This travelogue of our Mae Hong Son loop tour depicts our cultural road trip in pictures. The popular 600km route starts from Chiang Mai and takes you on a 360 degree loop through Mae Hong Son province – the most mountainous province in Thailand. As the classic travel adage goes, the Mae Hong Son Loop is
On our 5 day adventure we were treated to cultural surprises and enchanting local encounters. As they say, the pictures never do the real thing justice, but this is just a little visual taster for you.
After pick up from the hotel in Chiang Mai city, we head out of the city we spent our first morning enjoying activities and sightseeing in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. We visit an elephant camp, for elephant riding and bamboo rafting
After Chiang mai headed to Pai, a few hours drive away. On the way we stop for coffee and pancakes at a cute coffee house – Pankled honey, and pass this beautiful rain cloud over the mountains. After we arrive at Pai a free and easy evening, and well deserved rest after a long and fun-filled day.
After breakfast, we head to Soppong and visit ‘Susanna’ the host of Lisu hilltribe homestay, she makes beautiful Lisu hilltribe bags, so we purchased some as souvenirs, and then walked around the neighbouring Lisu villages
After Soppong we head onto Mae Hong Son. The windy mountain road takes us through some some beautiful mountain vistas,
……….and countryside scenes such as the one below – local farmers planting rice. We stop to marvel at them working the fields.
A little bit further on the country road, we stop off at ‘Wat Tham Wua’ an idyllic forest monastery surrounded by lofty limestone mountains and lush nature. A lesser known place, this monastery is open to foreigners and Thai who want to come and do a meditation retreat. The beautiful locale is a perfect setting for tranquility and meditation. We’re lucky to arrive at the time when monks were leading walking meditation and sitting meditation
Half an hour after the monastery, we stop at a traditional Shan (ethnic minority) village, which produces sesame oil using traditional techniques. We watch and learn about how they use still use buffaloes in this process, and have a go at riding the friendly resident buffalo called ‘Big C’
We reach our destination for the night – Mae Hong Son town, the capital of the province. Arriving at dusk, we drive up Wat Doi Gong mu temple located on a hilltop overlooking Mae hong son valley, to watch the beautiful sunset behind the mountains
After a brief visit to the local morning market, our first stop for the day is a Karen Long neck village ‘Baan Huay Bpuu Geng’ a few kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border. To reach the village we have to take a local boat on the Pai river.
Through the good relationship we have built up over the years with Karen long neck villager ‘Manang’ (who we came to know because of her excellent English, as she is the English teacher at the village school), we’re probably one of the only tours which enables you to visit a Long neck village in a non-voyeuristic and culturally interactive way, being shown around privately by your own Karen long neck guide who is happy to answer your questions. So instead of just taking pictures of the villagers, you have the chance to learn about their fascinating culture and in return Manang is happy to practice her English with you.
We leave Mae Hong Son, for our next destination – Lawa & Karen hilltribe villages nestled in the mountains of Mae la noi. The drive up to the villages looks something like this –
We meet our homestay family, and its nearly time for dinner so we cook together. We enjoy local dishes such as preserved cabbage, fried eggs, bamboo shoots, and ‘Nam prik ong’ (red minced pork chilli dip)
We woke up to the village cacophony of pigs and chickens and after breakfast at the homestay we set off to explore the villages.
We visit a traditional Karen hilltribe village accessed by dirt road. Underneath a stilt house, we find a female villager pounding rice the traditional way using a traditional wooden mechanism.
We watch how the Lawa hilltribe weave cotton on a sit-down backstrap loom
As our time in the villages comes to and end, and we have to make our way down from the villages in the mountains, we stop to take pics of the beautiful views on the way.
We spend the last night of the tour at a local guesthouse in Mae Sariang town
We depart beautiful Mae Sariang and head back to Chiang Mai. Our last stop on the tour, is to visit the highest mountain in Thailand – Doi Inthanon mountain and national park. At 2,565m above seal level, the climate and ecology changes quite a bit, so we got the raincoats out.
Overall, a fantastic 5 day cultural adventure filled with nature, scenery, learning about how the locals live, their way of life and so much more. Traversing through the mountains of Mae Hong Son, where beyond the next curve on the road, lay a cultural encounter to be discovered. From elephants to buffaloes, long neck women to Karen hilltribes, rice planting to rice eating. We watched, we asked, we talked, we laughed, we tasted, we photographed and we cherished. We experienced and learnt what seemed like 5 years worth in 5 days.
Have you done the Mae Hong Son Loop? If so, we’d like to hear your comments about it ….