Mae Hong Son is a sleepy town with 17,000 inhabitants in the mountainous northwest of Thailand. It’s known for its nature, hospitality and natural beauty. More than enough reason for us to go and explore! What’s the best way to do that? That’s right; on two wheels!
Pai – Mae Hong Son
Equipped with two rented motorbikes we went on an unforgettable trip through, along and over the green mountaintops in the northern part of Pai to Mae Hong Son (100+ kilometers). We hit the road feeling a bit nervous for three reasons:
- Mariska has driven a motorbike through Thailand before, but not very often;
- It was cloudy and quickly started raining (slippery!);
- Mariska decided to rent a 140 cc motorbike, and where we’re from you need a motorcycle license for those!
Luckily our nerves quickly turned into amazement and admiration for the surrounding nature and landscape. It was difficult to keep our eyes on the road because the views were stunning!
Mae Hong Son Loop
The route we drove (Pai – Mae Hong Son) is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Though there are many variations of the route, the original route is 650 kilometers long. It runs from Chiang Mai – Pai – Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Doi Inthanon National Park – Chiang Mai.
The roads are very well maintained, the winding (hairpin) bends are a lot of fun and there’s hardly any traffic. It’s one of the most popular routes among motorcycle and motorbike drivers in the world. We understand why!
Every cloud has a silver lining
Halfway through our trip the inevitable happened.
It started raining heavily and we were forced to take shelter under a tree. Our cheap ponchos from the 7-Eleven served their purpose and about half an hour later we were back on our motorbikes heading towards Mae Hong Son!
As always, the sun started shining again and for the first time that day we saw signs of blue skies.
Sang Tong Huts
The remaining 388 bends in the road were a breeze and before we knew it we arrived in Mae Hong Son in one piece. Yes, we did it!
With a little preparation, we found the way to Sang Tong Huts; a suggestion made by my younger brother who stayed here before. A truly lovely place just outside of the ‘city’, with beautiful bungalows surrounded by nature, a nice pool and really friendly and helpful staff.
In short: the perfect place to recover from the long journey!
Besides this place to stay, we should also mention the Salween River Restaurant. They serve the most delicious Thai and Burmese dishes for next to nothing. This may have been the best meal we’ve had in Thailand. Or maybe it was because we were ridiculously hungry after the trip?
Anyway: it’s a must!
Su Tong Pae: Bamboo bridge
What kind of things did we do in Mae Hong Son?
We visited an original bamboo bridge with a small accompanying temple, just outside the city. An unusual sight we haven’t seen anywhere else in Thailand.
You get great views of the surrounding area, which is mainly dominated by paddy fields, straw huts with corrugated roofs and locals working in the scorching heat.
The temple itself is calm and authentic. A passing monk, a stray Chinese tourist who keeps on flashing his camera and the wind rattling the wooden chimes outside the temples.
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu: view of the city
There are a few places in the city that you also shouldn’t miss. The Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu gives you the unique opportunity to see Mae Hong Son from above.
You quickly realize this ‘city’- with an airport – is smaller than you think!
Sightseeing in Mae Hong Son
But for us, Mae Hong Son’s main attraction is the road leading to it!
Yes, there are (beautiful) temples and things to do (such as rafting in the rainy season), but cruising around on a motorcycle lets you see the real Mae Hong Son. Green paddy fields, small straw huts housing entire families, buffalo plowing the land…
Get lost and have a cup of tea somewhere on a mountaintop!
Back to Pai
After two days of Mae Hong Son, it was time to head back ‘home’!
On the way back, we visited a Fish ‘Cave’ (a hole in the ground under a steep rocky slope), ate dried noodles beside the road and stopped several more times to admire the green mountaintops.
It’s only a matter of time before we drive the complete Mae Hong Son loop. Vroom-vroom!