Nov
26
2009

Mae Hong Son and Pai / Thailand

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 organise 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 hilltribe communities and soft adventure opportunities.

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.

Bua Tong Fields at Doi Mae U-kho

The Dok Bua Tong (may be classified as wild sunflowers) blooms during November painting the entire hilly area of Doi Mae U-kho in brilliant yellow draw flocks of visitors to Khun Yuam district.  Camping sites arranged during the Bua Tong Bloom Festival is 26 kilometers from the district on Highway No. 1263.

Source: TAT

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    Pai Travel Guide

    Pai is a small town in North Thailand, between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son on Route 1095. The surrounding district is Amphoe Pai. Both are named after the Pai River.

    Pai is a predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveller & backpacker scene. In early 2006 a sudden boom in guesthouse and bar construction has resulted in a great deal of spare capacity – capacity that is partially taken up by an increase in Thai people visiting after Pai was featured in a romantic Thai film. There are now around 200 guesthouses and hotels in Pai, and the city center has transformed into containing western style restaurants, souvenir shops, and bars that cater largely to the now significant influx of tourists and package tours.

    Get around

    The town itself is best explored on foot. For exploring further afield, bicycles (40-100 baht/day) and motorbikes (from 100 baht/day) can be rented from many agents along the main street.
    Motorbike taxis are also readily available.

    See

    The town itself has no special sights; most people come simply for the relaxed atmosphere. Nearby attractions include hot springs and waterfalls, and a hilltop temple. There is also a wonderful canyon which provides the perfect spot for a sunset. This is a great spot to visit after seeing the WWII bridge built by Japanese-held POWs.
    Poi Sang Long is a famous buddhist children ordaining festival, especially in Mae Hong Son. Thai Yai cultural dance show can be seen at the temple fair, in the night.

    Do

    Rent a bicycle or motorbike and visit one of the nearby waterfalls and hill-tribe villages. Pai is also a major starting point for organized trekking tours which are offered by every guesthouse and travel agent.

    Whitewater rafting trips abound and there are numerous elephant camps. Additionally there are several hot springs in the area.
    Visit Tham Lod cave, approximately 55km from town on the road towards Mae Hong Son, 9 km from Soppong ( Pangmapha ). About an hour and a half on motor bike, or join a tour. Visit just before sunset (3pm-6pm) and see the thousands of birds descending into the cave for the night.

    Elephant Antics

    For several years now, travellers have enjoyed riding an elephant and concluding the trip with a romp in the Pai River. For this ‘adventure’, take as little as possible – you’ll be enjoyably wet as the elephant is encouraged to shower you. Some operators – and there are several – are willing to take photo’s of you while you enjoy the elephant antics in the river.

    Waterfalls

    Mae Yen – 7 kilometers out of town with no bikes allowed for the last 6km of that. Head East over the bridge heading out of Pai and follow the signs.
    Pam Bok – on the road to Chiang Mai before Pai Canyon. Nice secluded waterfall with high cliffs surrounding it, making this a very cool place to escape the heat. Go for a relaxing bathe in the shade during the dry season.
    Mo Paeng – West of the city past Santichon (Chinese refugee Village). The upper section of this waterfall is a natural water slide during the dry season. The rocks are smooth, just find a small section and slide on down like the locals do!

    Source Pai

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