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Mae Hong Son - Pai Travel Information

Mae Hong Son, Thailand's second northern most provincial city, is sheltered by several high mountains and enjoys a cool climate almost all year round. In the past, the town was isolated from the outside world for lack of good transportation and communications. The province is bordered by Myanmar to the North and West, and a strong Burmese influence can be seen in the provincial capital's temples and buildings.

The centre of Mae Hong Son town is built around Jong Kham Lake, with the exquisite looking Wat Jong Kham (a 200 year old Shan style temple) as a backdrop to the lake, this is the signature picture of Mae Hong Son you will see on many postcards.

Because of the terrain, Mae Hong Son is one of Thailand�s most remote provinces and thus retains its own separate identity. At the same time, the provincial capital is readily accessible by air and road. Nestled in its own lovely valley and surrounded by hills that are often shrouded in early morning mist, this small town is one of the most enchanting places in the entire North.

Burmese-style temples, a picturesque lake, a hilltop vantage point and a bustling morning market afford scope for leisurely sights-seeing, while a choice of hotels makes it an excellent base for excursions into the surrounding countryside.

The area comes to glow at night when it is illuminated by lights and the daily evening market which sells local food to take away, souvenirs and hill tribe products. Highly recommended is a visit to the morning market on Phanitwattana Road, a bustling and colourful affair it offers a great introduction to the sights and smells of local produce and foodstuffs. It's also a great place to pick up handicrafts such as woodcarvings, silverware, precious stones and antiques.

Mae Hong Son town also boasts numerous Burmese and Shan style temples, the most famous of them and a �must-see� attraction is Wat Doi Kong Mu which sits on a hilltop and offers spectacular aerial views of the town below.

East of the city, the town of Pai is regarded as one of the most tranquil and scenic spots in Northern Thailand, having many natural attractions such as hot springs. There is more activity here than in the provincial capital itself, being very popular with trekkers and lovers of mountain scenery.

Originally an old Shan settlement, the town and surrounding areas have become populated by a diverse mix of Lisu and Lahu hilltribes, Muslims from Myanmar, and Yunnanese Chinese and officially became a district in 1911.

The town�s Wat Nam Hu houses the sacred, 111-cm tall Luang Phor Une Muang from the Chiang Saen period. In 1972, a visiting monk from another province noticed the image�s head was particular moist. Upon a closer examination, he discovered the head was removable and hollow inside. But the inside was filled with water, which the monk proceeded to empty and thoroughly wiped dry the inside before closing the image�s head, tying it securely, and clocking all doors and windows. After 5 days had passed, the monk and other witnesses opened the pavilion and discovered the image�s head was full of water again.

The small park of Mae Surin National Park located south of the provincial city is a popular destination, with many mammals and birds living in the lowland forests. Highlights include the spectacular 100-m tall Mae Surin Waterfall, one of the highest in Thailand, and the Thung Bua Thong (Wild Sunflower Meadow) which carpets the hills with a vividly golden color when in full bloom during November and December. Rafting trips along the Pai River is also popular.

Way further south is the small pleasant town of Mae Sariang on the Yuam River. The area around Mae Sariang is mountainous and densely forested, with many windy roads. The town�s long historical links with nearby Myanmar is evident in the structural architectures, such as the multi-layered roofs and vividly orange and yellow chedis of the 19th century Wat Chong Sung and Wat Si Bunruang built in 1939.

A large community of Burmese Muslims inhabits the town and the Karens, the area�s main ethnic group, are also often seen in town. A 45-minute journey from town will take you to Mae Sam Laep, the Karen settlement on the Myanmar border next to the Salaween River.

A short distance north of the city, the scenic spot of Tham Pla Forest Park (Fish Cave) is actually a pool and stream at the base of a limestone outcrop, not a cave, with huge carps living in it. Visitors buy papaya to feed the fishes and enjoy the peaceful surrounding gardens.

Northwest of Tham Pla, in the mountains near the Burmese borders, is the remote settlement built by members of the Kuomintang (KMT) called Mae Aw. The exiled Chinese soldiers of KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Army, migrated here after their defeat in China by Mao Tse-tung in 1949. The village offers a great insight into the life of an isolated border village and superb views of the area.

How to get there:

By Bus

From Bangkok:
Mae Hong Son is located 924 kilometres from Bangkok. Muang Nua Tour (Tel: (01-4416871) operates an airconditioned bus which runs directly from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son. The bus departs from Mochit II Bus Terminal at 18.00 hours every day. The trip takes about 17 hours.

There is no direct flight from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son. Tourists may take the Bangkok-Chiang Mai flights which connect with the Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son flights. Reservation should be made in advance through Thai Airways, Tel: 280-0060, 628-2000 or call 1566 for current schedule.

From Chiang Mai:
Mae Hong Son can be reached from Chiang Mai either by Highway No. 108 via Mae Sariang, or Highway No. 1095 via Pai which shortens the distance to some 274 kilometres. Regular buses are operated by Prem Pracha Transport, Tel: (053) 244737, 242767.

Buses depart from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station daily to Mae Hong Son by two different routes:-

Southern route:
Buses leave frequently from Chaing Mai to Mae Hong Son via Hot, Mae Sariang, and Khun Yuam districts from 6.30-21.00 hours. The journey takes 8 hours.

Northern route:
Buses leave frequently from Chaing Mai to Mae Hong Son via Pai district from 07.00-12.30 hours. The journey take 6 hours.

By Plane:
There are 4 daily flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. Tourists are advised to book tickets at least 2 days before departure. Contact Thai Airways Tel: (053) 210043-5, 211044-7 (Chiang Mai), or (053) 611297, 611194 (Mae Hong Son).

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