I first came across Mae Hong Son in Patricia Schultz’s book, “1000 Things Places to See Before You Die”. She described it as a town with swirling mists, calm rivers, and beautiful tribal villages — and I remember thinking to myself then that some day, I have to get to this place. Fast forward more than 15 years since I read that first edition, I finally made it to the village town. Thanks to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)’s “Family Fun in Amazing Thailand 2018” project (read about it here), a group of Malaysian media (and agents) and I were taken on a whirlwind adventure to Thailand’s north — and to Mae Hong Soon.
Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son is the capital of the Mae Hong Son Province, situated in the north-west hills of Thailand, just a few kilometers from the border of Myanmar. Its mountain-setting and remoteness meant that the village town is not as busy as many of the more touristy Thai cities (or its more popular neighbour, Pai) — and that gives Mae Hong Song a rustic, laid-back and relaxed vibe. Surrounded by forested hills all around — it really is the quiet, misty town I have always imagined it to be. The town is not completely unexplored though; the curvy route from Chiang Mai makes it a popular trip for the experienced bikers, and locals have always been visiting for its cool weather in winter.
Getting to Mae Hong Son
From Kuala Lumpur, we took a flight (with a stopover in Bangkok) on Thai Airways to the city of Chiang Mai — the base of all trips to Mae Hong Son, be it by air or by road. Many people would love the adventure of driving (or biking) the infamous Mae Hong Son Loop with its 1864 curves — a 6-hour, almost 300 kilometers trip. Instead, we hopped on a Bangkok Airways flight and landed in the small Mae Hong Son Airport some 35 minutes later. However, there were minor delays on our flights both ways — but while waiting, we got to chill in the boutique airlines’ lounge.
Staying in Mae Hong Son
There are a good number of hotels and guesthouses located in the Mae Hong Son town centre around Chong Kham Lake (which makes it easier to get around), but we had our own transport — so we stayed a little further out of town at the 4-star Imperial Mae Hong Son Resort (Book with AGODA). The huge resort has a pool and is surrounded by forests, and my room balcony overlooked them all (so I had a great morning view). The place could do with a little upkeep though, as it is mainly made of wood (some creaking floorboards here and there); but I enjoyed my one night stay, and the pretty decent international breakfast buffet spread.
One Day in Mae Hong Son
Our flight from Chiang Mai landed in Mae Hong Son in the late morning, and we left on the same flight out of town the next day. That gave us exactly a day to explore this mountain-village. The “Family Fun in Amazing Thailand 2018” project had planned an exciting time for us, filled with fun activities (and missions) at the local attractions — so from selfies with sheep to playing dress up, this was our one day itinerary.
Pang Tong Palace
Upon arrival at Mae Hong Son, we were immediately whisked away to Pang Tong Palace, an hour north from the town centre. Our tour guide was John, who gave us a brief introduction to the town as we passed by the farms and plantations of some of Mae Hong Son’s main produce – garlic, soybean, sesame and tea; crops that had been introduced to replace opium, which was previously widely grown in the area. This is in line with the main purpose of Pang Tong Palace (yes, it’s not an actual palace) — a project undertaken by the Thai royal family to promote the development of agriculture in the area.
Pang Tong Palace encompasses a wide piece of land that is filled with gardens, plantations and fields where animals like sheep and horses run free. We were taken to the sheep farm; where we got to feed the sheep, play with the little lambs, and watch as the local women work on wool and make local products. Our first mission at Pang Tong Palace was to take a selfie while feeding milk to the lambs — how fun is that?