Thailand's North

MAE HONG SON

Global Mark : 13.07

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
4 4 3 2 5 3 3 3 3 13.33

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
20 90% (18) 35% (7) 85% (17) 10 to 18 12.80


Description : 
A pleasant minorities and trekking center on the way to Pai or Mae Sariang.

Comments : It is a bit touristy and everybody here seem to be involved in the trekking business but it is an enjoyable stop nevertheless.

What to do ? Feel like trekking the area maybe ? / Rent a motorbike and explore / Visit the Wat by the lake as well as the others if passing by / Enjoy the sunset at Wat Phra That on the 1300m Doi Kong Mu hill / If you are lucky, see Padaung "long necks" girls at the market or around town / If you are a tourist, fall for the "Long Necks" tourist trap by visiting one of the three nearby village for B250 (300HS) / 

What you may not like ? Any tourist trap / Being too shy to make a photo of this beautiful "Long Neck" girl you have just come across / Not making any photo as you haven't seen any / Sweating a bit on the way to the sunset viewpoint / Making a trek with the wrong guide or too many people / Not making any trek ? (but is it possible ?) / Having difficulties finding a room if you arrive late /

How long ? It really depends on your trekking spirit. The town itself requires half a day.


Where to stay ? 

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money !

- Lake area : turn left from the station then left again after the Thai Farmer's Bank.

  • Friend Guesthouse (053 611647), 21 Praditchong Kam Rd, the road going down the lake / Room 100 or 150 Sgl or Dbl occupancy, 250 w. shower / HW / Go there for the nice clean rooms and the relaxing balcony / What you may not like : being next to the street
  • Jong Kham, road just north of the lake / Bungalow 100, Basic rooms 80 to 100 / HW / Nice little garden with view to the lake / Go there for the nice yet central location and relaxing atmosphere / What you may not like : the not so fresh rooms, getting a bungalow with mattresses on the floor, the regularly barking dog during the night
  • Prince's House, just after the above / Rooms in basement 100, first floor 150, luxury room 2500 ! / HW / Go there for the nice view to the lake from the first floor balcony and the OK rooms / What you may not like : the not so nice basement rooms with not so clean shower, the relatively high prices
  • Johnnie House, continuing a bit / Dbl wooden rooms 100 / HW / Go there for the OK rooms at a good price and the open space a bit outside the road / What you may not like : concrete instead of grass...
  • Rimnong Lakeside Guesthouse (053 611052), 4/1 Chumnansatid Rd, South of the lake / Dorm (3) 60, Room 80 or 100 Sgl or Dbl occupancy, 100 or 150 w. shower / Go there for the cheapest bed in town / What you may not like : the lack of charm


- On the North of Town : from the Station, turn right and take your first left

  • Jean's House (053 611662), 6 Prachachonuthit Rd / Room 80 or 120 Sgl or Dbl occupancy / Dbl w. shower 140 or 180 without or w. HW / Go there for the proximity to the bus station / What you may not like : the not so nice nor clean environment next to the road
  • Sriwiang Guesthouse (053 612425), 44 Makasanti Rd, continuing 200m, on the right / Good looking Bungalow 100, Room 100 to 150 per people without or w. shower / Go there for the pleasant garden and bungalow and the correct rooms / What you may not like : not being able to understand the staff as little English is spoken, the proximity of a noisy garage
  • Nui's Backpacker Lodge, at the corner of the road to Mae Hong Son Guesthouse / Bungalows w. shower 100 / Cheap but not so nice nor clean
  • Mae Hong Son Guesthouse, about 1km from the station, left from Mucksanti Rd / Rooms 100 or 150 Sgl or Dbl occupancy, 200 or 250 w. shower, bungalow 500 / Go there for the pleasant & quiet environment plus the good rooms / What you may not like : being so far away
  • Sang Tong Hut, opposite road to above, walk a bit up / Bungalows at 200, 350 (shower), 800 (very very cozy !) and even 1000 / Go there for the superb environment on the slope on an hill with some good views from some bungalows / What you may not like : the welcoming barking dogs, the number of them, the plane above from time to time


Where to eat ? Plenty of restaurants on the main street as well as a night market. 

Trekking ? From one to a lot of days, on raft, socks or elephant, Mae Hong Son is a good base for a trek. Difficult however to pick up an agency when you see one at every corner. Lucky Travel Center (43/1 Udomchaonithel Rd, north-west of post office) is offering 3 days 2 nights treks for 1800 with no more than 6 people and was recommended to us. But ask  travelers just coming back for the latest... 

