"The City of Three Mists"Mae Hong Son is a picturesque, mountainous northern province bordering Myanmar to the west and the north. Hilltribes, Burmese-style temples, rugged mountains, stunningly beautiful waterfalls, numerous mountain caves, hot springs and pristine forests lend the province much of its unspoiled charm.
Mae Hong Son, Thailand's second northernmost province, covering an area of 14 244 square kilometers, is sheltered by several high mountains and enjoys a cool climate almost all year round. Mae Hong Son is bordered by the Union of Myanmar (Burma) to the north and the west, but there are, as yet, no legal border crossings. A strong Burmese influence can be seen in the province's temples and buildings. The population of Mae Hong Son include Thai Yai (or Shan), who are related to the Burmese tribes, and various hilltribes such as Karen ( the most famous of which are the long-necked women of the Pa Dong tribe), Hmong, Lahu, Lua and Lisu, scattering in the districts.
The whole region comes alive during February with brightly coloured sunflowers completely blanketing the mountain side.
Mae Hong Son townThe remote North Western town and provincial capital of the same name is little more than a large village. The town is know as city of the three mists as the low-laying clouds envelope the sleepy municipality.
The city itself has numerous temples and exquisite Burmese style pagodas which blend perfectly into the slow moving capital. Nearby settlement of various mixed tribal groups adorn the hill sand valley and the venerable cave where giant catfish swim freely with the blessing of the local spirits.
The morning markets are especially interesting where you can buy, apart from the usual household items and foodstuffs, an array of insect food such as crickets, worms and ant eggs. Mae Hong Son can be reached easily by road or by plane from Chiang Mai.
ExcursionsBesides visiting the temples or the tribes, the province offers many possibilities of excursions as caves, waterfalls, hot springs are numerous. But for nature lovers especially, the National Park is the ideal place for hiking (See below - Accommodation: Fern Resort).
Tham Plaa Forest Park (Fish Cave)is situated at Ban Huai Pha, 17 kilometers. from Mae Hong Son town. The surrounding areas are brooks and cool hilly forests suitable for relaxation. A special feature is the hollow cave filled with hundreds of Phluang fish, or carp soro, which you can see through an opening in the rock of 2 square meters. Some of these fishes are 1 meter long. They are fed with vegetables and insects by the locals and always stay in the cave. The cave has never been explored: an attempt, once, scared the sacred fishes away, and by respect for them, it has never been tried again.
Tham Lot CaveSome 60 kilometers from Mae Hong Son town, Tham Lod Cave is a place where antiques and pre-historic remains were found. It is one of the caves with the longest underground galleries known in South-East Asia. This huge cave is beautifully decorated with colorful stalagmites and stalactites. The cave is 50 meters high and 400 meters long, and a stream runs through it, and you need the use of rafts for the visit. Besides the main chamber, 3 secondary caves can be reached by wooden stair cases: the column cave, the dolls cave and the coffins cave where you see remains of very old wooden coffins, whose age and origin is still unknown.
To visit inside the cave, a guide and a lamp are needed. The light from the gas lamps adds to the fantastic atmosphere of these beautiful caves.
Long-Necked Karen (Pa Dong tribe)Amongst the most famous of the cities attractions, the Pa Dong are a hill-tribe inhabiting an area in Myanmar territory which shares border with Thailand's Bann Nam Phieng Din. Pa Dong people are farmers of rice, tea, and tobacco. Most of them believe in spirits and Buddhism. On their necks and limbs, Pa Dong women wear a brass spiral ring of which the length will increase when they get more aged and make their neck seem elongated.
The long-necked are the subject of many controversies. We have tried to know more about them and may be you will find some interesting information in the page: "A visit to the Long-necked women" (See below)