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By Kanjana

Mae Hong Son province has another name as “the city of three mists” because it is surrounded by high mountains and shrouded in mist all year round. The province is located in the northwesternmost part of Thailand, bordering Chiang Mai in the east, Tak in the south, and Myanmar (previously known as Burma) in the west and north.

The city is rich in natural resources – mountains, forests, waterfalls, hot springs and national parks. Its mountain ranges are also home to various hill tribes. Its abundant natural beauty makes it one of the most gorgeous provinces in Thailand, a real paradise for nature and adventure lovers!

Brief History

Until the early 19th century, the whole area had been only inhabited seasonally by small numbers of Shan people from the Burmese border, who moved from place to place without permanent dwellings.  In around 1831, the King of Chiang Mai sent his officials to the western jungles to catch wild elephants. It was only then that the widely scattered Shan tribesmen were organized into two villages – Mae Rong Son and Pang Moo. Mae Rong Son means the village with a stream for training elephants. The name was later distorted into Mae Hong Son.

In 1855, a man named Chan Kale emigrated from the Shan state in Burma to the village of Pang Moo, and then moved on to Mae Hong Son. Due to his ability, he was eventually selected to be village headman. In 1874, King Inthawichayanon of Chiang Mai saw the trading potential of Mae Hong Son village and so upgraded it to a city. Chan Kale was royally appointed as the city's first governor, and was named “Phaya Singhanat Racha”.

The population of the province consists mainly of Shans (Thai Yai) and Lanna (northern) Thais. It also includes other hill tribes such as Karens, Hmongs, Luas, Lahus and Lisus.

Tourist Attraction

Mae Hong Son province consists of seven districts – Muang Mae Hong Son, Khun Yuam, Pai, Mae Sariang, Mae La Noi, Pang Mapha and Sop Moei. The attractions below are grouped by districts for your convenience.

Muang District

Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu Located on the top of Doi Kongmu Hill only 3 km to the west of the provincial town, the temple contains a relic of the Buddha and comprises two pagodas of Shan style. From the hilltop, you can have a panoramic view of the town and its beautiful surroundings.

Wat Hua Wiang Built in 1863, this Burmese Shan style temple contains a crowned Buddha image which is the most highly revered image of the province. This Buddha image, named Phra Chao Phala Lakhaeng, was cast in the 1930’s in Mandalay in Burma. The viharn is a large, impressive Burmese style wooden structure with multi-tiered roofs.

Wat Chong Kham is the first temple of Mae Hong Son province which was built in 1797 by Shan artisans. The unique feature of this temple is its nine-tiered castle style roof and pillars decorated with gold leaves. The temple houses a large Buddha image with a lap width of 4.85 meters cast by Burmese craftsmen in 1953.

Wat Chong Klang Located beside Wat Chong Kham, this temple houses a replica of Phra Phuttha Sihing, the sacred Buddha image of Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai. There is also a small museum displaying 33 wooden sculptures from the story of the Vessantara Jataka, the previous incarnation of Lord Buddha. They were carved by Burmese craftsmen in 1857.

Ban Rak Thai Formerly a Kuomintang army post named Mae Aw, Ban Rak Thai is a small border village in the middle of the mountains. In the past, this land used to be a Yunnan Chinese village but nowadays it is a famous tourist spot. The village is charming with plenty of southern Chinese style clay cottages lying around a peaceful lake. The village has a breathtaking scenery as it is surrounded by mountain ranges and tea plantations. Visitors can also taste top grade tea and delicious Yunnan food here.

Pang Ung or Pang Tong Under Royal Forest Park 2 is one of the Royal Initiative Projects by HM Queen Sirikit for highland development. It is a Shan minority village which has been developed with modern agricultural projects. A large lake is the highlight of Pang Ung which has been attracting more and more visitors every year. Its lake view, pine forest, beautiful mountain scenes, and hazy fog in the morning are a perfect combination for visitors who love to unwind amidst nature.

Tham Pla (Fish Cave) A special feature of this small cave is that the stream inside is filled with numerous freshwater fish, which is of the same family as the carp. These fish reside here all year round and never go elsewhere.

Phasua Waterfall Located in the Phasua Forest Park, this waterfall is about 10 metres high and 15 metres wide and always full of water. The luxuriant mountain forests and the peaceful surroundings attract a large number of tourists every day.

Su Tong Pae Bridge is a bamboo bridge located in the village of Kung Mai Sak on the outskirts of Mae Hong Son City. This 500-metre-long bridge, built across Sa Nga river and rice fields, is the longest bamboo bridge in Thailand. It was built by villagers to link the village with Tham Poo Sa Ma temple on the hillside.

Ban Nam Piang Din is a small village inhabited by the Kayan or Padaung tribe. They migrated from Myanmar to settle here during 1985-1986. The women of this tribe wear brass rings around their necks with the purpose of making them appear longer. They make a living from tourism and selling all kinds of souvenirs and handicrafts. The village is in Pha Bong sub-district and can be reached only by cruising for about an hour along the Pai River.

Phu Klon Country Club is one of the best spas and included in Unseen Thailand tourist attractions. It offers a wide range of mineral foot and body bath and spa treatments using pure black mud from the Phu Klon hot springs.

Pai District

Pai is a small district in the northeast of Mae Hong Son. Located in a beautiful green valley surrounded by mountain ranges, it is a quiet, relaxed little town set amid superb scenery. With its abundant mountains and rivers, Pai district offers lots of activities like rafting along the Pai river, elephant trekking, cave exploring, and mountain biking.

