A village whose traditional wood houses find their way along steep and narrow roads. Angel trumpets hanging gracefully over the soothingly rippling stream, freshly filled with water from the mountains after last night’s rain. The smell of pork skewers and freshly brewed coffee. On the road sits a Thai couple blocking the traffic, selfies before cars. Welcome to Mae Kampong!
It’s the time of the year when you consider going South, PM 2.5 levels close to 200, hot, dry and dusty. But when we got an early indication and blessing of the rainy season or green season that we prefer to call it here, we simply decided to do some short trips in the North instead. Just 1 hour and 30 minutes, or roughly 50 kilometre east of us are the cosy little mountain village of Mae Kampong. It has become an Instagram – hotspot and it is not difficult to understand why. For me this little village with well kept old and new wooden structures makes me think of the small mountain town of Takayama in Japan.
Well, not quite the Japanese Alps and without snow, but well embedded in green and surrounded by mountains and impressive waterfalls, forests and bamboos. The sentiment and feeling are a bit similar to the mountain valleys of Japan.
Mae Kampong is roughly 900 – 1000 meters above sea level and tend to get really crowded in the colder months of November to February when people flock to camp, glamp here or overnight at some inviting homestay along the stream. The village already hosts famous cafes and glamping sights like The Giant and Lanna Wild. Mae Kampong has also for many years been the home of the zipline adventure Flight of The Gibbon.
The village is about 100 years old with most of the villagers migrating from Doi Saket District. There are 132 households with a total population of around 400 people.
The villagers are traditionally farmers, nowadays you sea tea and coffee plantations in the area but most income is focused on tourism. There are also yellow-red flowers growing near the creek, which the villagers call Kampong Flower thus the name Mae Kampong. In Northern Thailand, you often encounter the name Mae in front of a village name which means “mother”.
The conservation project of this village started by the headman in 1996.
We just wanted to enjoy some nice cafes and restaurants and chill with friends for a night so we decided to go for the Himdoi home which turned out to be a real snug. Himdoi offers standard rooms and a whole house for 8 – 10 persons. We went to the house since we were 8 people travelling together. The rooms are really lovely, I got a feeling that this would be a great place for Christmas if celebrating it in Thailand.
The house had three floors and two bathrooms, two outdoor areas, one was a balcony. But standard rooms looked terrific as well.
We enjoyed two coffee shops. Great coffee as usual in Thailand and some good macadamia cheesecakes. The first one was high up with great views of the village. Ingdao Coffee shop. It is a good place to start your visit to Mae Kampong since you get a nice panoramic view from there. The location is where Chomnok Chommai Coffee used to be before.
The other coffee shop is famous for its location just by a small waterfall and with an extension bridge that is also an insta-hot spot. Ted Du Coffee
The chapel is in the middle of the pond; the old temple made from hardwood and crafted teak wood in Lanna design The real name is Kanta Prueksa Temple, but informally know as Wat Mae Kampong. I felt very much in love with the thatched roof.
Yes, there is also a waterfall. Mae Kampong Waterfall has 7 levels with nature trails. It is possible to walk up to “Doi Mon Lan”. The peak is about 1,700 meters above sea level, offering panoramic views of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Lampang. There are ponds for swimming as well. Open from 08.00 to 17.00.
On the way to, or when you return to Chiang Mai you can stop and enjoy the hot springs in San Kamphaeng. We like to have our lunch at Nasri Jumpru restaurant which is also on the way, with a contemporary take on Thai food. Don’t miss their Red Curry with duck!
If you don’t have your own car and you are not joining a tour. You can try to catch a van at Chang Puak Bus station.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the charming village of Mae Kampong would qualify as a Unesco heritage in the future. The whole village comes out well as a unit where modern houses did not ruin the traditional feeling yet.