Get intimate in Mae Hong Son
This uniquely diverse province connects to a total of three states in Myanmar, with rivers as its natural boundaries. From costumes to language, her proximity to Myanmar means the people of Mae Hong Son share many similar customs and beliefs, and at many points I even forgot that I was still in Thailand.
With the lowest population density in all of Thailand, Mae Hong Son also makes for a great nature retreat destination. Be sure to pick up copies of the Mae Hong Son and Miracle Routes to Mae Hong Son brochures, courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, before embarking on your explorations there. The brochures include emergency contacts and will highlight to you all the destination points in this colourful rural province.
HOMESTAY WITH THE HILLTRIBES
There are many homestay and trekking packages for travellers to indulge in the rich traditions and farming community of the hilltribes. Tribe Villages also have little “shopping districts” set up for tourists to purchase traditional goods.
Join the Shan tribe in Ban Mae La Na. The Shan People migrated from (then) Burma and observe a Buddhist way of living. While you are there, be sure to take a good look at the whole of Mae Hong Son from on top of the hill. The misty hills are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Also visit Mae La Na Temple, at the heart of the village. The unassuming structure houses amazing art works and playful novice monks who can be very shy before they warm up!
If you catch yourself waking up early, hop on a Song Thaew and be on your way to Mae Hong Son morning market for a day in the life of a local. You can find fresh produce and locally made products there.
And for a moment like no other, end off your journey in Mae Hong Son by catching the sunset at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, the oldest landmark of Mae Hong Son – a whitewashed temple topped in gold. Standing on top of Kong Mu Hill, the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu overlooks the entire Mae Hong Son valley. As the sun sets into the horizon, you’ll see the orange rays light up the sky with a crimson hue. Cast a silhouette standing in front of the camera and snap a shot!
Finally, you might like to finish off your temple visits with Wat Jong Kham and Wat Chong Klang, the Burmese style twin temples located on the picturesque Jong Kham Lake. At night, the temples are majestically lit up for another perfect picture opportunity.
While the vibrancy of Bangkok used to be a key highlight of my holidays to Thailand, on this accidentally curated route through the country’s less-trodden destinations, I found myself seeing Thailand in new light – uncovering a country of extraordinary contrasts from her noiselessly white southern beaches to her sacred and respected temples, her delicate artistic crafts and expressions to rustic adventures amongst the people of the hills.
Life over my six-day excursion across the country was comfortably tranquil, yet driven by the thrill of discovering something new each day. As I waved goodbye to the young novice monks of Mae La Na before taking the car to watch the sun disappear behind the hills on my last day there, I also remember how much I will miss the rich flavour of an unassuming plate of Gaeng Hang Lay. Full of intimate moments to keep close heart, I suppose this is the allure of Thailand, that returning travellers like myself just cannot get enough of.