Photo: The scenery is terrific.

Thoed Thai (aka Hin Taek)

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Thoed Thai (previously known as Hin Taek) is another of northern Thailand’s remote spots with a former bad boy reputation and a new fluffy appellation.

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Now officially renamed Thoed Thai, meaning Honour Thai, the old name Hin Taek translates as the less cringe-worthy Broken Rock. Like nearby Mae Salong, renamed Santikhiri, the new title has failed to stick and while road signs and most maps use Thoed Thai, to residents it will always be Hin Taek. For nearly 10 years this was the home and headquarters of Khun Sa: drug lord or freedom fighter, opium king or heroic Shan nationalist depending on your point of view. Back in the day, this head of an estimated private army of up to 20,000 was, in the view of the CIA, the most wanted man in the world.

The man himself. Photo taken in or around Thoed Thai (aka Hin Taek), Mae Salong, Thailand by Mark Ord.

The man himself. Photo: Mark Ord

According to local history, the town was originally founded by Akha migrants from Shan State, who settled in the valley in 1903, making it the first recognised Akha settlement in Thailand. These days, it’s mainly inhabited by a mixture of Shan and Yunnanese—survivors and descendants of the KMT—while the surrounding hills are home to Akha, Lisu and Lahu ethnic groups. The community contains Protestant and Catholic churches, Chinese temples, Thai/Shan wats and a mosque. Indeed according to local lore, the Thai government once brought up a group of community leaders from the country’s troubled deep south to show them how such a mix of people could live together so harmoniously.

Khun Sa himself was forced back over the Burmese border after Thai army assaults in 1982, but his shadow still looms large over Hin Taek. Many older residents remember this, by all accounts, gregarious character who was often seen strolling around the market chatting with locals and who financed and constructed schools, housing, clinics and roads for the ... Travelfish members only (Around 900 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
As far as public transport goes, blue songthaews in the centre of town outside the morning market leave regularly throughout daylight hours for Mae Chan, costing 60 baht. Connecting with Mae Salong, you would need to alight at the Sam Yaek checkpoint and T-junction 12 kilometres south and wait for a green songthaew. For Chiang Rai, change at Mae Chan.

Sealed Highway 4032 to the border at Mae Mob some 15 kilometres north is in good condition as is 3051 linking the town to the 1234 but the 1334 which cuts directly to Mae Fah Luang from just south of Thoed Thai is not. On a past trip, we were advised, by locals and army, to return to the Mae Salong-Mae Chan highway and take Route 1338 leading north instead. This is a very scenic and generally well-surfaced, if slightly torturous, mountain road which eventually comes out at Doi Tung and the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens.

For the museum, head into the centre of Thoed Thai on Route 3051 and look out for English language signs on your right. The turn off for Khun Sa's camp is just after the PT petrol station and just east of the morning market. From here a rough but partially sealed lane leads some 500m up a wooded hill-side. Any problems then we’d suggest popping into Rim Taan for a coffee and they’ll gladly provide directions as well as other suggestions on what to see while you’re up there.

Location map for Thoed Thai (aka Hin Taek)

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What next?

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