Located in the rolling hills of northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son is shrouded in mist throughout the year. City-dwellers in search of peace and quiet will find the province absolutely intriguing.
As the road reaches the final curve of the mountain range, visitors come upon the alluring small province where the past and present has fused seamlessly together. The surrounding mountains form a bastion that keeps the province - known as the City of Three Mists – from the onslaught of modern times. In Mae Hong Son old customs prevail today as they have done in the past.
Above all, the quiet and beautiful simplicity of the lifestyle of the people of Mae Hong Son is every tourist’s ultimate dream.
Before the first morning beams could penetrate the descending mist and dawn on the city, the morning market is already thriving with color and commotion. While devotees wait to offer alms to monks in front of the market, others are busy shopping for food. Local ethnic people are busy opening their stalls selling embroidered items.
In the late-morning sun, the disappearing mist gradually unveils the unusual features of traditional Thai-Myanmar architecture, reflected in the province’stemples. Residents of this province are descendants of the Tai Yai ethnicity in the Shan State Myanmar, and the influence of Buddhist art from the Mandalay period is obvious in the local art and architecture.
To enjoy the splendor of the religious edifices in the province, one could begin with a trip to pay homage to the
majestic Phra That Doi Gong Mu on top of the mountain. Here is a stunning bird’s eye view of the town in daylight. But if you are lucky, what you see is an impressive sea of morning mist that blankets the landscape below, giving the whole scenery an ethereal effect.
From Phra That Doi Gong Mu, visitors can come down to Jong Kham lake, with two of the oldest temples in the province reflecting in its waters: Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang. In this area, there are many local restaurants and cute coffee shops to wander around. Another favorite destination is Sutongpae Bridge, a beautiful local bamboo bridge crossing over ricefields.
Mae Hong Son is a quiet city, a paradise for a two to three day holiday. The second day is usually reserved for outside visits. The first stop is the Fish Cave (Tham Pla), located about 17 kilometre from town. In a cool forest park a small stream emerges from the rock, facing a hill. Big fish, sometimes one meter long, appear deep blue in color, swimming down to the cavern. The next stop is the famous Phu Klon Mud Source, one of the world’s three natural mud and minera spas.
After relaxing in healthy mud, most visitors make a stop to admire Pha Sua Waterfall in Tambon Mawk Charm Pay, where Rak Tai Village is located. This is a small hamlet where descendants of the Chinese Haw make a living tending their tea and temperate fruit plantations. Although the number of people who make their way to Rak Thai Village is outnumbered by tourists visiting the village of the long-necked Karens of the Kayan tribe, the peaceful and pleasant landscape here impresses a lot of people. Enjoying the natural scenery and the cold breeze as one sips tea in a small pavilion overlooking a large pond with water that reflects the navy blue sky is an unforgettable memory.
Those with a passion for caves should take a bamboo raft to Nam Lawd Cave in Pang Ma Pha subdistrict. As it is a bit further than the previous destinations, it might be the highlight of day three. In addition to the breathtaking stalagmites and stalactites of Sao Hin Luang Cave and Phee Man chamber, both of which are inside Nam Lawd Cave, archeologists have uncovered ancient ustensils, believed to have dated more than two millennia, and traces of rare pre-historic paintings on the walls of the cave.
Mae Hong Son, the City of Three Mists is both Thailand’s most Western and Northern province, neighbours with Myanmarit is also the most mountainous area. It is definitely a destination for a wonderful holiday and a great breath of oxygen.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By Plane : there are six flights daily, from and to Mae Hong Son operated by Kan Air.
By Road : there are two options from Chiang Mai, both taking 5-6 jours by car. Route 1095 via Pai (280 km) or route 108 via Mae Sariang (350km) is an easier drive. On route 1095, behave of the the 1,864 curves.
By Bus : there are buses and vans leaving every morning from Arcade Bus Station. By bus it takes 8.5 hours, by van 6 hours. It is best to buy your ticket one day in advance. You might want to stop over to Pai city for a break overnight.