The Mu Se Khi, a Karen ethnic group has lived in this forest area for more than 100 years. They protect and nurture the forest so well that the forest is indeed as a family member. In Karen custom, a newborn baby’s umbilical cord is brought out into the forest and tied around a tree. That tree is then considered a member of the family. Karen villagers have the utmost respect for each other, and would never cut down one of their neighbors’ trees.
Pines in this area are two-leaf pines and three-leaf pines which grow only at altitudes of 1,000 m above sea level. Their resin is very useful for tempering the strings of the Saw, a traditional Thai instrument which is in the violin family. In addition, distilled pine sap can be mixed with paint to make the paint dry faster.
In order to conserve the pine forests in this area, the villagers do not earn their living from collecting pine sap. Rather, they have been supported by a royal development project in chicken farming, producing fine quality meat which brings a very good price.
The serene and well-preserved natural beauty of this area is well worth visiting, and all visitors can learn valuable lessons from the gentle lifestyle of the Karen people. The weather is comfortably cool and the air is fresh. In wintertime, the forests explode in a breathtaking panoply of colored foliage. Visitors are encouraged to bring bicycles to cycle around the beautiful pine forests, and the area also presents wonderful boating opportunities.
Accommodations are available. Contact Forest Industry Organization, Ban Wat Chan, tel. 0 5324 9394.
Yellow pickup trucks called Song Thaeo with two benches in the back perform run daily from Chang Phueak Road in Chiang Mai Town to Ban Wat Chan from 09:00 and 11:00. The fare is 120 baht. The trip takes 4 hours via Samoeng.
Please note that a 4WD vehicle is required for all routes. The most convenient route is Highway 1095 from Mae Malai to Pai.
There are two possible routes:
1. Take Highway 1095 Mae Malai – Pai, to KM 80, and then turn left onto an unpaved road and continue for another 40 kilometres.
2. Take Highway 1095 Mae Malai – Pai, take the entrance at Wat Phra That, continue for about 500 m, take the left turn to the Chom Chaeng – Ban Mueang Rae – Ban Bo Rae route. The total distance is 165 kilometres.
Other routes are:
Samoeng – Wat Chan – Ban Bo Kaeo – Ban Dong Sam Muen
This route is about 155 kilometres, half of which is on a rough, unpaved road.
The other two routes, which are tougher and rougher, are Amphoe Mae Chaem – Ban Wat Chan, or Amphoe Mueang Mae Hong Son – Ban Wat Chan. The later is very beautiful.