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Welcome to Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son, Thailand's northern border town, hides in between the towering mountains with densely forested slopes, stretching right up to the Burmese border.
Mae Hong Son is known for its charming nature and culture. The people of Mae Hong Son consists of Shans who live in the city, and hill tribes living in remote villages on mountain tops where the lifestyle has changed only slightly in the past century.
Shans ancestors came from Shans region in Burma. Mountain tribes consist of Karen, Lisu, Mhong, Lahu, and Lua. Both the Shans and the hill tribes have their own distinct cultures. They have their own singsong dialect, their own architectural lifestyles, their own customs and traditions, and their own delicious cuisine. During the year, Mae Hong Son hosts many festivals and events. Tourists can eperience the diverse cultures at these events. There are different dances, rituals, and ceremonies for various events and festivals. Even the food is different for each event.
The most remarkable tradition and also the most important event for the Shans is "Poy Sang Long Festival", which is a ceremony for the Shan boys. The event is held in March, and there is a big party in the city.
The city is covered with mist throughout the year. Mae Hong Son got the nickname "The City of Three Mists" from the fact that it has dewy mist in the winter, fog from forest fires in the summer, and fog from the rain during the rainy season.
Among the most 'popular' hill tribes is the Padaung, commonly referred to as the hill tribe of the long-necked women. Some of them are Karen refugees from Burma, and are found in northern Thailand, especially around Mae Hong Son.
The women of the Padaung tribe wear brass spirals around their necks. Contrary to how it once was, the spirals do not stretch your neck, but they push the shoulders and chest down. Girls will start wearing small spirals around the age of six and will increase the size as they get older. The spirals for adults typically weigh about five kilos.
The ethics of visiting these tribes are up to you. On the one hand, tourism is one of the few ways that these people can make a living. As refugees, they are not allowed to seek permanent employment in Thailand. Most of the women we've met seem to be proud of their heritage, and do not feel any embarrassment by showing it off to tourists.
On the other hand, tourism can help perpetuate a form of female mutilation that would otherwise die out. Young girls may be pressured to perform this ritual.
Mae Hong Son is located 924 km from Bangkok. Drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then choose one from the following routes from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son:
Route 108: 1864 winds its way from Chiang Mai via Hot, Mae Sariang, and KhunYuam to Mae Hong Son. The distance is 349 kilometers.
Route 1095: Chiang Mai – Mae Malai – Pai – Mae Hong Son: a somewhat more direct route with a distance of 245 km.
MuangNuea Yan Yon Tour offers a bus with air-conditioning, which runs directly from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son every day.
The bus departs from Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) at 6 PM.
The trip takes about 17 hours.
Mae Hong Son domestic airport has regular flights to and from Chiang Mai with Thai Airways and Nok Air. Flights to Chiang Mai are cheap and take about 30 minutes. Thai Airways also has a daily flight from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son. The airport is conveniently located in the center of the city, and the area is very scenic as the plane lands between the surrounding mountains. It is necessary for you to check with Thai Airways, as some flights may sometimes be canceled in the hot season due to poor visibility.
Mae Hong Son is warm and dry from March to July, wet and humid from July to October, and cooler and more pleasant from November to March. The best time to visit Mae Hong Son is between December and early March (the cool season) where the nights are cool, and everything is green. Although day temperatures are still relatively warm in the cool season, the nights are downright cold, often with temperatures creeping below 10 degrees, so you may need some extra clothes.
April to July is hot, followed by a cool season in November, when the rains come. Forest fires in the mountains around Mae Hong Son may occur during March and April in the dry season, which may cause pollution. Thus, visitors with respiratory problems should avoid visiting the city during this time.
Mae Hong Son does not get as much rain as other parts of Thailand during the rainy season, traditionally from July to October. However, the towns in the mountains usually have torrential rains, in contrast to what southern Thailand experiences, in the weeks leading up to the end of the rainy season.
