Mae Hong Son, also called “The city of Three Mists” is a small town in Mae Hong Son province, the most North Western province of Thailand. Mae Hong Son is located more than 900 kilometers from Bangkok and some 150 from Chiang Mai and borders to Myanmar.
The town is set in a valley surrounded by high mountains. For this reason, Mae Hong Son used to be isolated from the rest of the country. Since the town got its own airport, things have changed and the city has become popular with foreign and Thai tourists.
Since this is a small town, most attractions can easily be reached on foot. Mae Hong Son province is mostly known for its beautiful scenery, adventure activities like trekking and the presence of a number of hill tribes.
Things to do & see in Mae Hong Son
Wat Jong Klang and Wat Jong Kham
In the centre of town on one end of Jom Kham lake lie the twin temples of Wat Jong Klang and Wat Jong Kham, which are Mae Hong Son’s most famous landmarks. The temples dating back to the early 19th century are built in Burmese style and look very different from the temples in the rest of Thailand.
A large Buddha image in Burmese Shan style and a wooden throne can be found inside the temple. The Wat Jong Klang has a beautiful white and gold chedi with a large viharn (prayer hall) behind it. Inside the viharn a large number of paintings on glass can be found telling the Jataka tales, which are stories originating from India telling the previous births of the Buddha. A number of paintings also depict scenes of daily life in those days. The paintings were created by Burmese artists and brought over to the Wat Jong Klang in mid 19th century. Also a number of wooden figures of people and animals that play a role in the Jataka tales can be viewed here. At night the temples seen from across the lake offer a spectacular sight.
Mae Hong Son is home to a number of beautiful temples, where the Burmese influence can easily be seen.
The Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu temple outside of town is located on top of Kong Mu hill, offering great views of Mae Hong Son and the airport. The temple complex has two pagodas from the second half of the 19th century, that were build in Burmese style. There is also a large golden colored standing Buddha at a viewing point on top of the mountain.
Close to the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu is another temple, the Wat Phra Non, located at the base of the same mountain. The main attraction of this temple is the viharn, that contains a 12 meter long reclining Buddha image dating back to the end of the 19th century. In Mae Hong Son city centre, next to the morning market, the Wat Hua Wiang temple complex can be found. This temple was build around 1863 and features a large bronze Buddha image in Burmese style.
Pai is a small town a small distance east of Mae Hong Son town. It is known for its relaxed, laid back atmosphere and has numerous hotels, bungalows and guest houses in all price ranges. Pai is located in a beautiful green valley surrounded by mountains. Since there are many hill tribes in the region like the Hmong, Lahu and Lisu, Pai is a popular base for people who like to go trekking and visit the hill tribe villages. On Wednesday many of the hill tribes people come to Pai to the weekly market.
Pai and surrounding area offer lots of activities like rafting on the Pai river, elephant trek, cave exploration, hot springs and mountain biking. Pai can easily be reached from Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son, and now even has its own airport.
A number of hot springs can be found in the Mae Hong Son area. One of the better known is Pha Bong hot springs which is set in a public park, some 10 kilometers out of town. You can enjoy a mineral bath here, since the water is not too hot. Many local people come here to enjoy the health benefits of mineral water hot springs.
Shopping for handicrafts
Mae Hong Son offers a number of good places where you can find hand made items, especially those made by local hill tribes people. A fun place to stroll around looking for bargains is the night market close to Jom Kham lake. This is also a good place to try some local Shan food.
There are lots of souvenir shops in town. Some of the attractive items for sale here include silverware, gems, woodcarvings and handmade hill tribe products like bags, necklaces, dolls and clothing. Always use caution when buying expensive items like gems and antiques, and keep in mind that for some antiques an export permission is required. Mae Hong Son Royal Folk Art Center on Khumlumpraphat Road is a training center for local and hill tribes people, but also offers lots of handmade products for sale, like woven fabrics, silverware and silk.