A Weekend in Mae Hong Son Province

Last weekend, I traveled to Mae Hong Son province with three other volunteers. A popular destination for travelers, we were all curious to see what all the fuss was about and as with most places here in Thailand, it did not disappoint.

To save time as we only had the weekend off, we decided to fly to Mae Hong Son and take the bus on our way back. Our $50 flight seemed really expensive at first, but as our tiny 12-seater plane took off and trembled its way through mountains and valleys, we all started to feel that it was worth the money. Seeing the landacape from the sky on a low-flying plane really gave us some stunning panoramic views of the countryside.

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Our first stop was Mae Hong Son city, a sleepy little town centered around a lake and watched over by a temple high up in the mountains. We spent two nights there, enjoying the laidback atmosphere. Crossroads bar became our favorite nighttime spot and Sunflower Cafe our favorite breakfast eatery. On both nights we had delicious street food for dinner by the lake.

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Mae Hong Son is famous for its trekking and on our second day, we visited several hill tribe villages in the area. The long neck villages unfortunately seemed like they were solely there as a tourist attraction and all of us were a little bothered by the whole experience. But the other villages we visited (Hmong, KMT and Shan) were very interesting to wander around and took us right to the Thai-Burmese border.

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On day 3, we headed off to Soppong (Pang Mapha) to explore the famous Tham Lod cave. Words cannot explain how majestic and intricate the natural cave formations are, and bamboo rafting through them in the dark was an incredible experience. Due to lack of good lighting, my pictures aren’t that great but this cave is definitely worth a visit.

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We stayed at Jungle Guesthouse in Soppong and this was the other reason why we liked the town so much. The owner Da treated us like family, catered to our every need and whipped up some delicious Thai and western food. The temperature at night dropped to 5 Celcius so sleeping in a wooden cottage was pretty cold, but the campfire and extra blankets helped keep us warm 🙂

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We spent our final day in Pai, a popular hippie town for farangs (foreigners). Filled with funky cafes, yoga studios, meditation centers and reggae bars, Pai exudes a new age, alternative vibe. The town is vibrant during the day but really comes to life at night, when additional markets set up, lanterns light the streets and music pours out from the many bars. For me, it was a really fun place to visit for a day or two, but Pai was too overrun by farangs for me to want to spend more than a weekend…I found very little interaction between foreigners and locals and it just didn’t feel like Thailand. I have to admit though that I did enjoy the one really touristy thing we did – playing with elephants at Thom’s elephant camp.

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Overall, my last weekend trip in Thailand was a great one. I’m glad I was able to cover most of northern Thailand during my two months here, from the Burmese border to the Laos border and most of everything inbetween. Thailand is such a vast country, I know there is a lot I have left to see and I would have especially loved to have spent some time in the islands in the south. But I guess I’ll just have to come back again 🙂

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