellite town than a suburb but give it a few more years...

You're now following the Ping River Valley with the hills of Lampang Province and Khun Tan way off to the left and the range of mountains connecting Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon on your right.

The wide Ping River valley is mostly given over to rice and fruit growing and has been settled for even longer than Chiang Mai City itself, being the agricultural heartland for the former powerful Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai based in today's Lamphun.

The wooden buildings of these ancient settlements have not survived but the temples have, so a whole string of old and prestigious Wats also lines the valley floor down side tracks to the right and left of the main road -- most signposted in English and many worth a peak if you have time of fancy a break.

Sanpatong town has a busy market, weekly farmers market, (Saturdays only), banks, plenty of eating places and some terrific accommodation. In fact the accommodation is so good that rather than say "...if you're stuck here for the night head for...", we'd say get stuck deliberately -- it's worth it!

Also located in Sanpatong is the turn off for Mae Wang and the Mae Wang Valley -- an upcoming Chiang Mai tourist destination and alternative to Mae Sa with rafting, trekking and elephant riding options at the Mae Wang Elephant Camp (T:(053) 229 040). Mae Sa, especially in high season can get a bit much and the equally scenic, but far less busy and commercialised, Mae Wang is a good option and only a few miles further.

Several agents in Chiang Mai are now offering day trips to Mae Wang, including one day trekking since there are still some relatively unspoilt Karen and Hmong villages in this area. If you have your own transport or can find a songthaew in Sanpatong heading up to Mae Wang it is easy enough to turn up and check out the rafting and pachyderms yourself without booking in Chiang Mai beforehand.

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Text and/or map last updated on 20th February, 2014.

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