The Samoeng – Mae Rim Loop

This is a route that is also labelled the Mae Sa Valley Loop. It is an incredible half-day or whole day tour out of Chiang Mai, depending on your time. In these Covid – 19 times it is a great ride when you live in Chiang Mai since you can get nature and mountains views without leaving the province. In addition, you can even spend the whole passage in the car and not get out. Start by just enjoying the scenery. In non-pandemic times, it is also a lovely drive since there are so many places to see and so much to eat on the way up to Samoeng as well as in Mae Rim’s Mae Sa Valley.

We retook the ride at the beginning of July after a few years pause. From Hang Dong, it is easy to get on to the Samoeng road. Firstly we stopped at the Lanna Rock Garden and drove to Samoeng Forest Park view. Consequently, we continued over the mountains and down to the Mae Sa valley via the Zombie cafe. The final stop was at Solao restaurant to enjoy some Bing Suu shaved ice on the last leg before we would reach home.

Plenty of places were shut down, but some sites that we liked were open. It is visible that subsequent lockdowns have forced the adventure travel attractions to close for the moment at least.

In normal circumstances with a motorbike or scooter, you will probably need around 4-5 hours for this tour, all depending on how often you stop, of course. The Samoeng Loop is about 100 km long, and it covers the 1269 road and then routes 1096.

Lanna Rock Garden

This is a favourite spot on the way up to Samoeng. It is accessible to social distance, vast outspread area. The kids love playing in the peaceful stream that flows through with rocks to jump on, using the small play area, and checking out the water buffalo. No outside food is allowed, but they do have a small kitchen, and they serve different kinds of coffees and teas.

If there is no rain, it is nice to sit by the river in small bamboo shafts, and if the rain starts, it is possible to move in under the roof next to the kitchen.

Lanna rock garden was open as usual.
Nice play area and also a small tree house.
The stones that gives the name to Lanna Rock Garden.

Samoeng Forest View Point

Located roughly 30 minutes from Lanna Rock Garden, you get some spectacular views of the forest and mountains. There is an excellent wooden sign welcoming you, and you can park here. Drive-in slowly because there are some quite sharp curves at this spot. In good weather, you can also catch stunning sunsets up here.

Zombie Cafe

There are so many themed coffee shops in Chiang Mai nowadays. We got the impression that Zombie would be one of those, but the place is more like an old nightclub turned cafe in a lovely garden setting. The staff was friendly, but the restaurant itself was a bit overly oversold; apart from the guy on the photo and the signboards, not much of a Zombie character to this place.

However, there were many choices of food and drinks on the menu. Decent taste but nothing special. This place was crowded when we were there, so we took a seat outside to keep our distance. Out in the rainy season meant quite a lot of flies and some mosquitos. It was ok to have seen the cafe, but none of us had a natural desire to go back.

Zombie Cafe in Mae Rim.
Zombie Cafe in Mae Rim. Plenty of food on the menu. The atmosphere is very much like a previous nightclub. I guess that it used to have that function. Interestingly enough, many of the staff had tattoos.
Shave ice at Soo Laos restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Bing Suu, shaven ice at Solao’s, one of the best in town. The reward for agreeing on a drive on winding mountain roads. Solao is not in the loop. But a convenient stop on the way home.Solao is famous for its Laotian & Nort-Eastern food.

Guide to great stops on the Samoeng Loop.

First, some delightful places on the road 1269 section up to Samoeng.

  • Wat Ban Pong is the whitewashed pagoda visible in the greenish landscape. Stop at the temple and walk the 900 short steps up. Or drive to the top. Read more here about my recent visit to this wonder of Hang Dong.
  • Hoppipola is a famous BBQ, grilled meat restaurant if you pass by in the evening. They are renowned for their beef Tomahawk, but my family liked the Chicken Wings the best. Anyhow if you are up for a heavy big meat plate and with some mashed potatoes, you are at the right place—the location on the road 1269 here.
  • The Royal Train Garden and resort. Yes, it is just that. Have your coffee on a train and enjoy some tremendous instagrammable spots and a lovely garden. Read more here.
  • Are you looking for a high-quality resort on the way with a fantastic incentive pool? Try the Veranda hotel. Currently offering staycation holiday packages and maybe you can pay some money to eat and get access to the pool.
  • Tara Coffee and Din Cafe are gorgeous coffee shops where the Samoeng road starts. So it could also be your last stop if you began to in Mae Rim.

Guide to great spots in Mae Sa Valley and Mae Rim.

Route 1069 passes by elephant camps like the famous Mae Sa camp, cobra and monkey shows, ATV rentals, and a shooting range. But the recommendations we would like to put the spotlight on are the following :

  • Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, different themed areas from cactuses to orchids to the rainforest. Now with a tree walk canopy. The address you will find here.
  • Mae Sa Waterfall. Quaint 8-level waterfall with a neat plunge pool for swimming, a hiking trail & food booths. (Temporarily closed) . Should open as soon as covid restrictions are lifted. Address and contact here.
  • The Siam Insect Zoo has been collecting insects for over 30 years. You will also be able to view a vast range of insects on display, including butterflies, spiders, dragonflies, mosquitoes and beetles, to name a few. There are also lovely butterflies and dragonflies. Adress on Google maps here.
  • Pong Yang Angdoi restaurant with a waterfall view. Location on Google Maps here.
  • A bit off the beaten track, you will find an excellent place for scones and afternoon tea. The Chiang Mai Cream Tea House. Location on Google Maps here. ( Note that they open at 12.30)
  • Eat at Sala Mae Rim, if you can afford it overnight, at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai. Exclusive and elegant in lush surroundings.
  • Panviman Mountain and Spa Resort. Another top-class resort. Located here.
  • Elephant Poo Poo paper park. See how the elephant poop turns into paper. Read more here.

As of today, Chiang Mai is again a red zone. During this period, for any outings you must make sure to update where you can go and what is open. It is constantly changing.

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