A week in Mae Hong Son

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March 19th 2011
Published: March 19th 2011
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The bus took about two and a half hours to get to Mae Hong Son but it was a very enjoyable trip with the nice scenery we passed. I arrived at the new bus station which isn’t in my guidebook and decided not to take an expensive motorbike taxi and just walk the couple of kilometres. After asking a couple of locals I found the guesthouse I was looking for and got a room for about $7 a night. I had a look around town and then in the evening went to the Chilli Bar for a drink where I met Ryan, an Englishman who is married to a Thai woman from this area.

The next day the friendly couple who run the bar invited Ryan ,his wife, and myself to join them in the afternoon drinking, eating, and relaxing on small bamboo platforms on the river. This seems to be a very popular thing for Thais to do and I enjoyed the experience immensely. In the evening we ended up back at the bar where we got pretty drunk with a few more tourists we met.

Next day I hired a motorbike and joined Ziggy from Germany who I had met previously in Soppong with the aim of riding up to Mae Aw which is only a few kilometres from the Myanmar border. After about an hour of riding it started raining so we decided to have a swim at the Pha Sua waterfall . The rain wouldn’t stop so we decided to keep going. I hadn’t brought any other clothing and the t-shirt that I was wearing was soaked through in a matter of minutes. I was freezing for the last 30 minutes of riding with the wind blowing against the wet t-shirt. Luckily Ziggy had brought along a spare t-shirt so I changed into this as soon as we were under cover. We had a very nice meal and then had a walk around the small chinese style town which looked very nice surrounding a small lake with small tea plantations in the hills. I bought one of those unfashionable plastic raincoats for the trip back so I wouldn’t get soaked. We had some daylight left so we stopped at Fish Cave and luckily they let us in for free because it was the end of the day and it was still raining. It was a little disappointing because it was more a less a shrine in the side of a hill where you could feed very large fish which swam in the stream. The grounds were very nice though and would make for a very relaxing picnic spot. We then rode back to town in the dark and the first thing I did was have a very long hot shower. The following day it rained until late that night so I just spent the entire day at the Chilli bar playing pool against a French guy. Next day more rain but it finally cleared up in the evening.

Friday I hired a motorbike and set out to see the longneck women in the village of Nai Soi, 32 kms away.On the way I passed an old suspension bridge the locals used to use before they built a new bridge next to it. I had ideas of crossing it until I saw all the gaps and rotted wood, so decided to chicken out. I think you would have to be crazy to attempt it. With the help of a few locals I arrived at the village about 45 minutes later and reluctantly paid the $8 entry fee. I was the only tourist there and felt very uncomfortable walking around the village where longneck and longear women stood besides their stalls hoping you would buy something. I sat down and talked to a longear woman for a while and bought a scarf from her, as well as a couple of postcards from other women after I had taken photos of them. The whole experience felt very awkward and the locals did not seem that welcoming either. It was a disappointment to me which I had expected from the start but I enjoyed the ride out there and back. Got back to town in the early afternoon and rode up to the temple on the hill overlooking the town to take a couple of photos. It is amazing to see an airport so close to town. I am not sure how many airports in the world that you can walk to your guesthouse in the centre of town in a few minutes. In the late afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed the ride out to another longneck village 10kms south of town. I didn’t go into the village itself but had something to eat there before slowly making my way back to town.

That night I drank until very late so it ruined my plans of leaving early the next day, so I decided to just sleep, read, and get on the internet and leave on the Sunday morning. I really enjoyed Mae Hong Son and I think it suits people who want to take it easy for a few days in a far less touristy environment than Pai.

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