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The capital of Mae Hong Son province - Mae Hong Son is a small and pleasant town with its own distinct feel and culture. Visibly different from the rest of Northern Thailand due to its mix of people; Burmese, Thai, Shan, Muslims and hilltribe minorities all live together harmoniously creating an interesting blend of cultures evident in the architecture, food and way people dress.
Mae Hong Son town lies at the bottom of a valley amongst the mountain ranges that form the border of Burma and Thailand. Its remote location gives it a secluded and tranquil feel, whilst its proximity to Burma gives rise to the mix of people that reside there such as the Burmese, Shan, Thai and hill tribe groups. This interesting blend of people and cultures gives Mae Hong Son a very distinct feel from other towns in Thailand.
A pleasant and quaint town with a charm of its own, for many its appeal is its tranquil setting that remains relatively off the charts of mainstream tourists. It still caters very adequately for its visitors though with numerous classes of guesthouses, hotels and sightseeing options.
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Trekking and Rafting
The trekking options from Mae Hong Son are some of the most pristine and authentic. Treks are considered to be less developed than the ones offered out of Chiang Mai. The treks will often pass different hill tribe villages and possibly include overnight stays in them. They can also be combined with elephant riding and rafting down the Pai River.
Jong Kham Lake and temple
The centre of Mae Hong Son town is built around Jong Kham Lake, with the exquisite looking 200 year old Shan style temple (Wat Jong Kham) as a backdrop to the lake, this is the signature picture of Mae Hong Son you will see on many postcards. 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.
Wat Doi Gong Mu
A ‘must see’ whilst you are in Mae Hong Son is Doi Gong Mu Temple, which sits on a hilltop on the edge of Mae Hong Son town. This old temple in ornate Shan style architecture is exquisite, but the main drawcard has to be the spectacular viewpoint it offers of Mae Hong Son town and its surrounding mountain valley.
Just one hour north of Mae Hong Son by the border of Burma, are the old and rural villages of Mae Aw and Ban Ruam Thai. Most of Mae Aw’s inhabitants are descendents of former soldiers from the KuoMinTang party in Southern China who fled Communist rule in the 1950s. A visit to this village will make you feel as though you’re not that far off from being in a real village in Southern China. Most of the village is made up of earth houses and local shops sell a variety of Chinese teas and wares, here is also the place to sample traditional Chinese Yunnanese food. You can also take a mule ride through the surrounding countryside which lies close to the border of Burma.
Ban Ruam Thai
Ten minutes from Mae Aw is the picturesque village of Ban Ruam Thai, often called the ‘Switzerland of Thailand’ due to its likeness to scenery in Switzerland with panoramic views of Ruam Thai Lake and its surrounding mountains.
Wat Tham Pla
Although there is no actual cave you can go into, there are plenty of fish of the carp variety who like the cool waters of a natural stream that emerges out of a hill where this national park is based. It’s not a huge attraction in itself but with lots of shaded area set in pretty manicured gardens, it’s a nice place to break up the journey from Mae Hong Son to Pai.
Pha Sua Waterfall
Another good stop-off point to break up the journey is the impressive Pha Sua waterfall, which is part of Pha Sua National Park.
Phu Klon Country Club Health Mud Spa
Located 10 minutes out of Mae Hong Son town on the road to Pai, a natural spring and mud source was discovered here. The health club offers a variety of beauty and skin treatments using naturally sourced mud, rich in minerals. Here you can have a mud facial, mud body mask, mineral bath, Thai massage and for gold enthusiasts there is also a golf range.
Markets are a prominent feature in the daily life of local Thais. The early morning market in Mae Hong Son is a colourful affair and is a great introduction to the sights and smells of local produce and foodstuff. Neighbouring shops to the market are a great place to pick up souvenirs, handicrafts, wood carvings and antiques.
