Mae Hong Son is 924 km from Bangkok. Drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then choose a route to Mae Hong Son. There are two road options from Chiang Mai, each taking 5-6 hours by car:
- Chiang Mai—Hot—Mae Sariang—Khun Yuam—Mae Hong Son (Rte 108) totals a distance of 349 km. This is the easier drive, especially the Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang part.
- Chiang Mai—Mae Malai—Pai—Mae Hong Son (Rte 1095), a distance of 236 km but with 1,864 curves. While this is the more scenic route, it is more demanding of the driver.
Regular bus services connect Mae Hong Son with Chiang Mai (Arcade Bus Terminal). The trip will take at least 7-8 hours. A better option is the minibus, also leaving from Arcade in Chiang Mai, which only takes 5.5 hours but costs 250 baht. If you're going by bus, you can choose the northern (Pai) or southern (Mae Sariang) route. The northern route is a little faster. The new bus station in Mae Hong Son is about a 15 minute walk from the centre of town to the southwest. The bus station is set on a seemingly deserted street that runs parallel to the main road in town.
There is also an overnight bus to Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) which takes about 15 hours.
Sombat Tour, operates an air conditioned bus which runs directly from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son every day. The bus departs from Chatuchak (Mo Chit 2) Bus Terminal at 15:00, 17:00, and 18:00 with a fare of 718 baht.
The nearest train station is at Chiang Mai. One can travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by rail and then continue to Mae Hong Son by bus. For more information, call 1699, +66 2 2237010, +66 2 2237020 or visit Thai State Railways.
This is a small town so walking is the way to get around. There are bicycles for rent from Titan Internet shop (across from the 7-11 and post office). To do anything in the surrounding areas a motorbike, or at least a bicycle, is needed.
The new bus station seems like it is in the middle of nowhere and the tuk-tuk and motorbike taxi guys love that. A ride to the centre (including most guest houses) costs 80 baht, but really it's only a 10-15 minute walk to the centre of town. You should just turn left out of the bus station and walk straight until you hit the golden statue. Walking up next to the statue, the station is just a bit further towards the city center.
Walk around the picturesque lake and visit the surrounding wats. Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (aka Wat Phai Doi) overlooks the town from the west and offers superb views.
- Ban Rak Thai (Mae Aw). A Kuomintang (KMT) village near the Myanmar border. On your way up (or down), you can stop by Pang Ung (Ruam Thai), a picturesque Shan minority village high in the mountains.
- Pang Ung. Often referred to as Ruam Thai on some signs and maps, is a Shan Minority Village near Mae Hong Son. It should be combined with a trip to Ban Rak Thai. It is a picturesque village of bamboo houses, probably dolled up a bit for the tourist industry. Bamboo grows everywhere, including one stand at least 80 feet tall. There are one or two restaurants. It is unclear what they serve. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners speak some English, but this is not as heavily touristed as one might expect, so communication will be limited if you don't speak Thai. There are at least two homestays here, and another guesthouse in the town between Pang Ung and the main road. From Mae Hong Song, follow signs for Ban Rak Thai, but at the village of Na Pa Paek, turn left, following the signs for "Pang Ung Reservoir," or something of the sort. The signs are not exactly consistent, but if it indicates a reservoir, you are going the right direction. It is about 5.5 km from the turn-off, at N19 29.955, E097 54.705.
- Fish Cave (Thumpla) (Near the village of Huay Pha, about 17 km from Mae Hong Son via Hwy 1095). This is a beautiful spot to escape the heat. A water channel that wends its way out of a small submerged cave. What is inside the cave is still unknown, but it astoundingly draws thousands of the "Pluang-Hin" fish into the cave, with only a small number of them coming back out.
- Pha Sua Waterfall (26 km from Mae Hong Son on the road to Pai). This waterfall consists of six levels and offers some fine walks. This waterfall is about 20 m high and 30 m wide. It is said to be the most beautiful waterfall in Mae Hong Son Province. In rainy season, the cascading water makes the waterfall look like a rolling mat.
- Thampla-Phasua Waterfall National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติ ถ้ำปลา - น้ำตกผาเสื่อ). This national park covers more than 488 km of the "Thanon Thongchai" range that separates Thailand from Burma. "Doi Larn" is the highest peak in the area, with an elevation of about 1,918 m.
- Hiking. One of the main reasons for tourist to go to Mae Hong Son is to go hiking in the surrounding mountains and visiting hill tribe villages. Nearly every guesthouse offers tours.
- Mae Hong Son Loop. The provincial capital of Mae Hong Son is only one part of this vast and beautiful mountainous province. Explore the rest of the province by taking the popular Mae Hong Son Loop which travels through the province on a circuit that starts and ends in Chiang Mai.
- Night Market (At the lake). Interesting market where you can buy art and handicrafts from hill tribe people.
Typical northern food consists of:
- Nam phrik ong - a type of nam phrik chili paste that is made of minced pork and tomatoes. It is usually eaten with soft-boiled vegetables, pork crackling or deep-fried crunchy rice cakes.
- Nam phrik num - another kind of paste that is popular in the north and eaten by Thais of all regions. It is often eaten with pork crackling.
- Sai ua - a local sausage that is very aromatic and spicy, and usually is eaten with sticky rice.
- Kaeng - a Thai curry
- Kaeng Hang-Le - a northern-style pork curry.
- Kaeng Om - a spicy curry made with intestines.
- Kaeng khae - a spicy vegetable curry.
- Khanom Chin Nam ngiao - a traditional northern chicken noodle dish.
