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