Get in­ti­mate in Mae Hong Son

Escape! Malaysia - - Thailand -

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!

MORN­ING MAR­KETS

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.

CHAS­ING SUN­SETS

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.

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