Wat PhraThatDoi Kong Mu
Wat PhraThatDoi Kong Mu was erected by the first governor of Mae Hong Son, and the temple reflects the strong Burmese influence. The highlights of this attraction are the two lavishly decorated pagodas. Moreover, located on a hilltop, this temple has a unique view of the city and the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Also called Wat Klang Mueang. This temple is located on Sihanatbamrung Road next to the morning market.
The temple was built in 1863 and houses the Phra Chao Pharalakhaeng, a Buddha statue draped in beautiful clothing. It is a replica of a large statue in Mandalay, Myanmar.
Phraya Singhanatracha Monument
Phraya Singhanatracha Memorial Location: AmphoeMueang
Located at the foot of Doi Kong Mu, this monument commemorates the first governor of Mae Hong Son. Singhanatracha Phraya is a ThaiYai from Burma (Myanmar). He was considered by people as governor of KhunYuam Town, south of Mae Hong Son. Later, he was officially inaugurated as governor of Mae Hong Son by the King of Lanna in 1874.
Near Wat HuaWiang on Sihanatbamrung Road, you will find this bustling market which is packed from early morning until 9 PM. This is where visitors can experience the lifestyle of the locals and buy various local food and products.
Nong Chong Kham Lake
Nong Jong Kham Lake is a public park located in the center of town next to Jong Klang and Jong Kham temples. It originates from nature and is also a meeting place for both locals and tourists. In addition, Nong Jong Kham Lake is also a place where you can experience the important traditions in the province, as they are often held here.
Pang Ung is located 44 km away from Mueang Mae Hong Son. This is the place for tourists to experience various hill tribes. Don’t forget to try fresh coffee from the field.
Behind the town is a beautiful lake and evergreen forests, and it is possible camping or enjoying longer stays. Additionally, there are guesthouses owned by villagers in the area nearby.
PhaBong Hot Spring
The PhaBong Hot Spring is located approx. 11 km from the town on Highway No.108. In an area of 3 hectares, it is possible to bathe in mineral water with the purpose of health in mind.
Poo Clone – Unseen Thailand
Poo Clone – Unseen Thailand. The natural black mud pond at this place has got a good reputation among both Thais and foreigners with an interest in healthy skin. Poo Clone is an ideal place for health and therapeutic treatment, and is listed in Unseen in Thailand, a project made by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Poo Clone is one of three places in the world where you will find natural mud that is good for both health and beauty. The mud is rich in many minerals such as Calcium which helps skin balance, bromine for the sterilization of bacteria, and magnesium for the repair of skin cells.
You can enjoy the natural spa or swim in the mineral pool all year round.
As in most provincial capitals, Mae Hong Son has a central market where locals can buy everything from groceries to household appliances and visitors can buy clothes and other necessary supplies.
Along Khunlumprapas street that runs from north to south through the center of town, you will find many of the city's restaurants and shops. In the evening, the street is also filled with vendors selling mainly hill tribe products.
Mae Hong Son's "Night Bazaar" cannot compare to its much larger neighbor, Chiang Mai. Though, there are a few interesting souvenir shops along Khunlumprapas street near the center of town, but the best store is probably best described as a fiddle shop with old clocks, temple urns, and various other useless yet charming finds.
Most tourist restaurants are located along Khunlumprapas street and on the west side of the lake. Most restaurants offer good Thai food in simple surroundings and the hotels’ coffee shops offer Western cuisine. On Khunlumprapas street is San Tropez, which serves a good homemade pizza and other Italian dishes. Far down Khunlumprapas street you find Fern Restaurant, a large hut with jungle decor.
Located at Nam Pai Wildlife Sanctuary, Cave Lodge is a great base for birdwatchers. Spot more than a dozen species from your bungalow, stroll along the river, or climb the nearest mountain and see many more. Near the lodge is a mixture of deciduous, evergreen, and pine forests, and areas of karst limestone. Lots of ecosystems, plenty of species to explore.
Enjoy more than 300,000 fork-tailed birds and Pacific Swifts swirling into Tham Lod Cave's massive chambers every night – a world famous phenomenon – or search for the elusive Pale-headed Woodpecker. During the rainy season you can experience the incredible bird-eating fish in the Long River.
