Mae La Na is an ethnic Thai Yai (Shan) community, located18 km’s from Pang Ma Pha, and framed by the rugged mountains of Mae Hong Son province. This tranquil village lies in a valley, surrounded by paddy fields. On arrival, visitors will notice the beautiful, simple, Shan style Buddhist temple. A river winds gently through the village, complementing the peaceful atmosphere.
The highlights of Mae La Na Community
“Experience Thai Yai lifestyle, history and serene Buddhist culture; explore stunning caves; enjoy traditional Thai massage and a local herbal sauna.”
Why is Mae La Na community special?
Mae La Na’s Shan heritage and Buddhist beliefs are visible in every aspect of daily life. Crafted from golden teak, the temple lies at the heart of the village. Several layers of temple roof slope graciously down and outwards, framing the entrance to the temple. Every month, the villagers participate in Buddhist ceremonies, including the nationally famous “Poy Saang Long” ritual, where young men are carried by relatives to the temple to become novice monks.
The people of Mae La Na have also revived an ancient Shan performance art, known as “Jaad Tai.” Dancers wear elaborate animal costumes, such as deer and peacock. They perform a vibrant dance, which almost convinces the audience that real animals are dancing. Jaad Tai had been forgotten for several decades. In 2000, a group of community members decided to revive this art, so that it would not be lost forever to the younger generation of Shan.
Traditional knowledge about how to produce organic sesame oil has also been successfully passed on, and earns significant income for local people.
Outside Mae La Na, the environment is rugged and beautiful. Several caves can be reached within 2-3 hours on foot. These include small, dry caves for soft adventure, as well as serious cave systems, requiring special equipment to explore, which run underground for hundreds of meters, and include stretches of black water. Nature lovers who prefer to stay above ground will enjoy exploring the forest.
Don’t miss this…
Activities for guests:
- Trek to local caves: Several caves can be visited, ranging from 300 meters in length to 12 kilometers. Inside Mae La Na cave, there are underground rivers, waterfalls and exotic wild life. Significant species include the rare Rana bylthill, Neolisso chilus Subterraneus (no-eyed fish), snail, tiny mollusk, solo brook carp, and bat. There are also stalactites and stalagmites, curtain and pearl-shaped limestone formations, and huge subterranean basalt columns.
- Enjoy Shan massage and herbal sauna; The Shan have a long tradition of herbal medicine and massage. Guests can enjoy a relaxing herbal sauna, complemented by fragrant aromas of various medicinal herbs. There is also a traditional Thai massage group, on hand to help guests regenerate after a forest trek.
- Enjoy Jaad Tai dance performance: local dancers, dressed in colorful costumes blend dance with the natural movements of wild animals. This project was initiated by a local teacher, and the group has now been invited to perform around the country. Guests may also be able to watch a sword dancing performance, which was traditionally performed in order to prepare warriors before going into battle.
Green Corner: People and Planet
In 1999, the villagers decided to form their own community based tourism group, in order to share village life with guests, raise funds to conserve natural resources and create income for community members. A local NGO, the Project for Recovery of Life and Culture (PRLC), helped the community to prepare homestays, CBT management and local guides.
The community manages local forest using a zoning system, which divides land around the community into 4 distinct areas:
- Conservation forest. Villagers call this area the “ordained forest,” encompassing an area of 500 rais; (1 rai = 400 m²)
- Watershed forest. villagers established rules for forest management and conservation in this area of 5,000 rais
- Open forest for community use. This area is 500 rais
- Grazing and rotation farming: 4,000 rais is used for farming.