Just approximate 5 KM, outskirts of the wonderful Pai town, Northern Thailand lies a village called Baan Santichon (also known as Santichon Village). It is one of the most popular attractions in Pai. There are also debates saying that this is another tourist trap in Northern Thailand. However, in my point of view, this is not a typical Chinatown or tourist trap but one of the few Chinese villages populated by Yunnan tribe.
Currently, Baan Santichon has a population of 2000 souls of mix Yunanese, Thai hill-tribes people and former Chinese soldiers, was settled by Yunnanese hill-tribes that crossed the border in mid-20th Century to escape the tough Chinese communist rules. Most villagers speak fluently both Thai and Chinese, and it is amazing today to experience this cultural melting pot living under one roof.
Baan Santichon – Yunnan Cultural Village is indeed a center where visitors have the chance to experience Chinese culture: the village showcases reproductions of traditional Chinese clay houses, and there are a few tiny shops made of mud and clay selling tea by the bag or by the pot, where they also often run tea-tasting sessions. It is also possible to experience Yunnanese way of life, as well as dressing in a traditional Yunnan dress (you can hire it from a local shop by the artificial pond at around 100thb) and have your pictures taken for you.
Although it is one of the Yunnan village in Thailand, there are few attractions and things to do while you’re in Baan Santichon. Things are a bit touristy in a way, with a tacky recreation of the Great Wall of China, souvenir shops selling tea, key rings, and all sort of Chinese pottery and paraphernalia, but there is lot more on offer for visitors in terms of leisure activities. The manicured lawn large area alternate with flower beds and fills up with people at leisure during day time. You can sign up for pony or horse or donkey riding, take part on shooting games, and one of the highlights of the village is the big wooden ferris wheel: for a mere 20 thb per ride, a group of men use their body weight to spin the wheel for an amazing ride.
Would I recommend?
Yes, why not? Since you’re in Pai, you should visit this little awesome Baan Santichon. It is a great place to explore the Chinese-Thailand tradition and culture here. You may even get a chance to interact with the locals. They are the friendliest person I met in Pai.