Situated on a plain between mountains and jagged limestone outcrops, this small market town is a popular meeting place for hill tribes, particularly Akha. Mae Saruai is modernizing rapidly, and new agriculture, including flower production, is replacing traditional crops such as rice.
Cars can be rented in Chiang Rai to visit the Akha hill-tribe villages. The remote ones are accessible on motorcycles or by trekking. Ban Saen Chareon, 6 miles (10 km) west of Mae Saruai, was the subject of a major study of the Akha.