Time Out at Ban Mae Klang Luang in Chiang Mai

While making our way down from Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand, I asked my local guide/driver if we could stop for a drink before making the one-and-a half-hour journey back to Chiang Mai. I was feeling a bit tired from our visit to Doi Inthanon that morning. Furthermore, I was still recovering from the shock of going to the temple’s public toilet! Never before have I had to take off my shoes and socks, walk barefoot into a dark cubicle and step on the very wet, dirt-covered floor to have a “bio” break. To make things worse, the toilet was fashioned in the traditional style where you have no choice but to squat!

But I digress as usual. The driver offered to take me to a place that not only served good coffee but boasted of  beautiful scenery as well.  This meant that dinner would be delayed and would I mind?

Would I mind? I asked if we could stop for drink and he throws in a view as well!  Dinner could certainly wait! 

This proposition made me feel better immediately. It took a good 20 minutes to drive down the winding road to get to the base of the mountain. In the meantime, my fatigue had miraculously disappeared. I could not wait to see what was in store for me. The limousine finally exited off the main road and we arrived at Ban Mae Klang Luang.

Mae Klang Luang is a small but unique village that is promoted as an ecotourism destination. What this means is that this eco-village is great for indulging in activities like photography, bird-watching, nature trekking or as a short getaway from life in the city. All ecotourism activities in the village are run and managed by an ethnic hill tribe known as Karen. The Karen are of Burmese origin who migrated to Thailand in the 18th Century.

Karen Homestay Chalets
Visitors who wish to learn more about the Karen’s culture, language and way of life can put up in the homestays operated and managed by the Karen.

After a short climb up a dirt road, we stopped at a small clearing near the top of the hill. The view in front of me was a beautiful panorama of lush paddy fields growing in the valley below, and extending across the gentle, terraced hill slopes. Each rice field was separated by a traditional drainage system, harmonising a beautiful, carved landscape between man and nature.

BanMaeKlangLuangCollage

On the way up to get a better view of the rice fields across the valley, our car drove past a minivan parked next to a little store. From the body language of its passengers, it looked like the driver had accidentally left his keys inside the locked vehicle. The minivan was still there when we emerged from the dirt road some 30 minutes later. I asked my driver if he knew of any mechanic nearby who could assist in putting the passengers out of their misery. He reassured me that there was a town ten minutes away and told me not to worry as the Thais have a solution for everything!

It was then time to go for coffee!  The “coffee shop” turned out to be a bamboo shelter built on a gentle hill slope away from the other Karen dwellings.

Grounding Coffee
My Karen host using a manual coffee grinder, fitted with a mortar and leg pestle to grind the coffee into very fine powder.
Kettle on a Stove
Water is put to the boil in an iron kettle over a charcoal stove.

 

Pouring Hot Water
Karen women wear tunics and skirts in bold colours, usually blue and red. This woman is married because she is wearing a coloured blouse instead of a white V-necked blouse worn by unmarried women.

So there we were. Six European bikers, four Asians and two Americans seated round a long wooden table to savour the taste of freshly ground, piping hot Arabica coffee.

Coffee Hut
The “coffee shop” which serves up a mean cup of Arabica coffee.
Karen Woman
The wife of our Karen host. I was taken by her serene face and graceful demeanour.

It was the best Arabica coffee I have ever tasted, even up to this day!

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Time Out at Ban Mae Klang Luang in Chiang Mai

  1. I really enjoyed your blog! It makes me so happy to see that people are having such wonderful experiences here. I lived in Mae Klang Luang for quite some time and have many friends from the village there. This village will alway hold a special place in my heart. The only thing I must say is that the last photo caption is incorrect. This is Ni Tak Mo She is the mother of Tak who is a local guide at Mae Klang Luang. Her husband passed away many years ago. She owns the viewpoint near the coffee shop. The wife of your host is the woman wearing the tunic and skirt that you describe as married n another photo. She is the wife of Somsak, the owner of the coffee hut. Her name is Cartoon.

    Cheers,
    Jen

    1. Hi Jen, thank-you so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Not many people have heard of Mae Klang Luang, so you can imagine my surprise and excitement to know that there is someone who not only read my older post about a little-known village with a not-so-easy-to-remember-name, but who is actually acquainted with the people in the photos! Finally, I can give names to the faces. My favourite photo is the one of Ni Tak Mo. She was so hospitable, even offering to take me to her house behind the coffee shop so I could have a look inside a Karen home!

