Mae Hong Son - Page 2
Food and Drink
There are restaurants located along the main street, which runs north-south through the town, and food stalls near the night plaza. These offer Burmese curries, Chinese noodles, Sipsong Banna food, even some Thai food.
It is quite easy to spend the night at a table watching the town go by, drinking the locally made spirit, Lao Kao, and getting friendly with the diners on the other tables.
The first destination for any tourist should be the famous Wat Doi Korng Mu, a Shan style Buddhist temple perched on a small hill overlooking the city. It was built by the first King of Mae Hong Son. The walk can be quite strenuous, but car drivers often stop to offer visitors a free lift to the top. (This is definitely not Bangkok).
From the Wat the whole town can be seen stretched out below, like a map. At sunrise the temple is bathed in a rosy pink light as clouds, the colour of Burmese rubies, gently envelope the town below.
After a sunrise visit to the temple you may want to descend to the town and visit the morning market. Between 6:00 and 8:00 am the market is alive with farmers and hill tribe people in colourful dress, selling farm produce and household products.
The original centre of the town was the Lake Nong Chong Kham. On the banks is the beautiful Wat Chong Kham, a 200 year old temple that houses antique glass paintings and wood carvings that were brought from Burma more than 100 years ago. Along the edge of the lake locals and visitors crowd to feed the huge Koi carp and goldfish, from a sala built at the end of the pier. Around the lake are some of the loveliest houses in Mae Hong Son.
Although the town is pretty with quaint side streets and Burmese style roofs, it is also the people who are a major attraction for this area. More than 50% of the province's population are members of a hill tribe. The largest group is Karen, but there are also villages of Meo, Lua, Lahu and Lisu.
There are several day trips available which pass by Shan, Karen and Meo villages. A visit to Mae Aw on the Burmese border takes about 2 hours and is well worth the effort. You can visit the town of Pai, to the east of Mae Hong Son, and stop at the Pha Sua waterfalls on the way.
Many tourists head for the world of the famous Pradong, or Long Necked Karen The women of the Pradong stretch their necks from an early age. It is a practice applied only to the women who are born at the full moon, and it is believed that taking off the rings will result in certain death. Some of the women have up to 25 rings. The wealthier the family is, the more rings the women have. The rings cost around 2000 Bahteach
Trekking is popular with many visitors and can usually be arranged through your hotel. A local guide will take a group for an arduous walk through the mountains, sometimes riding elephants or rafting down the Pai river. Tours are easy to book in Mae Hong Son and can last from an afternoon to several days.
Apart from the fascinating hill tribes there are several beautiful scenic sites in the surrounding countryside. The most famous is the Fish Cave, a 30 minute drive north of the town. The cave is reached by a suspension bridge over a river and a walk through the well maintained forest park. At the cave is a spring of water which is packed with Koi carp. The locals consider the fish to be sacred. Anyone eating a fish from the Fish Cave will bring bad luck upon themselves from the spirits of the mountain who protect the fish. There is also rumoured to be a long cave beyond the spring, where Japanese soldiers hid treasures looted from Burma, during the second World War.
More spectacular natural scenery can be found at the Nam Lot Cave in Pang Ma Pha district, an hour's drive north of Mae Hong Son. This is a series of caverns through which the Nam Lang river flows. It is a National Park and visitors will be provided with a guide and lanterns to visit the caves. Nam Lot Cave has revealed prehistoric remains of humans and animals. The nearby Nam Long cave, is reputed to be one of the largest in the world.
South of Mae Hong Son there is Thailand's highest waterfall, the Mae Surin Falls. Thee are also two hot springs at Pha Bong and Nam Hu Hai Chai where visitors can bathe in the hot mineral waters. Some people bring eggs to boil, which can be eaten as a health food.
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