For more than 25 years people have explored karst limestone areas in Thailand, investigated them and found hundreds of caves. The longest and most spectacular cave systems are found close to the lodge in Pang Mapha District in Mae Hong Son province.
Wild Elephant Sanctuary & Nature Adventure Tour offers jungle trekking in the protected forest that is home to Asian elephants and is sure to bring you joy and enhance your appreciation of the entire ecosystem in nature. During the tour, you will learn from the experienced ranger how important elephants are to the forest ecosystem, and the challenges they face in Thailand. Additionally, you can enjoy a ride on the elephants.
Mountain biking is very common along the roads in the province in order to get to all the tourist attractions and experience the beautiful geographical features of Mae Hong Son.
Travel tip: A rental bike costs around 100-200 baht a day.
Rafting along the Pai River is an exciting and wonderful experience. Pai is the longest river in Mae Hong Son, it originates from mountain ranges in Laos which flows through Pai district and eventually ends by the Salawin River in Myanmar with a total length of 180 km. With an average depth of about 7 meters, the riverbed is mainly pebbled. There are several areas particularly suitable for rafting trips through the stunning scenery, including the sight of beautiful waterfalls.
Trekking is very popular among tourists. For the experienced trekker, Mae Hong Son is one of the best places for trekking trips. A trekking trip can be enjoyed through beautiful mountains, and various woods. This activity is popular in Thailand, and these trips can be arranged ranging from easy to hard trekking.
Mae Hong Son, the second northernmost region of Thailand, is located in the north-western corner on the boundaries of Myanmar, 924 km north from Bangkok, and 300 km of Chiang Mai. In north and west, the land links to Myanmar’s border at Shan State. The east links to Chiang Mai and the south boundaries with Tak. 12,681 sq km of the whole Mae Hong Son vicinity is the environmentally sheltered with over 90% of the complete region consisting of mountains and forests. Notwithstanding much logging in the history, the region’s forest coverage still relics at over 69.19%. For the reason that its high height of 1,800 M. above sea level, its cold climate can fall to 2°C in winter – November to February and on the odd occasion rises above 40°C in summer – March to August. The normal temperature remains between 12.25°C and 27.68°C. Furthermore, the climate is over and over again so misty with ground fog that it is in the vicinity renamed as “Region of Three Mists”.
Because of the forest declination and the extermination of various species, the whole of the mountainous areas and natural wealth in Mae Hong Son have been affirmed as national protectorates. Instances include Mae Yuam River and Huai Nam Dang National Park, Salawin Forest and Valley, Mae Surin Forest and Waterfall. The most excellent time to visit Mae Hong Son is for the cool misty periods between November and December, when “Buatong” – the famous yellow flower of Mae Hong Son blooms and presents its visitors with the spectacle of an astonishing colored carpet layering the hillsides for miles after miles. Merely 11 km away is the deep virgin jungle of Mae Surin National Park in which stands the impressive Nam Tok Mae Surin, one of Thailand’s highest pours. For visitors who are obsessed with adventures such as trekking and rafting, Pai district is unquestionably the right target making your experience of Mae Hong Son reminiscence never to be forgotten and memorable for the whole life.
The Wild-Sunflower Field Thung Bua Thong, positioned near the Mae U-Kho Waterfall, covers over 1,000 rai of land. This meadow is by far the most frequently visited place at Doi Mae U-Kho, more than ever during November and December when wild-sunflowers bloom, covering the surrounding fields for as far as the eye can glimpse. It is assumed that Christian missionaries, who came to the area about 70 years before, were the earliest to plant these glorious flowers, as they are in reality native to Central and South America, where they are called as the ‘Mexican Sunflower’. The city of Pai is a small settlement situated between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, and boasts some of the most immaculate nature in the province. Tourists are suggested to turn up at least a day prior to trekking so they can converse to people who have just came back from the treks for the purpose of gaining precious information.