      Glad to know that this post brought back happy memories for you. Here’s wishing you a wonderful New Year with those you love, and doing all the things that make you smile! 🙂

  2. Thank you for your off-the-beaten path tour of Thailand. It is just what I would love to see when I ever get to that country. Sounds absolutely beautiful!
    Have you heard of the American author Amy Tan? She wrote a book named “Saving Fish From Drowning” where the Karen people are a part of the travel story. The book was part mystery, part travel, part people story

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blogsite. I’m really glad that you enjoyed reading about my visit to Mae Klang Luang Village. Thailand is one place you need to visit at least once in your lifetime. It’s a beautiful country with gentle people. I’ve not read any of Amy Tan’s books but will make it a point to read this particular one that you’ve mentioned. 🙂

  3. Helene, thanks for your reply. We may visit Thailand for a short break, next year. But I’m not sure how long we would be there. Maybe 5 days. Too less? How far is it from Bangkok?

    1. Chiangmai is very far away from Bangkok. Five days will porbably allow you time to visit Chiangmai and Chiang Rai. Then from Chiangmai, you can take a domestic flight to Bangkok.

      I am attaching the link to my post Dancing With Wild Monkeys in Chiangrai. It’s a beautiful place to visit and 2 days should allow you to see most of Chiangrai’s attractions. Entrance to the White Temple is free and so is entry to Black House. If you visit Chiangrai, you might as well go to the Golden Triangle.

      Then you take a 4-hour drive to Chiang Mai to visit Doi Inthanon and perhaps Doi Suthep. I signed up for Quad Biking and it was really fun and worth the money. I got to drive across some pretty challenging (but not dangerous) terrain with paddy fields scenery and ended up beside a beautiful lake. They even pick you up and send you back to the hotel. Then there’s the Maetang Elephant Park that I absolutely loved. The entrance fee of USD30.00 per person allowed me to enjoy an elephant show, elephant ride, a bullock cart ride, river rafting and a buffet lunch. Mind you, these were all long rides around the huge elephant park. Really, really enjoyed it.

      All in all, about 7 days to tour Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Bangkok should be sufficient for you to take home many happy memories.

  4. We’ve been to Thailand before, but the more touristy part of it. I’ve read of Doi Inthanon National Park, recently. Sadly, only certain parts of Thailand are promoted. It sounds like going off the tourist trail. How was your experience? Do you recommend it? This post reminded me of our trip to ‘Mawlynnong’, a village in Meghalaya, India.

    1. Doi Inthanon National Park is promoted as a tourist attraction but because of the distance, not many travel agencies incorporate this attraction into their itinerary. Doi Inthanon is the highest point in Thailand. What I like about this place is that it has many hiking and trekking trails along the way, with differing levels of difficulty. At Doi Inthanon’s visitor centre itself, there is a beautiful 20-minute trail made up of wooden planks that takes you into the forest. Many rare species of plants, flowers and birds can only be found here. It’s a haven for photographers and bird-watchers.The name of this trail is Ang Ka Nature Trail. When I did this trail, there were not many people. I met only 4-5 people. It was most pleasant. There are lots of natural waterfalls, hiking and nature trails along the way but there was only enough time to visit Wachirathan Waterfall. I mentioned this waterfall in my post “The Rainbow and the Waterfall”.

      If you are planning to visit Doi Inthanon, allocate one whole day for your visit so that you can do the nature trails as well the 4 or 5 waterfalls in that area. At the end of your visit, ask your driver/guide to take you to Mae Klang Luang village to try out the Arabic coffee. The scenery in this eco village is also beautiful. .

  5. As I get older and think on all the modern comforts that cushion my son’s growing up, I appreciate these glimpses into the beautiful simplicity many of our grandparents knew, and that people still manage and enjoy in many parts of the world. Really enjoyed these snapshots.

    1. Thanks for dropping by my site. My visit to Ban Mae Kling Luang was one of my most enjoyable trips. The lives of the locals cannot be easy but somehow, they seem happy with what they have, and there is a certain grace, serenity and glow on their faces that modern science cannot incorporate into todays cosmetics!

  6. Lovely photos 🙂 Seems like that was one good stop for a refreshing cup of coffee! I really like the little coffee shop in bamboos. So traditional and natural!

    1. Thank-you, Faqeeha! The bamboo coffee shop was really cool. Sometimes keeping things simple and uncomplicated makes the experience all the more enjoyable. There was no WiFi so everyone had to actually speak with each other instead of staring down at their mobile phones and becoming anti-social! 🙂

      1. Yeah simple things really make it all more enjoyable. Hehe you said it right, it is really nice to connect with people in real time without phones and internet. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s