Photo: Enjoy the views.

Mae Sa Valley

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The picturesque Mae Sa Valley lies just a short distance north of Chiang Mai and is something of a microcosm of Chiang Mai's tourist industry, covering everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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The sublime is the stunning scenery and landscapes; the ridiculous is the tacky array of overpriced roadside attractions lining the valley. Some attractions are worthwhile, such as the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, while others such as the Jungle Coaster decidedly wacky and others like Tiger Kingdom downright abhorrent. Here’s a brief rundown on what to expect.

Riverside cafes in the Mae Sa valley. Photo taken in or around Mae Sa Valley, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Riverside cafes in the Mae Sa valley. Photo: Mark Ord

The valley of the Mae Sa—an oversized stream rather than river—leads off the Fang highway, Route 107, in Mae Rim district, and winds its way around the north side of Doi Suthep, Doi Pui National Park. Sealed Route 1096 follows the valley to a crest, before dropping down to Samoeng village. Combined with the descent to Hang Dong this route also forms our suggested one-day Samoeng Loop motorbike ride.

It’s too far for bicycles and a motorbike is the ideal means to explore, though plenty of guesthouses and travel agents do offer Mae Sa packages if you don’t have your own transport. Expect to pay around 600 to 800 baht, excluding entrance tickets, but be warned you are then at their mercy as to which spots they consider visit-worthy. Beginning with the regrettable Tiger Kingdom near the Mae Rim junction, the attractions continue intermittently the length of the lower valley up to the Mon Cham turn off.

At the Botanical Gardens. Photo taken in or around Mae Sa Valley, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

At the Botanical Gardens. Photo: Mark Ord

To cut out the dross we’ll ignore the monkey shows, snake and alligator farms, cobra shows, "Long Neck" Karen village, one or two unreconstructed elephant show camps and the shooting range. Don’t worry, that still leaves a lot of ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Mae Sa Valley
North of Chiang Mai

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Mai.
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