Mae Hong Son is the most mountainous and one of the least touristic provinces in Thailand, so it's highly recommended for those seeking a more traditional and authentic Northern Thailand. The 'Shan' people make up the majority of the population here, and the richness of the Shan culture gives Mae Hong Son its own distinct look and feel, noticeable different from other parts of Thailand. It's mountainous borders with Myanmar and the ethnic mix of; Burmese,Thai,Shan,Muslims and hilltribe minorities,all living harmoniously together creates an interesting blend of cultures evident in the architecture, food and way people dress. located in the most forested and mountainous province in Thailand.
Mae Hong Son remains a place less visited because of its remote location and mountainous terrain, which requires several days travel by road to reach. A popular route through the province is the 'Mae Hong Son loop' which we recommend spending a minimum of 5days/4nights on, for example - Mae Hong Son Loop tour and Mae Hong Son Loop Map
The capital of Mae Hong Son province - Mae Hong Son town is a quiet and pleasant town with a distinct feel and culture. Characterised by Shan style roof and temple architecture, old wooden shop houses and the friendliness of the Shan people, there's a certain serenity and charm to Mae Hong Son town which instantly makes you feel welcome and relaxed.
The other provincial town of 'Mae Sariang' another stop-off point on the loop is smaller but similar in feel, a quaint backwater town but not to be overlooked as it too is rich in its own culture and natural beauty.
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. 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.
Popular sights in Mae Hong Son
Ban Ruam Thai - 'The Switzerland of Thailand'
'Ban Ruam Thai' is a picturesque village some 30km from Mae Hong Son town, sometimes called the 'Switzerland of Thailand' because of its charming panoramic views of the lakes and mountains. Here you can stay at Ban Ruam Thai Guesthouse run by Mr Pala a former Karen army officer. The guesthouse has a cute and cosy feel to it, stay in your own bamboo hut and visit Mr Pala's garden where he grows and produces his own coffee. It is in a very rural location so there is no running electricity but plenty of candlelight, delicious home cooked Thai food and beautiful views. The winter months provide a romantic feel when the lake is smothered in an early morning fog and mist a surprising discovery which visitors do not expect to find in tropical Thailand. During warmer months you can also camp by the lake.
Mae Aw (Ban Rak Thai) - Chinese Village
A 10 minute drive from Ban Ruam Thai takes you to the Chinese villlage of Mae Aw where historically the Kuomintang fled from Communist rule in China in the 1950s. Most of Mae Aw's inhabitants are descendents of Kuomintang soldiers and until today you can see the remnants of the Chinese occupation here. Most of the village is made of earth houses, resembling the style of old villages in Southern China. Here is the place to try traditional Chinese Yunnanese food, browse the numerous Chinese teas and wares for sale and take a mule ride around the village which lies just 2km from the Thailand/Myanmar border.
Tham Pla - Fish Cave
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.
Phu Klon Country Club
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
Ban Phang Mu - Traditional Shan village
A non-tourist village just outside of Mae Hong Son town the Shan people make up the majority of the population in Mae Hong Son. This ethnic group originate from China's Yunnan province and later migrated to Northern Thailand and Myanmar. A walk through Ban Phang Mu village will give you a feel for how villages once were in Mae Hong Son. Here you can visit a sesame factory a key produce of this village and used a lot in Shan cuisine. Traditional methods such as buffaloes to grind the sesame are still used here.
A key produce of this village is sesame, here they grow and process sesame to produce oils, snacks and cosmetics. You can visit a sesame factory where they still use traditional methods such as buffaloes to
Karen Long Neck Village
The Paduang Long Neck women, a subgroup of the Karen hilltribe are famed for the brass coils they wear around their necks giving the illusion of having elongated necks. Originally from Myanmar the Paduang crossed over to Thailand fleeing persecution in their home country. They now reside as refugees in refugee camps in Mae Hong Son which has also come to be a tourist attraction. Visiting the Long Necks is a controversial topic and many choose not to visit for ethical reasons we believe it is an individual choice, you can make an informed decision by reading more about the debate here.
For a sample itinerary of the Mae Hong Son Loop click on Mae Hong Son Loop Tour
For a map of the area click on Map of Mae Hong Son
For more pictures of Mae Hong Son click on Mae Hong Son Pictures
Click here for a Video clip of Sunset at Wat Doi Gong Mu