Ban Rak Thai (บ้านรักไทย), also popularly known as Mae Aw (密窝村แม่ออ) is one of the best offbeat destinations that you can explore in North Thailand and especially if you are on your way across Mae Hong Son Loop. With a taste of Chinese culture mixed with Thai traditions, this tiny village is laced with panoramic breath-taking natural beauty. With a splendid lake reservoir in the center and tea garden cottages on surrounding mountains, you would love to sit for hours alongside soaking its serenity and elegant beauty to the depth of your soul.
After exploring famous Tham Lod Caves in Sop Pong (สบป่อง) Pai, we headed to Mae Aw and after a good 3 hour motorbike drive ( took extra time as we took multiple stops on the way to explore more), we reached Mae Aw (Ban Rak Thai). With approaching tea gardens and ladies walking in their traditional hats, we knew that we are close to our destination.
Chinese touch of Ban Rak Thai
Ban Rak Thai is a tiny village with a population of about 800, mainly Chinese-born or Thai-born Chinese. Like its natural beauty, it also has a fascinating history. Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw) was settled by former Kuo Min Tang (Nationalist) fighters from Yunnan Province, China, after the Communist takeover of China and this village is very much known as the Chinese or Yunnanese village. Most of the signs and symbols are in Chinese and you can enjoy the delicacies of Chinese dishes and Chinese tea at restaurants lined on both sides of the road.
Ban Rak Thai Lake – Serene and Beautiful
As soon as we reached Ban Rak Thai, we went around on our scooter to get a feel of the place and we were amazed with the beautiful scenery and romantic post-card like settings. With lake (Mae-Sa-nga Lake) in the center and Chinese Cottages and resorts all around on hills with tea-plantations, it looked picture-perfect right out of an artist’s painting.
Meeting Alici – Her Smile and Yummy Food
We sat by the lake side for sometime enjoying the views and peace and then as we got hungry, we started looking for a good restaurant. There are few restaurants by the lake side and almost all of them serve Chinese food. Though this place is famous for Chinese delicacies but most of them serve heavy non-vegetarian food and we were in the mood to have some good veg food. And as we were driving around, we were greeted by a cheerful smiling lady – Alici. Alici is from Pai and runs a small restaurant and a Chinese village side by side. She cooked our meals fresh and was all the time chit-chatting and talking with us.
It was a wonderful time being with Alici. She told that her family stayed at Pai but she loved to be in Ban Rak Thai. Just next door, she also runs a Chinese school. We enjoyed our meal and as we left, we could not stop ourself from clicking a picture with Alici for her wonderful hospitality.
Visit to Burma (Myanmar) Border
Ban Rak Thai is right on the Burma Border and there is a small mud route that takes you right to the open Burma Border. It is not advisable to take this route or cross Border here as this area is an occasional conflict zone and an infamous drug smuggling route (inputs from lonely planet). Out of curiosity, we drove our bike till the end on mud road when Google maps started warning us to take a U-Turn.
When we inquired with Alici, she warned us not to venture around open border and guided us to another road through which we reached to Burma Border Post (around 2 kilometers away). There was no-one around except dogs barking at us furiously and few horses grazing. Though we did not cross the border but few claim that you can, conditions permitting, cross the border to Burma here, if you leave your passport (and some cash) with the immigration police but you have to return before 17.00. Try it and let us know your Burma experience 🙂
Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw) is an awesome dreamy place and you may certainly consider to stay overnight here if you have a day in your schedule. Being a small place and with Thailand people wrapping up soon, you will find most shops closed around sun-set so buy your supplies well ahead. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Mae Aw (around 5 hours in total) and then headed to another offbeat gem of North Thailand – Pang Ung Lake for an overnight camping on lake side.
How to reach Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw)
Reaching Ban Rak Thai by public transport is not easy as this is a far village to the North. There are few buses that leave from Mae Hong Son in the morning and that is the only option. We will suggest a bike trip for Ban Rak Thai as it will save lots of time for you and you can also take a detour to visit some beautiful hidden places on the way. Road to Ban Rak Thai is well paved and slope and curves get challenging towards the end but beautiful views keep you engaged. Get a jacket with hoodie for sure as it would get cold and windy (especially in morning and evening time). You would find Mae Aw on Google maps so search for Ban Rak Thai instead. Follow following map for quick reference –
Enjoy exploring this little Thailand gem and do drop us comments in case our blog helped you plan better or if there are any additional details that we can include here.