Ban Santichon or the Yunnan Cultural Village, is one of the most popular attractions in Pai. This Chinese village was settled by Yunnanese hill tribes who crossed the border in the middle of the 20th century to escape Communist rule. There are many tea shops, souvenir shops, Yunnan style clay houses and restaurants.

Nam Hoo Temple is an important temple of Pai. It has long been revered by local people for its principle Buddha image, Luang Por Oon Mueang, said to have once emitted holy water from its head.

Huai Nam Dang National Park covers an area of 1,252 sq.km. in Mae Taeng and Wiang Haeng districts of Chiang Mai and Pai district of Mae Hong Son. Located amidst the high mountains of the Thai-Burmese border, the national park offers splendid scenery and is one of the famous natural attractions in the North. It is also well-known as one of the most picturesque seas of mist in Thailand.

Doi Kiu Lom Viewpoint of the park is the most popular site during December-February, when tourists come to witness the impressive sunrise and the white sea of mist enshrouding the entire valley.

Tha Pai Hot Springs is a part of Huai Nam Dang National Park, located 8 km. south of Pai. The hot springs have an average temperature of 80 degrees Celsius, and offer an excellent view as they set amidst the verdant forest. There are several pools of different heat levels.

Pai Canyon (Kong Lan) The geological and topographic features of Pai Canyon are quite stunning. This unique geographical area has been formed by continuous erosion over decades. The landscape around the canyon is breathtaking and it offers an awesome 360 degree panorama of the whole area. It is a best place to view the beautiful sunset. You can walk around the canyon as there are hiking trails on the top.

Mae La Noi District

Mae La Noi Royal Project With its beautiful terraced rice paddies stretching all over the hillside, here is a popular venue for agro-tourism. Visitors come for the fresh mountain air and breathtaking views before leaving with bags full of passion fruit, coffee beans and cape gooseberries.

Kaew Komol Cave is one of the most fascinating caves in Thailand with calcite crystal in the cavern. Kaew Komol cave was discovered in 1993. Formerly it was called Calcite Crystal Mae La Noi Cave, as the calcite mineral is crystallized on the cave walls. The color is as white as snow.

Pang Mapha District

Lot Cave (Tham Lot) Located in Pang Mapha district, this is a large cave system with a length of over 1,600 meters. The Nam Lang River flows through the cave which is full of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is home to large numbers of bats and swifts too.

Ban Jabo Village is one of the unseen sites of Mae Hong Son. The authentic village, populated by the Lahu tribe, is located in a mountain range overlooking a spectacular landscape of the entire area. Here is an ideal place to enjoy panoramic views of the green mountains

Mae Sariang District

Wat Phrathat Chom Thong This hill top temple is visible from a distance because of its large sitting Buddha image of 15 metres tall, which is the biggest in the province. The temple features a long naga-lined staircase and Lanna architecture style which is different from other temples in Mae Hong Son that are always in Shan’s style.

Wat Phrathat Chom Chaeng This old temple contains two Burmese-style chedis. Located on the mountain top, the temple offers great views of rice fields and peaceful villages below.

Wat Phrathat Chom Kitti Built in 1713, this temple is one of very old temples in Mae Hong Son. It is highly respected by local people as its stupa contains the relic of Buddha.

Khun Yuam District

Bua Tong Fields at Doi Mae U-kho The Doi Mae U-kho mountain is considered the largest and most beautiful location to enjoy the spectacular bright yellow carpet of the Bua Tong fields. Bua Tong or Mexican sunflowers bloom annually from November to December. During this period, Bua Tong Blossom Festival is held as the hills and valleys of Mae Hong Son turn to bright gold when these wild sunflowers come into full bloom. There are many activities such as a Miss Bua Tong contest, folk games and cultural performances.

For first-time visitors, we’d like to recommend you to join a group tour for your convenience and safety, as most attractions in Mae Hong Son are scattered and many places require long distance travel.

How to Get There

By air:

Nok Air provides direct flights from Bangkok-Don Mueang Airport to Mae Hong Son, taking 1.50 hrs. The service is a codeshare cooperation with THAI and Thai Smile. There are three flights per week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Bangkok Airways offers 10 weekly flights from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, taking 45 minutes.

By car:

Mae Hong Son is 924 km from Bangkok. Drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then choose a route to Mae Hong Son. There are two routes from Chiang Mai.

  1. Chiang Mai – Hot - Mae Sariang - Khun Yuam - Mae Hong Son (Highway 108), with a total distance of 349 km and 1,864 curves, taking 7-8 hours. This is longer route, but easier drive.
  2. Chiang Mai - Mae Malai – Pai – Pang Mapha - Mae Hong Son (Highway 1095), with a total distance of 245 km but over 2,200 curves, taking 5-6 hours. It is a very scenic route through the mountains, but it is rather challenging.

By bus:

  1. From Bangkok: There are overnight air-con buses from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) to Mae Hong Son every day, taking about 15 hours.
  2. From Chiang Mai: Regular bus services run from Chiang Mai (Arcade Bus Terminal) to Mae Hong Son. The trip takes about 7-8 hours.

__________________________________________________________________________________

*Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mae Hong Son Office
4 Ratchatham Pitak Road, T. Chong Kham, A. Muang, Mae Hong Son 58000
Tel: +66 (0) 5361 2982-3 Fax: +66 (0) 5361 2984
Email: tatmhs@tat.or.th l llllwww.tourismthailand.org/maehongson

*For package tours to Mae Hong Son, contact Alex Holiday Co., Ltd.
Tel: +66 (0) 2880 7388, +66 (0)8 1818 3805.
Email: info@alexholiday.com l llllWebsite: www.alexholiday.com



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