Ban Mae Kampong is an idyllic Thai mountain village set in the verdant mountains east of Chiang Mai. I recently wanted to go on a short motorcycle trip around Chiang Mai province staying in homestays and getting to know the real Thailand. A Thai friend recommended that I visit this village so off I went. Only 50 kms from Chiang Mai, Ban Mae Kampong can be a great one day or overnight escape from the city where one can truly get the Northern Thai experience far from almost all tourists.
There are many homestays in Ban Mae Kampong and other hotel options, but the one I most recommend is a nice family living just past the temple along the main road. There are several places masquerading as “homestays” in this area when in reality they’re actually hotels or guesthouse. I stayed in an authentic homestay program with official Thai ministry of tourism approval. While it doesn’t really have a name, the best way to reach this homestay would be to call the dad on his cell +66 85-675-4598. I do not think he speaks English, but his daughter does. She is probably in her early 30s and recently just had a baby – the parent’s first grandchild.
The family was incredibly nice, and the mom made absolutely delicious meals. She also gave me a traditional Thai massage in the home. I think the price is 600 bhat a night with breakfast and dinner, but somehow I ended up paying only 1,190 for two nights and a massage that should have cost 150 bhat. Not complaining though! Even if you don’t speak Thai, I think this is a manageable homestay because the daughter will ask you all the important questions in the beginning and then translate to the parents for you. Like when do you want to eat, food you don’t eat, how to use the shower, etc.
Most of the activities in Ban Mae Kampong center on drinking coffee which is grown in the surrounding mountains. There are several coffee shops in the area, but I recommend Chomnok Chomai or Y Life Café. A great restaurant in town is the Khao Soi Noodle shop right in the center – its hard to miss.
Outside of coffee and food, there are a couple of waterfalls in the area and adventurous motorcycle loops. Right up the hill is the Mae Kampong waterfall that is the source of the river running through town. While I’ve seen bigger waterfalls, this would be a nice place to stop and have a picnic. It is not big enough for swimming though.
Further away and worth the visit is Thep Sadet Waterfall. There are two possible ways to get here – one easy, and one much more difficult (but more fun). The easy way would be to return to the 1317 and take the 4063 up towards the waterfall. But the more fun way is to cut through the mountains on some very sketchy roads. From Ban Mae Kampong, I took a small side road towards the popular Giant Chiang Mai Café. This is a really nice café in the mountains where it is possible to go “zip lining” for 200 bhat, but this sort of zip lining is nothing like Flight of the Gibbons and caters more to Thais that would be too scared to do the more serious stuff.
After The Giant, the road continues on, but the quality gets much worse. Eventually the road becomes mud for about a kilometer before becoming paved again and reaching the waterfall. I managed to do it on a scooter but there were several times I had to walk my bike downhill with both my feet out because I was afraid I didn’t have enough traction to properly brake. There was a group of construction workers working on this road though so I think eventually the two paved portions will connect making it a more manageable loop.
There is a small parking area at the base of Thep Sadet Waterfall, and then it is a short ten minute walk to the falls. The falls were much bigger than Ban Mae Kampong, but there were a lot of bugs during the rainy season so I did not stay too long. I was the only person there though so it was really special to discover such a hidden place.
To get back, I continued down the 4063 back to the 1317 to return to Ban Mae Kampong.
If you’re looking for a nice getaway from Chiang Mai and want to see real Thai culture then Ban Mae Kampong is the place to go. Only an hour from Chiang Mai, it can easily be accessed on just a scooter. This village is a wonderful place to relax and spend a few nights drinking coffee, reading a nice book, or furiously writing blog posts like me! If you end up going, please let me know in the comments.