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Mae Hong Son

Phasua Falls

Phasua Falls

Thung Buatong

Thung Buatong

Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is nestled in a deep valley hemmed in by high mountain ranges; Mae Hong Son has long been isolated from the outside world.  Virtually covered with mist throughout the year, the name refers to the fact that is terrain is highly suitable for the training of elephants.

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.  Today, Mae Hong Son is one of the dream destinations for visitors.  Daily flights into its small airport bring growing numbers of tourists, attracted by the spectacular scenery, numerous hill tribe communities and soft adventure opportunities.

The breathtaking road to Mae Hong Son winds its way around mountain after mountain in an apparent-never ending collection of twists and turns. It is simply spectacular with sights to awe even the most jaded travelers. Mae Hong Son itself is a small sleepy town, not offering much in terms of entertainment nor excitement. But the reason tourists flock to Mae Hong Son is its year-round cool temperatures, its fascinating hill tribes, its abundance of nature and just simply to get away from it all.

Thai Yai Culture

The Thai Yai can be seen along the northern border with Myanmar.  They may at one time have been the most numerous of the ethnic Thai tribes that stretch across Southeast Asia.  A large group settled in Mae Hong Son.

The Thai Yai culture has had a strong influence on the province, as can be seen in its architecture. Although a part of the Lanna region, the indigenous Thai Yai people living in Mae Hong Son are faced with very cold weather during winter and extremely hot weather in the summer, with mist or fog practically throughout the whole year.  Not surprisingly they have had to adapt to the environment.

As a result, their architectural style has developed into something different from other Lanna communities.  Their living quarters are usually built with tall floors and low roofs, the sizes differing according to ones social status and position.  Homes of the ordinary folks are usually with one single level of roof, while those of the local aristocrats have two or more levels forming a castle-like shape.   The space thus provided is believed to help air circulation.  An interesting feature of the Thai Yai style is the perforated designs along the eaves which are an architectural identity of the area.

 Mae Hong Son Attractions

Mae Hong Son has several tourist attractions, both natural and cultural. Being mountainous, the province has many waterfalls and caves. Some interesting ones are: Mae Surin Falls National Park The waterfall is about 100 m high.

It is probably the highest waterfall of Thailand and is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. Phasua Falls, located in the Phasua Forest Park, is large and always full of water. The luxuriant mountain forests and the peaceful surroundings attract a large number of tourists to visit there every day.

Caves in the province are also worth visiting. Of these, two are prominent — Tham Lot and Tham Pla. Tham Lot is a large cave about 20 m wide and 50 m high, full of stalagmites and stalactites. One cannot walk through the entire length of the cave (about 1 km) without a lamp because the cave is very dark inside. There was a discovery of some ancient utensils around 2,000 years ago in the cave. Tham Pla or Fish cave is so called because the stream inside the cave, which is only 2 m wide and 1.5 m deep, is full of big fishes all year round. They never go elsewhere, though there is nothing to stop them from swimming up or down the stream.

And nobody dares to harm them, because people believe that they belong to the god of mountains and forests.

Thung Buatong is a place you should never miss. If you travel from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son by Highway 108 in the period from November to December, about one hour after passing Khunyuam county, you will be fascinated to see a sea of golden Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia Diversifolia) blooming along both sides of the road over the rolling hills for miles.
These wild flowers, called Buatong in the northern dialect, look exactly like sunflowers but are much smaller. There is a lesser Thung Buatong in Mae Sariang county, also along Highway 108.

Apart from natural attractions, cultural attractions are abundant in Mae Hong Son. Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu on the top of Doi Kongmu Hill only 3 km to the west of the provincial town contains a relic of the Buddha and comprises two pagodas of Shan style. The temple is considered the holiest wat of Mae Hong Son. It takes only a few minutes to go by car to the hilltop, from which you can have a panoramic view of the town and its beautiful surroundings. Wat Hua Wiang or Wat Klang Wiang contains a crowned Buddha image which is the most highly treasured image of the province.

But it is a replica of the original image which is enshrined in Mandalay, Myanmar. Wat Chong Kham was built in Shan style. The roof of the temple is in the shape of a castle because it was believed that a castle is a sacred place, whose resident must be a king or representative of a religion. Located beside Wat Chong Kham, Wat Chong Klang is also worthy of visiting for it houses 33 wooden dolls from the story of the Last Incarnation of the Lord Buddha, carved by Burmese artisans and also paintings on mirror which are admired for their beauty.

Those are some of the natural and cultural attractions in Mae Hong Son.

But if you are an adventure-lover and want to touch the really wonderful natural environment, rafting along Pai River would be your excellent choice. The Pai River is the largest and longest river in Mae Hong Son with a length of 180 km. The most suitable time for rafting is between October and March when there is no rain and the water level is high. Another exciting thing to do is to go into the jungle on elephant back. You would be impressed with the unforgettable trip.

In addition to the above, you can also join colourful festivals in Mae Hong Son. Buatong Blossom Festival is held at Khunyuam county from November to December yearly. The Buatong will blossom magnificently around Doi Mae U-Kho. There are many forms of entertainment, a Miss Buatong contest and some other activities during the festival too. Loi Krathong Festival on the full moon day of November is held every year in the province. Not only are krathong floated on the water, but they are tied to a balloon and launched into the sky, too. These candle-lit are called krathong sawan or heavenly krathong. Poi Sang Long or Novice Ordination Ceremony Traditionally, Thai Yai people believed that they would gain much merit from being ordained as a novice or organizing such a ceremony, so a group ordination ceremony is held majestically in April every year. The boys who prepare themselves to be novices will have their heads shaven, wear beautifully decorated garments and put on valuable jeweler. They will ride horses to lead a procession to the temple, followed by their relatives and neighbors who dance to the music of a band, making the ceremony highly joyous and colorful.

That is not all. There are many other interesting things waiting for you in Mae Hong Son. In short, Mae Hong Son is a land of natural wonders and exotic things. If you plan to go there from Bangkok, we recommend that you should go by plane, because Mae Hong Son is 924 km from Bangkok by road and the highways in Mae Hong Son are among the most zigzag in this country. It is recorded that the 349 km-long Highway 108 leading from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son has a total of 1,864 sharp curves.

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