Mae Hong Son

24 Jan

After several days in Pai, we took a minivan further into the mountains to Mae Hong Son, a small town near the Burmese border. I’ll be the first to admit that Mae Hong Son was not precisely an exciting place; however, what it lacked in excitement it made up for by being gorgeous. The center of town has a small, man-made lake, and there are two intriguingly shiny temples on one bank, with picturesque mountains rising in the background. Our hotel was right on the lake, and every night there was a market of tasty foods and handicrafts spread out surrounding the water.

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Mae Hong Son had a much different vibe than Pai for two reasons. First and foremost, Pai had been quite crowded with tourists (December is high season in Thailand). In contrast, Mae Hong Son was practically empty, and many of the tourists we did see were Thai domestic tourists, who behave much differently than the ubiquitous Western backpackers. Second, almost fifty percent of the town’s population is from the neighboring Shan state in Myanmar (the same state where Inle Lake is located), and the architecture and cuisine reflect this. The temples are Shan-style rather than Thai, and many of the street signs had Burmese script. Lonely Planet says Mae Hong Son has “a border town feel”, a statement that I thought was odd when I first read it, but which actually captured the atmosphere nicely.

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We spent two full days wandering the small town, and enjoying being lazy (are you sensing a theme on this vacation?). The daily temps were a bit warmer than in Pai, and I took full advantage of our guesthouse pool. I also tried running for the first time since the half marathon, and the lovely, rolling hills almost killed me! Aside from our lounging, we spent a full day exploring the surrounding countryside on a “Nature Walk” with a lovely gentleman named Khun La (khun is the Thai equivalent of IMG_0195Mr/Mrs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called Mr.Coonan because the Thais don’t modify the title based on gender). The nature walk was a hike in disguise, to my delight and Orestes’ heaving sigh of resignation. We went up, up, up to the top of the ridge line, where I learned that pine trees do grow in Thailand! I was inordinately psyched about this discovery. Khun La turned out to have an extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna; he found all manner of orchids, birds, and creepy crawlies for us to check out. He also displayed a very Buddhist demeanor, carefully replacing orchids that had fallen down, moving branches out of the path, and taking care not to tread on any new plant growth. Our hike led down to a little stream, then followed the stream back around to where we had started. On the way, we made a butterfly friend who took a liking to my red backpack, and hung around for nearly ten minutes, allowing us all manner of close-ups. Check out the handiwork below. All in all, it was lovely, nature-filled day.

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Since you rarely hear from Orestes, I will let him have the last word on Mae Hong Son as well. “It was a beautiful place. Very nice, very relaxing… very boring. I enjoyed the walk through the woods… for the most part.” 😉

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One Response to “Mae Hong Son”

  1. elaine mccormick February 6, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    What a beautiful place. Both of you look very relaxed and will have many wonderful memories of your time in Southeast Asia. I can’t wait to see what you will come up with for me on my next visit. I will be sure to come while you are on holiday so we can plan a great adventure. Love, Mom

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