Mae Hong Son Travel Guide
Mae Hong Son is a must visit on your Northern Thailand trip. If you’ve been following the Mae Hong Son Loop, stopping first in Pai from Chiang Mai and then Soppong, Mae Hong Son is next up. Or maybe you’ve come from the other direction from Chiang Mai, and stopped first in Mae Sariang. Either way, your bound to make a pass through Mae Hong Son, and I suggest at least 4 days here to make your trip complete.
Mae Hong Son is the ideal Northern Thai town. It doesn’t have the ex-pat community the same as other towns in Thailand, and it definitely doesn’t have the backpacker-tourist scene like Pai and Chiang Mai. In Mae Hong Son you will find local life, mountains, elephants on the side of the roads, Hill Tribe communities, and riverside restaurants. In the winter months (December-January) you will find the temperatures to drop near freezing at night, so plan ahead.
How To Get To Mae Hong Son
Either by bus or mini van from Chiang Mai, Pai, or Mae Sariang. Ride in on your own motorcycle or rented motorbike or rent a car from Chiang Mai. You can also fly into the Mae Hong Son airport.
Where To Stay in Mae Hong Son
For the budget traveler
I would suggest checking Tripadvisor for the most up-to-date prices and hotels, however I have read that the Panorama Hotel offers deals under $15 USD.
There are a number of hotel and guesthouse options around town. Even in the high season I would guarantee you could walk into any and get a good deal.
For the mid-range traveler
Gim’s Resort offers prices around $30 USD, and receives nearly a
5-star rating on Tripadvisor
Where To Eat In Mae Hong Son
Both the daytime and nighttime markets in Mae Hong Son will provide you with the most authentic and affordable meals. Popular Thai and Burmese style dishes can be found at both, including Khao Soi and Shan-style noodles.
Another fun idea is to take your motorbike over to the river and enjoy a meal at the floating raft restaurants. You’re likely to be one of the only foreigners there among the local Thai’s, and if offers you a chance to mingle and practice your Thai. The dishes are simple and delicious, and if it’s a hot day you can even go for a swim afterwards.
The town itself has a number of different Burmese, Thai, and Western restaurants and cafes. New ones are popping up all the time as the town receives more visitors.
What To Do In Mae Hong Son
Visit the Karen Ethnic People
There’s always some controversy on whether or not to visit the local hill tribe communities. People claim it’s as though your treating them like a zoo animal. I don’t have an answer for if it’s right or wrong, but we visited one of the Long-Neck Karen Refugee Villages (they’re from Myanmar), and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
We rented a motorbike and made the trip out to the village on our own, which was half the fun. Terrible quality roads, some washed away in the rainy season, made for an adventurous trip.
For the local communities, their income comes from visitors such as you who pay an entrance fee (around 500 baht in 2012 – $15 USD) and purchase their local hand-made products. As refugees in Thailand they are unable to obtain work permits.
When we visited the community, we were the only foreigners there. The woman were very friendly with us, showed us how they make different products, showed us pictures, and let us take photos of them with the products we purchased. We played with the local children, and they got a kick out of seeing the photos of them we took with our cameras. One child was walking around with a stick full of bees (or beetles?) to cook and eat.
Wat Phra Non and Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
These two temples are a must visit on your Mae Hong Son trip. Situated at the base of the mountain, Wat Phra Non has a 12 meter long reclining Buddha. At the top of the summit (we rode our motorbikes up) you will find Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, a beautiful temple with magnificent views of Mae Hong Son.
Jong Kham Lake and Nearby Temples
Centered in Mae Hong Son is the beautiful and very picturesque Jong Kham Lake. Situated near the lake are two temples, Wat Jong Khlang and Wat Jong Kham
From Mae Hong Son you can continue on your loop south to Mae Sariang and back to Chiang Mai, or you can cut through the loop as we did and just head back to Chiang Mai. If you’re coming from Mae Sariang already, then continue north towards Soppong and Pai.