A venerable institution with a bad make-over
When Shin Sane opened in 1970 no sealed roads led in or out, and Mae Salong was still a KMT military base and not more than nominally a part of Thailand. Across the valley lay Khun Sa’s camp and the surrounding hills were covered in poppy fields. It must have been a wild place! This was the heart of the real Golden Triangle, not the bunch of T-shirt stalls in a coach park it’s become today.
These days both Mae Salong and Shin Sane have changed dramatically. The original building is still there, with part of the structure curiously forming a wooden bridge over the street that actually passes under, or through, the guesthouse and which houses their budget, shared bathroom rooms. To the rear, in a small garden, there is a row of bright blue chalets plus a two-storey—also blue—hotel-style block. Chalets are fine, albeit slightly smaller and closer together than Little Home’s, while the hotel rooms are comfortable, airy and good value for money so…so far so good.
Unfortunately, in an astonishing lapse of taste, a three-storey reception, office and brightly lit modern cafe has recently been plonked right in front of the venerable old wooden building. Worse, the eyesore’s exterior is coated in an horrific plasticised, faux-brick wallpaper. They already had a perfectly adequate cafe and reception—which have also been made-over—and we find it hard to believe they need a two-storey office. This iconic old building used to ooze atmosphere—even with the bright blue chalets out back—but we confess this impossible-to-ignore, horrific structure casts a shadow over the whole establishment however good value the actual rooms are.
Attempting to forget the unforgettable, we’ll move on to the rooms of which they offer three basic types. There’s the budget, shared bathroom options in the old wooden house facing the three-storey plastic coated affair, which although basic, are clean, having received a recent splash of fresh paint and well-maintained communal showers are hot ones. Some of the rooms are in the bridge section above the road so while unusual, they must be seriously noisy with early morning market traffic passing directly underneath. Bungalows in the rear have attached bathrooms with hot showers, fans and small balconies though decoration is at a minimum. Rooms are equally spartan but are at least bright and airy with French doors and balconies.
Their rustic cafe’s terrace used to be a great spot to sip a morning coffee and watch the Akha heading to market, or to down an end of day cold one as dusk settled over the windy main street, but their new cafe is a brightly lit spot with a modern, charmless interior, serving up adequate but unexciting food. To be fair they have added a proper coffee machine and the beer’s still cold and cheap.
There is abundant travel information available and staff members were helpful and friendly even if some didn’t seem convinced by their new surroundings and motorbikes are also available for 250 baht per day. For budget we’d opt for Mr Ho Guesthouse although Shin Sane’s 500 to 800 baht rooms at the rear would be a decent alternative if Little Home was full.
Address: Next to the morning market, Mae Salong
T: (053) 765 026;
Coordinates (for GPS): 99º37'31.95" E, 20º9'56.39" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 600B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Sgl fan share bathroom||200 baht||200 baht|
|Dbl fan share bathroom||300 baht||300 baht|
|Bungalow fan private bathroom||500 baht||800 baht|
|Dbl fan private bathroom||500 baht||800 baht|
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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