Experience the Beauty of Baan Mae Kampong
and its Occupants' Unique Way of Life
Real estate projects promise homeowners the moon or such as a panoramic view from every window or a swimming pool in every garden, but have you ever heard of getting a gushing waterfall with every home? Well, this is a real estate asset that's taken for granted in the village of Baan Mae Kampong (pronounced as "Baan Mae Gumporng") in Mae-Orn District (Ampur). The bubbling falls cascade down the mountainside on both sides of the village, providing villagers and visitors with breath-taking views. The village is located approximately 50 kms from Chiangmai, about one hour's drive east on Highway 1317 past Sankampaeng District, through some stunning scenery. An alternative route to the village is to drive along Highway 118 towards Chiangrai before turning right at Pongdin intersection after about 51 kms.
Getting closer to Baan Mae Kampong are several nurseries selling sizeable mature trees and flowering bushes which will need to be replanted by excavators at different sites around the province. The gentle slopes gradually develop into rolling hills covered with dense forest and bamboo growths. Several well established villages with fruit orchards can be seen at regular intervals along the drive. One wonders how the inhabitants can survive in places so remote from the city.
Arriving in Baan Mae Kampong, the cement road narrows and it doesn't seem possible for two vehicles to pass each other, however it is just manageable. The Forestry Office is very inviting with its stone and wooden buildings, positioned under an umbrella of tall trees with a canvas of green leaves. Baan Mae Kampong is also known as Doi Hin or 'Stone Mountain', a name accounted for by the many natural huge boulders strewn across the hillsides. The Christmas poinsettias were still in red bloom in April due to the narrow valley's short hours of direct sunlight. About fifteen minutes from the village the road climbs sharply upwards to where the villagers grow coffee and Chinese oolong tea for their regular income. The young oolong leaves are used to make tea, whereas, the older leaves of the plant are fermented for miang, a chewing snack, popular since the days of ancient Lanna. (Later during the visit, a dish of laab miang was served with the warning that the more leaves are used in the dish, the greater the chance of becoming inebriated).
The small village of Baan Mae Kampong has been nestled in its mountainous location at 1300 meters above sea level for one hundred years. When our king visited twenty years ago, His Majesty suggested the village produce its own hydro-electricity from the local stream and waterfall. They heeded his advice and now the village's main source of income is the sale of electricity to other villages further down the mountain. About two years ago Paw Luang or Poo-Yai Baan (Village Head) encouraged the villagers to subsidize their income even further by offering visitors the chance to enjoy a long stay program. The basic package includes two days and one night in an adorable cottage and three meals for Bt1000. The visitors are usually brought by co-operating tour companies. With an average temperature of 10 - 18 degrees C throughout the year, refreshing breezes provide a welcome respite from the heat of Chiangmai. With the cool air and the tranquil sound of the flowing stream and gushing waterfall, it is not hard to see why people are perfectly happy to spend a few nights in this Shangri-La setting.
Besides hiking and sightseeing in the gorgeous surroundings, visitors can now choose from a variety of activities and treatments to entertain them. A village co-op massage center has been established by the Department of Labor, the Professional Businesswomen of Chiangmai and trained nearly forty women in traditional Thai and foot massage. This service is a "must" for those who have spent their day climbing the hills and visiting the waterfall and are in need of some healing relief at the end of the day. Sauna facilities are also on offer as well as the chance to sample the local Arabica coffee, tea and healthy herbal juices. The opportunity to enjoy a Thai traditional welcoming ceremony, Baisi Sukwan, Northern Thai performing arts and a Northern Thai music performance are also available as additional options. The nearby handicraft village of San Kampaeng and the Hot Springs are worth a visit if you are in the area.
The village of Baan Mae Kampong stands as a fine example of eco-tourism. Its home-stay project has successfully been used to promote environmental understanding and educate villagers in conservation methods, helping to preserve the abundance of bio-diversity and offering visitors an insight into the culture and unique lifestyle of the local people, whilst providing the villagers with a good source of income. Baan Mae Kampong is an ideal destination for anyone seeking both greater cultural and environmental awareness of Northern Thailand as well as the chance to relax and enjoy the unspoiled beautiful countryside.