The provincial town of Mae Hong Son with it’s nickname of “The City of Three Mists”(more on why it’s called that later!) lies in a lush valley surrounded by high mountain ranges.
The province of Mae Hong Son is the most rugged in all of Thailand, so that aspect plus it sharing it’s western borders with Myanmar(Burma) has lead to almost total isolation from the outside world.
The name Mae Hong Song refers to the fact that this mountainous rugged ground is highly suited for the training of elephants, indeed former governors of Chiang Mai used to organize the rounding up of wild elephants which were then trained before being sent to the capital for work. The reason that Mae Hong Son has the nickname of “The City of Three Mists” is that it is covered by mist all year long.It has “dewy mist in the winter, forest fire mist in the summer & rainy mist in the Rainy Season“.
It’s also known for its charm of scenery and culture. The people of Mae Hong Son consists of the Shans who live in the city and the Hill Tribes groups who live in remote villages on mountain tops where very little has changed in terms of lifestyle in hundreds of years!.
One of the most famous groups of hill tribes people located in this area are the Karen Pa Dong “longnecks”, a small sub group of the Karen hill-tribe which is Thailand’s largest, the Pa Dong women are the long-necked ladies made so by adding brass rings onto their necks.
Mae Hong Son itself is so small the landing strip for the local airport is virtually in the middle of the town!, it’s this quaintness linked to the surrounding landscape of rugged and spectacular mountains, beautiful sceneries, virgin forests, hot springs, crystal clear lakes and lush flora and abundant fauna, that draws so many people, many of them tired of the over-run beaches of the south, in search of culture & soft adventure opportunities.
The rugged mountains offer the perfect venue for trekking and hiking tours. Rafting down the Pai River is an adventure that is not easily forgotten. Mountain biking is also possible along the narrow but well defined mountain paths, there are lots of tour companies located in the city.
The architecture in Mae Hong Son is heavily influenced by its nearest foreign neighbor & former ruler – Burma. The architectural influence of Burma are evident in the temples like Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu and Wat Nam Hoo. The Wat Phra Non temple has a reclining 12 meters long Buddha guarded by two sculptured lions.
For nature trekkers and trippers the Hill Tribe Tours & trekking jaunts would surely be a thrill. One can also visit the Tham Pla Pha Suea National Park, or the caves at Tham Tham Lot and Mae Lana Cave, the Tham Lod Bat Cave was once the home of prehistoric men as proved by the fossils and relics found in the cave.
The Mae Lana cave has stalagmites and stalactites and is so dark and deep that the inside stream is habited by colorless and eyeless fish!
Mae Hong Son has a reasonable choice of Places to Stay ,both in the city & out in the surrounding areas.
Getting There – most visitors arrive from Chiang Mai ,so the choices are to travel there by air, car or bus, the main road between Chiang Mai & Mae Hong Son goes around the mountains, so despite the direct distance between the two cities being under 300kms, the journey actually takes 8-10 hours, by air it takes just 35 minutes!.
Another way to enjoy the scenery between Chiang Mai & Mae Hong Son is to do the “Mae Hong Son Loop” ,which is a tour that travels from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son by motorbikes taking 3 days to do the route, its extremely good fun, and you get to visit places off the normal tourist route!
If you have been to Mae Hong Son or spent time there before, and have really great memories of places to stay, visit, or just fun things that happened, please share your Mae Hong Son Memories here.