Self-visit ? You could rent a motorbike (about150 a day) and go around 40km away to Mae Aw, a small village at the Burmese Border whose particularity is to be occupied by Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese ! Rooms & food available there. The scenery along the way is very nice but the stiff road requires driving expertise & vigilance !

Backpacker's Tips : Amtrak Amtrakker, Australia (April 03)  
 Enjoyed Mae Hong Son, great spot to watch the sunset from the temple up on the hill to the western edge of town, and to spend the early morning at the wats on the lake in the centre. Fan bus from Mae Sariang costs 80THB and there are 6 or so a day. Stayed at very friendly Jeans Guest House for 120THB with toilet/shower. It was last day of winter festival so got a chance to see the hill-tribes in the town.
Plenty of caves / waterfalls / villages in the area and a good place to stay for a few days. Even better was Soppong - a lovely little town. Costs 35THB by fan bus and takes 2.5 hours. LHS had great views. Soppong River Inn seemed like the Marie Celeste when I visited - no one there. Stayed at Lemon Hill bungalow for 200THB a night next to the river. But would have liked to have stayed at Cave Lodge up at Tha Lod cave, 9km to the north. Very friendly and informative hosts, but place was full, despite having no public transport to the area. Entry to Tha Lod is 100THB and most goes to the local Shan guide. Coffin Caves just to west of Soppong are an easy 30 minute walk from town. A very crowded songthaew leaves from opposite market at 9a.m. for 30THB - spectacular views for most of the way to Pai. 

Backpacker's Tips : Stephanie Thullen, Mexico (Aug 01)
 I am working with PRLC (the local NGO Project for Recovery of LIfe and Culture) as a VSO volunteer trying to promote community/responsible tourism. I see many backpackers, including myself sometimes, that pretend to be responsible tourists, but in reality only look at their wallets. In Thailand that is a big problem, as most trekking operators, to attract the most people, offer very cheap prices, and since that only covers their costs and a bit of profit for themselves, not much ends up going to the communities they visit. I have heard as low as 20 Baht per tourist per night at a hill tribe village, and guides bring their own food, so the community cannot even get income from that. And most of the time, they only stop at a village for a few hours and leave. What do travelers get out from that?! JKET (JorKoe EcoTrek) tours cost more because we pay a fair price to the communities (100 Baht/p/night,50B/meal, 100B/guide). What I've seen around town is that most tourists, especially backpackers, complain that our tours are too expensive, which they are compared to the others, but they really don't bother to understand why. So, I was just trying to raise a bit of awareness. JKET is located below the Panorama Hotel and also serves as a fundraising unit for PRLC. All its profits is going towards conservation and development projects. Tel +66-53-620-511.

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
 Take a bus to the direction of Pai. About 20km from Mae Hong Son, you will find the village of Mae Suya. 2km after Mae Suya, get off the bus when you see 2 shops (1 on each side). The small dirt track on the left side of the 
road will lead you to a paradise : the wilderness guesthouse. Ask the people in the shop. You are right in the jungle by the river where you can swim. No electricity there. Dorm for 80Bhat and bungalow for 150Bhat. You can join up with other people or do solo out trekking. They have map for the area which you can copy. You can visit cave, waterfall and minorities. Nearby,  in Tham Woa, there is a monastery where you can learn meditation for free. They provide you food and place to stay, but only one meal per day (morning). As a foreigner they might give you extra food (they served me lunch as well). 2 times meditation per day. At other times, you are free to do whatever you want, the place is like a country club. Many Chinese KMT still live in the area. If you can speak Chinese or Thai, they might tell you a lot of story about the drug king Kun Sa.

Bus Schedules :

To Price Class Duration Time Nb Freq.
Mae Sariang 70/124 fan/ac 4 8,14,20/ 6,10:30,21 7 na
Sappong 29/60 fan/mini 2 7,8:30,10:30,12:30,16/8 6 na
Pai 48/70 fan/mini 3.5 7,8:30,10:30,12:30,16/8 6 na
Chiang Mai (south rd) 133/239 fan/ac 8.5 8,14,20,21 / 6,10:30,21 7 na
Chiang Mai (north rd) 94/180 fan/mini 7.5 7,8:30,10:30,12:30/8 5 na

Note : To Mae Sariang also at 21:00 on Frid & Sund (fan) and at 12:30 on Frid (ac)


The trip to Sappong : SSSS / L / B30 / 2 hrs / fan
A nice trip with superb panorama if sitting on the left side as the road goes high.

See also the trip from Mae Sariang