Tour to the Southwest of Chiangmai City
If you are an independent traveller and have taken a car or motorcycle rental, then an excursion to the southwest of Chiangmai City will offer an opportunity to see something of the Province's rural countryside plus various venues which are worth a visit. The roads are generally good to excellent.
It is suggested that the tour begin at Tohn Payorm Market (one of the city's fresh markets) where the Irrigation Canal Road (Rte. 121) intersects Suthep Road. When coming from the city center along Suthep Road, turn left at the Irrigation Canal and follow this road which runs alongside the canal. Traffic will soon thin out and, by the time the second major intersection is reached, should be quite light. Make a right turn at the second set of traffic lights (signposted Samoeng) and you are now on a climbing road through rural countryside and tree scapes.
It is also "resort" countryside and one of Chiangmai's oldest, the Krisdadoi Resort, is on the left hand side about 12 kilometers after the Irrigation Canal. Climbing and twisting higher, the road will eventually reveal the Belle Villa Resort to your right. This is the turnaround point for this particular excursion "spur" but a coffee, tea or snack at the Resort will allow time to enjoy the mountain air and scenery. Exploring the landscaped lushness of the Resort is a real delight (see the parade of elephants carved from a single tree trunk). Visitors are always welcome at any of the resorts.
Descending from Belle Villa, arriving back at the Irrigation Canal Road and turn right. Proceed through rural countryside and ricefields (although some urban development is becoming apparent) until the road makes a hard, right angle turn to the left. This is at the village of Naam Borluang which means "Big Well". The wide diameter well can be seen by crossing the bridge (on the right immediately before the sharp, left hand turn) and continuing a short straight distance to the temple of Wat Naam Borluang.
Proceed along Irrigation Canal Road (Sanpatong Handicraft Carving on the right) to the "T" junction with the main Chiangmai/Hang Dong/ Sanpatong/Hord road and turn right into Sanpatong township. After a very short distance, note the signpost to Mae Waang and turn right. Also note that on Saturday mornings only, Sanpatong hosts its weekly Buffalo Market which affords an insight into rural market life. Just about everything is available from clothes, furniture, ironmongery, secondhand goods, motorcycles, spices, CD discs and tapes to, of course, water buffaloes!
Having turned right to Mae Wang, it is a splendid drive through beautiful rural countryside. Rice paddies abound before the road climbs higher into the hills. At around 12 kms (from the main Sanpatong road), you will pass the Baan Kad crossroads. At this point watch for the sign, on the left, marking the entrance to Boonsom's Spirulina Farm. This is a relaxing and fascinating place to visit (free!) to see the growing ponds for the health-giving spirulina. Production of spirulina, and its processing into tablet form, is a highly technical business but the management will be happy to explain the processes. Visitors are welcome to call in. The mountains seen near the farm are the Doi Intanon range, (a wonderful excusion for another weekend.)
Continuing on into the hills, the road is flanked by high banks and thick forests. A rushing mountain stream falls away to the left of the twisting road. Watch out for elephants at the roadside ("canon-ball" droppings are a sign) and, after a further 7 kms, the many Mae Wang Elephant Camps will be on the left. Again visitors are welcome not only to see, ride and pamper the elephants but also to enjoy bamboo rafting or trekking as their time permits.
While the road continues a little farther (it eventually ends), this is the turnaround point for the Mae Wang "spur". Return to the main Sanpatong road and turn left towards Hang Dong. This will take you back to Chiangmai through the township of Hang Dong (the wood carving center of Baan Tawai is signposted to the right) past many antique galleries, rattan weaving and wood working shops. Stop at your leisure and view along this busy, main road leading back to Chiangmai's Superhighway at the Airport Plaza junction.
This suggested excursion can be taken at your own pace and is an interesting route to see southwest of the City. Perhaps a picnic lunch could also be suggested although there are plenty of Thai snackeries along the way. Drive carefully and safely and enjoy Chiangmai's surrounding countryside.
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