Things To Do In Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son is located in the northern part of Thailand, along the mountain tops of Shah Hills and close to the country of Myanmar. It is quite difficult to access this province, unlike all the other places in this part of Thailand because of the steep location and a few unpaved roads. It is for this reason that it is well preserved and has serene waterfalls, hot springs, and nature trails where most nature lovers converge and discover its authentic tribal villages.
It is also a favorite destination by visitors who are adventurous enough to find its remote and mysterious caves, natural pools and well-marked mountain trails. You can hire local porters and guides who are more used to the trails, forests, and the interesting attractions you can find here in Mae Hong Son like the burial caves, religious temples and its laid back village atmosphere. A worthy tip: avoid taking pictures without asking permission, there is a corresponding fee imposed especially on nature inspired locations.
When To Go:
It is ideal to engage in a tour around the province of Mae Hong Son during the cold season, which runs from the start of November up to the end of February. The only downside of travelling during the cold months you need to bring extra blankets and go around on sweaters from morning until evening.
The rainy season which starts from the second week of June until the middle of October is not an ideal time to visit because, the rough and unpaved roads become muddy and access becomes difficult. Summer (April until May) is also not an ideal time to go because of the humidity and high incidences of heat stroke due to extremely hot weather.
A city that is rich with natural resources, crystal caves, mud pits, and spring resorts, these are the top attractions and things to do while in the city of Mae Hong Son…
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
Situated at the Doi Kong Mu hill, the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu is where you can have a wonderful view of the magnificent surroundings of Mae Hong Son. Be sure to go in good weather condition. If you reach the hill, next to it is the Wat or temple which can be accessed preferably via the stairs. At the foot of the hill is the Wat Phra Non. The temple is popular with the Buddhist faithful and you can watch the traditional rites and prayers in silence. If you are near Mae Hong Son, it is essential to visit it, mainly for the view to the town, not particularly tourism, because it is full of monks and devotees, which carry the offerings and perform their daily rituals. Stock up on drinking water and wear comfortable footwear for the 300 steps should be very challenging in summer.
The temple can be seen from the village during the day and especially at night when it is illuminated. It can be climbed on foot and it is feasible, despite more than 300 steps if your young and agile. Once on, the structures alone are not the interesting part, but the view of the city from above. On one side you see all the land of Mae Hong Son, from the back, after the car park is where you can find the most beautiful café, and a wonderful view of the mountains towards Burma. The downhill walk to the stairs can be easily accomplished. If you do not want to go out early in the morning, you can visit at 5 in the afternoon to watch the sunset.
Mae Hong Son Lake
Mae Hong Son is a lovely modern town, all contained in the area that goes from the airport to the hill which is dominated by Wat Pratat Doi Gong Moo, a beautiful temple in Burmese style. It is an ideal place to relax and from which to make several trips (parks, forests, caves, tribal villages. etc.) that the area offers with great abundance. The most representative buildings are all gathered around the small Mae Hong Son Lake. It is a nice pond with the presence of a Burmese temple. The best time to visit is in the evening. The set is really lovely for a beautiful evening when the lights of the temple are reflected in the lake. Be sure to check out the bustling night market where you can shop and eat great Thai food.
Directly behind the many stalls there are small tables right on the lake where you can sit on the floor eating the delicacies offered by the food kiosks. You can have grilled fish, a papaya salad, and some regional specialties. You can sit right across the lake and watch other Thai families gather and enjoy their picnic. There you will find numerous small food stalls where you can try out the local Thai and Burmese cuisine. It is simply cozy and pleasant to go there in the evening for a walk or just sit on a bench and watch the action. It is a good opportunity to stroll and observe Thai life.
Moo Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw)
The Moo Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw) is a small village which is located about 44 km from Mae Hong Son. It is here where they moved some Chinese families of Yinnan which is still prevalent. You can reach this by your own means own or from Mae Hong Son, you can find a private driver to accompany you to visit the other attractions in the province. A whole day around here usually costs 1000 baht. In the village of Mae Aw, is where you can find the community that produces a lot of tea which is then sold to tourist in the shops scattered around this neighborhood. The place is beautiful, nestled in a green and flat valley filled with flowers and colorful houses like the ones you only see in fairy tales If you cross the opposite hill, it is already Myanmar.
It is one of those places in Mae Hong Son that is away from the crowds and on the off the beaten path. Aside from being close to the border with Burma, you can also meet a Chinese community called the Pang Ung. Mae Aw is nicknamed the "Switzerland of Thailand" may be true because it has postcard landscapes that look really authentic and almost “alps” like. The atmosphere is quiet and the view is very pretty in this mountain village. It is quite different from the major tourist centers you can find in Mae Hong Son.
The Sutongpe Bridge is located in the village of Mai Kung Saak and apart from being a tourist attraction it is a great place to observe culture of the locals because on schedule, monks go walking around and locals offer them sustaining food. The Sutongpe Bridge can be reached on the road to Pai. After 9.5 km, you must turn left in a tiny road leading to the bridge.
The road signs are unfortunately damaged and therefore the junction can be easily overlooked. The last kilometer is not concrete and quite bumpy. The long winding bridge made of bamboo leads over the fields and to a small river to a village. At the end of the bridge at the little wooden house, you can have a fine coffee or a delicious cafe jen (iced coffee) which is essential to try while in Mae Hong Son.