- Khao Soi - a noodle dish that can be made from chicken, pork, or beef. It contains coconut milk and is garnished with garlic.
- Khao Som - cooked rice mixed with turmeric and tomato. Eaten with fried chilies and green peas.
- Khao Lhueng - cooked rice mixed with turmeric. Made into a small ball and sprinkled with fried onion. It is usually eaten with pork balls.
- Khaow Kan Chin - cooked rice mixed with the blood of fowls and steamed with fried onion. It is eaten with fried chilies.
- Tua Pae Yee - dipped fried soybeans
- Tau Pae Lau - fried soybeans with salt.
- Souy Tamin - a dessert, made of sticky rice, coconut milk, and cane sugar.
Many restaurants are along the main road and the night market where there are also many food-stalls. There is a nice evening food market by the old jail, nowadays a table tennis club, close to the monument to the Shan king.
- Bai Fern Restaurant, 87 Khunlumprapas Rd—87 ถนนขุนลุมประพาส, ☎ . An upscale restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere featuring Northern Thai specialties. Live (easy listening) music in the evenings. Affiliated with the Fern Resort (resort guests coming to town by shuttle drop off here).
- Holland Club (Mok and Maew Souvenir) (Corner of Khunlun Praphat Rd and Rung Ruang Kaan Ka Rd. Look for the windmill out front.). Nice place to sit back and relax with a coffee and home baked apple pie (fresh out of the oven if you time it right). Browse the teak carvings, chat with the lovely lady who owns the place or browse the Dutch news printouts.
- JiJi Restaurant. Closed Su. A larger restaurant just 30 m from the gates of the city airport is the best value for your budget money when you want to order vegetarian Western food. Of course the owner Lek is also fantastic at cooking Thai food.
- Kai Mook, 23 Udom Chao Nithet Rd (A few doors down from the corner with Khunlumprapas), ☎ . Don't miss the stuffed pork leg, and the fish sausage stuffed inside a deep fried snake head fish.
- Meeting (SW corner of the lake). 08:00-23:00. Good coffee, good breakfast, free Wi-Fi.
- Salween River Restaurant (Near the lake, next to PA Motors), e-mail: email@example.com. Great food, people and atmosphere. Nan, the Shan owner, can cook up some amazing Shan/Thai/Western dishes. Try the Khao Soi, Burmese green tea salad, gai oup, or the green curry. Also good are the bread, pizza, and burgers. They have Wi-Fi and a big library of books that you can swap one-for-one for free. 30-300 baht.
- Baiyoke Chalet (On the main road opposite the post office.). Mae Hong Son's own kind of night club. Listen to live music, the same band plays almost every evening of the week, and enjoy the Thai audience singing along and dancing around the tables.
- Crossroads (At the intersection between the main north-south road and the road leading to the hospital). The one pub that caters to both Thai and Westerners.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||less than 500 baht|
|Splurge||over 1,500 baht|
Mae Hong Son has a broad range of guest houses, mainly clustered around the lake. There are several hotels within the city. If you've got your own transport there are several more resorts farther out of town. Take a look before checking in because there are always changes.
- Look Dtai Homestay, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Owned and operated by a Shan lady. 100-300 baht.
- Friend House, 20 Phaditchongkam Rd (Near the lake, next to Chili bar.), ☎ . Owned and operated by a very nice Shan family. It’s simple and cheap. The downstairs can be a bit loud if you're sleeping late and others are talking over their breakfasts. Great fruit salad. 13 rooms. 100-350 baht.
- Johnnie Guest House, 5/1 Udomchawnitech Rd (Near the lake, but you'll have to walk about two blocks to get to it.), ☎ . Eight rooms. 100-250 baht.
- Palm House, 22/1 Chamnansahait Rd, ☎ . Fourteen large, clean rooms near the lake with TV/UBC cable. 350-600 baht..
- Prince's House (Next to Johnnie Guest House). Shared bath twins. Lake view rooms with en suite baths. 150+ baht.
- Yok Guest House, 14 Sirimongkol Rd, ☎ . Nine rooms. 200-300 baht.
- JongKam Palace (North side of the lake, a few hundred metres from Johnnie's). Bungalows, large rooms with king size beds, air-con, hot showers, free Wi-Fi, pleasant gardens. 600 baht.
- Pana Huts, ☎ . Fan rooms with hot showers. 600-750 baht.
- Piya Guest House, 1/1 Khunlumphrapat Soi 3, ☎ , fax: . Clean rooms, many with TVs and all with air-con. Good location. 14 rooms. 700 baht.
- The Residence@Maehongson, 41/4 Nivetpisarn Rd (300 m from the morning market), ☎ . Check-out: 11:00. Each guest room is equipped with air-con, TV, refrigerator, en suite bath (hot showers) and free Wi-Fi. Free bicycles available. 900-1,300 baht..
- Fern Resort (7 km from the centre of Mae Hong Son), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Well appointed 2-bed bungalows dot the expansive and attractively landscaped grounds of the resort. Guides can be hired for a hike in nearby Mae Surin National Park. No TVs in rooms, and the Wi-Fi is slow. 2,500-3,500 baht, includes breakfast.
- Rooks Holiday Hotel & Resort, 114/5-7 Khunlumprapas Rd, ☎ , . One of the more upmarket places in Mae Hong Son and offers wooden cottages as well as standard hotel rooms. It's a little bit out of town, but within 10-15 minute walk of the night market/city centre. Some of the cottages are in need of a little refurbishing so take a look before check-in. 3,400-9,000 baht, web discount available.