Doi Mae Salong is Thailand’s highest town. sitting up at 4,500 feet, spread out on top of a mountain ridge (doi means mountain in Thai). The climate is refreshingly cool up here, especially in the winter season, when cherry blossoms bloom, and when you’ll most likely need a jumper at night. The town has a rather infamous history. Home to large numbers of ethnic hill tribe groups, the town was occupied by large numbers of Kuomintang soldiers fleeing the Maoist revolution in China. They got in on the local opium trade to help fund themselves, as the area straddles the Burmese border, and at the time, was a hotbed for drug smuggling. These days, the opium has been replaced by agricultural plots and tourism, but the Chinese influence still remains, with lots of Yunnanese dialect spoken on the streets, along with Yunnanese restaurants around town.
Another big draw here is tea, as the area has Thailand’s top plantations, which sprawl across the valley. Trekking is the way to go up here, with visits to colorful hill tribe villages, great views, and fresh air. During the New Years period as well as in August during the Akha Swing Festival, the town puts on ethnic performances that are quite traditional and very vibrant.