Long Neck Village
The Long Neck Village or the Nai Soi is a small village that is located 20 km from Mae Hong Son. At about 3km from Nai Soi you can see the so called ‘refugee camp of the self-sufficient tribes' of Burmese Karenni. The population has organized a small school and a mini hospital. You can visit the place without any problem. This site is also known for women with long necks (formed by wearing rings around their necks).
If provided with a bit of sensitivity of mind you may want to escape from the moment you set foot there because the sight of these women connotes a tinge of sadness. The navigation of the river is beautiful and the good thing is that, even if minimal, a part of the quota is used for the survival of this thriving community whose only source of livelihood is to sell the trinkets, clothes, wraps, and souvenirs they make.
A tour of this village can be arranged with a local tour agency in Mae Hong Son. You will be in awe and wonder how these women wear this heavy collar around their neck. There are some markets here in Karen Village where they sell their handmade things, or choose to do a dance for you when they see you get under a hut and all the people of the village clump leaving only a small tip.
It is highly recommended if you want to see something different. The only nice thing is the road that leads to it, which winds along a wonderful landscape. A small part of the entrance fee is used for the survival of these poor people and this is perhaps the only positive thing and helps augment their daily living.
Wat Chong Kham
The Wat Chong Kham is a wonderful attraction here in Mae Hong Son because of its beauty, culture, Burmese style, and easily accessible because it is in the central part of the Lake llamdo Jong Kham which is worth a day and night visit. If you leave early in the morning, you can see the mists rising from the lake and the ray of the first sunrise which most tourists find ‘ghostly’.
At night, the ambience looks more serene as the lights reflect on the lake. The sight of this temple at night and reflected by the lake is superb! Staying at an outdoor cafe on the other side of the lake is a great way to spend a lovely time in Mae Hong Son.
Lake Jong Kum
The Lake Jong Kum is one of the best locations for a fine evening dinner opposite the temple. At night it looks so dramatic as the Wats are reflected in the water. It is a single stage, so that tourists cannot imagine that once, this beautiful place was a pool of water for the elephants.
This place is so captivating and gets livelier after sunset. There are lots of Thai foods to try and the play of colors at night is very impressive. You can also go on a food trip of the best street food in Thailand. There are also lots of options for fine dining and you can shop for souvenirs here (much cheaper).
The nature of the lake in Pang Ung is so well preserved and it is one of the best reasons to see Mae Hong Son. There are resorts for rent near the lake, with very modest accommodation for 300 Baht. The lake has bungalows from 450 Baht or 400 Baht per cent (As of November 2014). On the lake, there live black swans and people are not afraid because they are so tame. For them, the coast has special feeders, so you can take pictures of them even up close.
At sunset, the lake is also very beautiful. You can take a bamboo raft for 150 Baht per raft and you can sail around the area of the lake up to 6:00 pm. Do not hesitate to take a guide because the road to the lake is complicated and there are lots of streams with sharp turns and steep climbs. For those people who like to focus on nature and adventure very much a visit to Pang Ung is a must.
Wat Hua Wiang Temple
The Wat Hua Wiang Temple is a beautiful temple made entirely of teakwood. Tourists admire its architectural design, it is neatly preserved, and very simple. Inside, however, there is really nothing. Beside there is a monastery, also in wood, where you can catch a glimpse of the life of the monks. The temple is located in the city center along the street market. Mae Hong Son, has a great culture of temples and the Wat Hua Wiang Temple, is part of one of the temples that follow the Viharn Burmese architectural style and design.
It is located at the intersection of the road and crosses the Pha Nith Watana Klun Lum Praphat . This teak temple in Burmese style is not far from the market in Mae Hong Son. Although it looks bare, there is an important bronze Buddha statue of Burmese origin that remains on its altar. The various levels of roofs characterize most of the temples in the area, (usually called the Seven Gables) which means these are the seven steps to reach the divine or heavenly life.
For kids who love fish, the Fish Cave is definitely worth a visit. In fact, the caves are only two small rocky coves where hundreds of carp jostle for space and attention. The park is actually a beautiful clearing in the forest with a pond inhabited by this carps.
At the end part of the garden there are tents that if you buy food at the entrance you also have access to feed them. The site is easy to reach because the road is very good. You will pass by the paved road with many rice fields on the sides. They also charge an entrance fee, but is affordable and reasonably priced.
Antique House and Coffee House Banboran
The Antique House and Coffee House Banboran is both recognized as the oldest house in Mae Hong Son. It is almost 128 years old and made of all teak wood. If you go to the tourist city center look for Mrs. Wattana, the house owner and retired teacher who can give you an educational tour of the house. She recounts everything in good English even the smallest details of how the house was built by her great grandfather, a prominent timber merchant in MaeHong Son. During the Second World War the house was rented by the Japanese colonizers. On the walls there are photographs of the family and of the King of Thailand.
Now, the interior of the house can also be visited because it is combined with the family business. In the shaded garden there is a small cafe for a nice and relaxing break. Most visitors do not stop in the town of Mae Hong Son, but jumping from a trip to another - instead there are some interesting things and not known places, just like this house, which make a pleasant discovery of this little country and admire its effort towards tourism.
Mae Hong Son is certainly one of the coolest places in Thailand and the lake in the middle of this little town participates actively with the two temples that it borders. You must also go to the great stupa on the hill overlooking Mae Hong Son and if you feel quite adventurous, you can make a trek in the surroundings to discover mining caves and preserved old temples or Wats.
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