There is no shortage of activities and sites within an hour or so of the city center of Chiangmai. If you head out of the city in any direction, you will soon be met with an abundance of billboards and signs beckoning you in to yet another tourist site. One of the major concentrations of things to see is located on the Maerim – Samoeng Road (#1096), about 30 or 40 minutes north of the city off Highway 107.
My son and his girlfriend were visiting us from China earlier this week and looking for stuff to see and do. We decided to head for the Mae Sa waterfalls which are located about 7 km from the turnoff from #107. Along the way, we stopped at a couple of other sites. One of the first places we passed was the Chiangmai X-Center . This is a very popular destination for activities such as bungy jumping, off-road tours, go-karts and paintball. They cater to all age groups and all experience levels. The well-known Tiger Kingdom is located in the same area.
It was late in the day but we still decided to stop off at the King Cobra Centre and risk paying our 200 baht each for a snake show. It was a very small place and consisted of a few young guys, a tiny show ring with some seating and three or four boxes of snakes, varying in size from small to big enough to be scary! We were a little skeptical as we took our seats with half a dozen others but it turned out to be entertaining and interesting.
The snake handlers went through their paces with the snakes, mostly encouraging them to attack and then jumping out of the way. Each little mini show ended with mouth-to-mouth kissing of the snakes. The handlers preyed on some of the audience’s fear of snakes but at no time was anybody in any danger. Some poor woman behind us screamed her way through the entire show and finally left a little early. They ended the show with a small demonstration of how the snake venom can easily be milked and collected. The King Cobra is not the most poisonous snake in the world but it is the largest poisonous snake.
This was not a high-end show but was fun to watch and the handlers were down-to-earth and entertaining. They spoke English, Thai and some Chinese so everybody was happy. If you have time to stop, it is worth the 200 baht just to have the opportunity to see these magnificent snakes up close and personal. I don’t think the show lasted much more than 20 minutes. It is open daily from 8:00am – 5:00pm.
We then carried on towards the falls since we had a late start and our time was running out. The Mae Sa falls consist of ten levels of varying heights. It would be a great place to spend an afternoon walking and splashing in the many pools that dot the river between the various levels. The trail up the mountain is well established and accessible to people of all levels. There is some scrambling over rocks but, for the most part, well-maintained walkways and stone steps make up the trail to the top of the falls.
The size and power of the falls depends on the season. During the rainy season, they would be much more spectacular but also more dangerous and susceptible to flash flooding. There are signs everywhere that warn people to be aware of the changing conditions.
You can get to this area by hiring a songtaow (red truck taxi) or renting a scooter. There are probably other organized packages available if you enquire at any of the tourist offices in town. If you do decide to drive yourself, either by car or scooter, you must be aware at all times of the other crazy drivers on the road! A winding, mountainous road and impatient drivers does not make a good mix. We passed a songtaow in the ditch that had somehow been forced off the road, either because of his own carelessness or somebody else’s. Luckily, it had not flipped or there probably would have been many injuries. As it was, the passengers were just standing on the side of the road waiting for another ride!