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The debate over ‘Long Neck Tourism’ deserves an article unto itself, but in brief there are concerns that this form of tourism is nothing less than a human zoo where women are exploited and receive very little of the revenue generated by entrance ticket fees to the village. Others claim that these women have a better life here, than in their former homes in Burma which they fled due to ethnic persecution. Whether you visit the villages is a personal choice. Entrance fees are 250baht per person.
Mae Hong Son has a tropical climate with hot and humid conditions year round. The average highs range from around 29 °C in December to around 38 °C in April, while nights average between 14 °C in January and February to around 24 °C from May to July. The average annual amount of precipitation is around 1,260 mm with almost all of that falling between May and October. December to February hardly sees any rainfall at all.
There are daily flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son for those short on time. Flying time is less than 1 hour.
From Chiang Mai take Highway 108. There are two routes - the Northern Route via Pai (280km) or the Southern Route (360km) via Mae Sariang. The latter route is slightly longer but less of a windy route
From Chiang Mai there are 2 bus routes both departing from Arcade Bus Terminal, one via Pai and one via Mae Sariang.
The Northern route via Pai is 8hrs, fan bus 140bt, air con bus 200bt. It goes 4 times daily; 7am,9am,10.30am, 12,30pm
The Southern route via Mae Sariang is 8 hours, fan bus 190bt, air con bus 340bt. These fan buses depart at 8am, 1.30pm, 3pm, 8pm, 9pm. Air con buses depart at 11.00am and 9pm.
Although the southern route is longer the buses are more comfortable and stop for breaks more often.
|Panorama Hotel||51 Khunlumprapas Rd Muang District||Hotel||66|
|The Imperial Tara Mae Hong Son||149 Moo 8 Pang Moo||Hotel||-|
|Northern Hill Guest House||339 Moo 1. Soppong||Guesthouse||-|
|Boondee House||6 Soi Padung Maui Tau Amphur Maung||Guesthouse||-|
There are countless internet bars across the country in big and small towns. Internet cafés are widespread and most are inexpensive. Prices as low as 15 baht/hour are commonplace, and speed of connection is generally reasonable, but many cafes close at midnight. Higher prices prevail in major package-tourist destinations (60 baht/hour is typical, 120 baht/hour is not unusual). Keyloggers are all too often installed on the computers in cheap cafes, so be on your guard if using online banking, stock broking or even PayPal. Remember that in the smaller towns and more traditional areas the owners and staff of internet bars prefer if customers take off their shoes at the entrance and leave them outside. This might seem strange although this gesture goes a far way to make friends and give a positive image of foreigners to Thai people.
Outside the most competitive tourist areas, free Wi-Fi is not as common as in neighbouring countries in many budget hotels and guesthouses and they may charge small fee for Internet by LAN or Wi-Fi even if you bring your own laptop. Wi-Fi is commonly available in cafes and restaurants serving Westerners.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international code for Thailand is 66. 999 connects to all emergency services. Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks. 911 for Tourist Police Department, English available.
For mobile phone users, Thailand has three GSM mobile service providers - AIS, DTAC and Truemove - which may be useful if you have a mobile phone that will work on either one or both of the GSM 900 or 1800 frequency bands (consult your phone's technical specifications). If you have one, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for any of the Thai carriers in any convenience store for as little as 50-200 baht and charge it up as you go. Using your own mobile phone while on holiday with a Thai pre-paid SIM card can save a lot of money and lets you give your number to family back home, so they can have an emergency contact number.
Thailand Post is the Thai postal service that deals with all local and international mail in Thailand. The business is operated from local post offices. Post offices are easy to recognise with their red white and blue motifs and the words 'Thailand Post' in English and Thai above the entrance. They are open from Monday to Saturday, usually 8:30am to 4:30pm (main ones until around 8:00pm), though keeping shorter hours on Saturdays (usually until 1:00pm). They are generally closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Each post office offers a comprehensive service which includes an Express Mail Service (EMS) and parcel post. They also have a price calculator for letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. They also have a track and trace system and money transfer services. If you want to send packages, it might be a good idea to check with private courier companies like DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are fast, reliable and generally quite competitively priced.
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