Mae Hong Son is a quaint, romantic village in northwest Thailand. It is the capital of the homonymous province, on the border with Myanmar.
The three main localities in the province are Pai, Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son itself.
Isolated from the outside world for centuries, due to its beauty and exuberance, it could very well embody the mythical earthly paradise of Shangri-La. The frequent mists of the morning draw a splendid scenery.
What the traveller will find are a charming village and breathtaking mountain scenery. You will also have a chance to observe some of the tribes that have settled in this region over the centuries.
Geographically Mae Hong Son is not far from Chiang Mai, but the roads must surround the mountainous system that separates them. The distance through Pai is 245 km of tortuous roads. It is much more comfortable and quick to do it on a short flight.
A couple of airlines offer flights to Mae Hong Son and Pai: Bangkok Airways and Nok Air.
Take into account the season in which you plan to visit Mae Hong Son.
» From November to mid-February is the best period to come here.
» From mid-February to mid-May, nature is drier and the atmosphere less clean, due to the burning of the fields to fertilize them. However, it is worth a visit to get to know some of its hill tribes, social life and beautiful temples.
» From the beginning of the rainy season, May to October, nature and the rice fields look amazing.
Places of interest
Inside the city
Within the city there are several interesting Buddhist temples, two of them should not be missed, the wonderful Wat Chong Kham next to the lake and the magnificent Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu located at the top of the hill.
The latter was built by the first governor of the province and the white stupas, Burmese style, are as splendid as the aerial view offered from the temple.
Near the city, northwards
» Su Tong Pae Bridge.
This is a bamboo bridge that crosses the rice fields, from Ban Kung Mai Sak village, to get to a temple located at the other end, the Wat Tham Pu Sama, which is located on a hill. Particularly recommended during the rainy season, from June to October.
» Phuklong Country Club.
Open from 08h00 to 18h30 Spa with natural black mud essential to skin care, it has therapeutic benefits. They serve facial mask, body mask and mineral baths, for example.
» Tham Pla – Pha Suea Waterfall.
Waterfall and cave within the Tham Pla-Namtok Pha Suea National Park. It covers an area of five hundred square kilometres of steep mountains. The highest peak reaches 1,918 meters.
A mixed forest that hosts wildlife such as bears, civets, common boars and many different birds.
Near the city, southwards
» Pha Bong Hot Springs and waterfalls.
10 kilometres away from Mae Hong Son, in this place there are available mineral water baths and not far from the hot springs is located the Bha Pong waterfall.
More than an hour away, northwards
» Ban Rak Thai. Chinese town.
The village of Ban Rak Thai is located next to a beautiful lake surrounded by tea fields, a unique paradise. Take the opportunity to try the local tea called U-Long.
» Pang Un or Ban Ruam Thai.
This pretty lake with an evergreen forested area is located near hill tribe villages, 44 km from Mae Hong Son. A good place to relax with camping and accommodation available.
More than an hour away, southwards
» Namtok Mae Surin National Park.
Located in a remote wet forest among steep mountains, with no easy access, this national park remains rich in a wilderness. Waterfalls like Mae Surin and Damkhon are its main charm, however, the highest one (Mae Surin) can only be accessed during the dry season.
» Thung Bua Tong Fields.
The landscape from here is really spectacular, especially when wild sunflowers bloom covering the slopes of a colourful floral blanket, in November.
Mae Hong Son is a destination for those seeking the tranquillity of small villages and contact with nature. Fresh air, abundant water and trekking excursions.
Differences among Pai, Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son
Being the three similar places, some differences allow us to characterise them.
In Mae Sariang a local public predominates, that is, this is a place where you will find mainly Thai travellers.
Pai and Mae Hong Son are more international tourist destinations, but not the same.
Pai is committed to a young audience, a trendy destination that will be very suitable for those who like the atmosphere of Khaosan Road in Bangkok. In the month of January, an International Reggae Festival is held.
Mae Hong Son is a delicious and romantic city, quieter.
In Pai, many places of interest are within a half-hour radius or less by motorbike, while in Mae Hong Son you often have to travel more than an hour, preferably by car.
Along with the activities in nature and the beautiful temples of Burmese style, the hill tribes are a centre of interest in the whole province.