Often referred to as “the land of three mists” because it is shrouded in mist most of year, Mae Hong Son province is home to numerous hill-tribe villages and great off-beat adventure opportunities. The province is located in the remote West of Northern Thailand bordering Myanmar’s Shan state to the North and all along the west. The province’s total area is some 12,000 square kilometers, mostly mountainous and forest-covered, with a few flat valleys in which villages have developed.
- Take an evening stroll around the lake and enjoy the lively Walking Street market where you can find snacks, juices, handicrafts, hill tribe wear and more.
- Hike to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu temple on the hill for an amazing view of Mae Hong Son township; visit late afternoon and you can see a magnificent sunset from the back of the temple.
- Trek with a local guide through pristine forests and authentic hill tribe villages.
- Taste a range of authentic Shan/Burmese food; there is a respectable selection of restaurants close to the lake.
Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge
Stretching almost 1km in length, Su Tong Pae is the longest and arguably most picturesque bamboo bridge in Thailand. This beautiful bridge spans across several rice paddies and a river to link Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma temple with Ban Kung Mai Sak (15 minutes north of Mae Hong Son township) creating a spectacular scene. Dawn is by far the most magical time to visit; you can witness a group of monks leaving the monastery and crossing the bridge for their morning alms in the village. This hidden attraction is en route to Ban Rak Thai, so if you’re making that trip be sure to stop at Su Tong Pae bridge along the way.
Bua Tong Wild Sunflowers in Khun Yuam
Each year in November, the hillsides of Khun Yuam district are covered with a host of wild sunflowers in full bloom, painting an epic picture of bright yellow mountain ranges. Visit Doi Mae U-Kho to wander through the blooming flowers and for an exceptional viewpoint of this rare scene. Unfortunately, the flowers only bloom for two weeks each year so it’s necessary to plan your visit accordingly. Khun Yuam township lies half way between Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son servicing the surrounding hill tribe villages of Karen, Hmong and Lawa people.
Tham Lod Cave
One of Thailand’s most impressive caves can be found in Sopphong, a tiny town located between Mae Hong Son and Pai. With a cave system longer than 1.5 kilometres, Tham Lod cave is not only filled with impressive stalactites and stalagmites but offers a rather magical experience bamboo rafting along the Lang River and being guided from one cavern to the next by a local lighting the way using a gas lantern. With the main chamber measuring a height of 50 metres, the sheer size of this place is awe-inspiring. Visit during the late afternoon and you can see thousands of bats leaving the cave at the same time equal numbers of swift birds are returning – a seriously amazing migration to witness.
Buses depart Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station four times per day for the nine hour winding journey via Mae Sarieng. The bus company is called Prempracha Transport, they also provide minivan services.
Kan Air and Bangkok Airways operates scheduled flights to Mae Hong Son from Chiang Mai with 3 daily flights, depending on the season. There is currently no direct connection from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son, all flights transit via Chiang Mai.
Getting Around Mae Hong Son
The town itself isn’t very big so walking is a practical means of getting around during the cooler months. However in summer, temperatures can hover around 40º C making walking uncomfortable for most. Renting a bicycle or motorbike can be worthwhile and tuk-tuks are readily available for short journeys.
The high mountain ranges and surrounding misty jungles help to keep Mae Hong Son significantly cooler than many of Thailand’s other regions. There are three main seasons in Mae Hong Son with an annual average temperature of 25 ºC. In the cool season, October through February, Mae Hong Son experiences a large contrast between daytime and evening temperatures with morning temperatures averaging 21ºC, and evening temperatures dropping as low as 6ºC. December and January are the coldest months in Mae Hong Son.
In the hot season, which lasts from March through May, the temperature averages from 17ºC in March to 40ºC by late May. With April being the warmest month of the year, the best time to visit Mae Hong Son is during the transition from the cool season to the hot season as early March offers the most refreshing weather. Although the rainy season, (which lasts from May through October) is a more challenging time to visit, this time can also prove to be well worth enduring the occasional downpour to see Mae Hong Son during its most beautiful and lush time of the year. The raining season brings also the most thrilling moments for our white water rafting expeditions down the Pai river!
Poi Sang Long Procession – March-May
This celebration of novice monk ordination is one the Thai Yai tribe people hold to be a highly meritorious occasion. Traditionally, the candidate-novice, his head cleanly shaven and wrapped with head-cloth in the Burmese style, will don a prince-like garment and put on valuable jewels and gems, and either rides a horse or is carried over the shoulders of a man to the city shrine. On the ordination eve, a procession of offerings and other necessary personal belongings will be paraded through the town streets and then placed at the monastery where the ordination will take place the next day. It is usually held during or before the Buddhist Rain Retreat period.
Chong Phara Procession – October
Chong Phara in the Thai Yai dialect means a castle made of wood, covered with colorful perforated papers and decorated with fruits, flags and lamps. According to traditional belief, it is placed in the courtyard of a house or a monastery as a gesture to welcome the Lord Buddha on his return from giving sermons to his mother in heaven. Other activities to celebrate the occasion include dances where performers are dressed in animal costumes. The rite is held during the post rain retreat season from the full-moon day of the 11 the Lunar month to the waxing moon night of the same month.
Loi Krathong Festival – November
Loi Krathong Festival is held on the full moon night in the month of November every year. Villagers make “krathongs” to float in rivers. At Nong Chong Kham lake, various entertainments and a contest of large krathongs are held near the central pond. Lamps and candles are lit all around the area. Moreover, at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, there is a ceremony of releasing candle-lit krathongs bound with balloons to the sky (known as “Loi Krathong Sawan”).