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Mae Hong Son Travel Guide


Mae Hong Son Mountains


  • Mae Hong Son town and airport is located in the remote north west of Lan Na virtually on the Myanmar border. First settled by the Shan people (Tai Yai) the region is home for Shan architecture and art, for the Karen and the Hmong minorities and the natural beauty of the Mae Suriin Water falls and Nam Tok Mae Surin National Park.
  • The major places of interest are the Burmese Temple of Wat Chong Kham, the 80 meter sheer fall of Mae Surin Waterfall, the Pai River (Nam Mae Pai) and its bamboo raft voyages and local wildlife.
  • The town of Mae Hong Son was founded in 1831, made a city in 1874 and a Province was created in 1893. 
  • The significant sites are: The 6 Temples (Wats) mentioned below,  The Pai River valley, Mae Surin Waterfalls, The National Park, and The ethnic minorities' villages.



Wat Chong Klang At night


  • Wat Chong Kham Wat Chong Kham temple complex was built by Shan (Tai Yai) artisans in 1827 on the banks of the town's small Jong Kham lake. It houses a large Buddha statue having a lap width of 4.85 meters and is in the Burmese Shan style.
  • Wat Chong Klang (1857) is a Burmese Shan styled Chedi on the edge of lake Chong Kham next to Wat Chong Kham. It is special for its replica of the Phra Buddha Sihing and its Shan wooden figurines of humans and animals depicted in the Phra Vesjsandon Jakata tale. The glass paintings are over 100 years old.
  • Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (1860 & 1874). This Temple is situated at the top of the hill to the west of town. It is distinguished by its two chedis, the larger one being built in 1860 and the smaller one in 1874. This is a good location for views and photography of Mae Hong Son and the surrounding hills.
  • Wat Kam Ko (1890) This Temple is architecturally distinguished by its roofed passage way from the entrance to the Burmese styled Vihan. Here are stored Tai Yai history chronicles.
  • Wat Phra Non (1875) This Temple is also Shan. It is situated at the foot of Doi ('' Mount '') Kong Mu.It is distinguished for its two large sculptured lions guarding the way up to the mountain and for its Shan (Tai Yai) styled reclining Buddha.
  • Wat Hua Wiang (1863) This Temple is located next to the market and enshrines the Phra Chao Pharalakhaeng Buddha Statue. This is a replica of the same image in Mandalay, Myanmar. Again this is in Shan style.


Mae Hong Son, before and now.
  • Nowadays it may be difficult to believe, but Siamese officials once dreaded being sent to work in Mae Hong Son, the kingdom's most distant and until recently most inaccessible province. On consideration, however, past fears of being sent to "Thailand's Siberia" are easier to understand. Hidden in a long and narrow valley several mountain ranges beyond Chiang Mai, the region had few attractions and numerous afflictions endemic malaria, banditry and a plethora of troublesome spirits, to name but a few.
  • One of the major hazards of a posting to Mae Hong Son was the physical act of getting there. Until the early 20th century, when the northern railway finally reached Chiang Mai, any journey between Bangkok and the ancient Lan Na Kingdom required six weeks to three months of difficult and dangerous travel upriver to Uttaradit the highest navigable point above Bangkok and then a long trek, often by elephant back, across, through and around the malarial hills and jungles of the north.
  • To reach Mae Hong Son was still more difficult, of course. The weary traveller might rest for a few days, or even weeks, in Chiang Mai but the inevitable continuation of the journey north and west, to the very frontiers of Burma's Shan State, weighed heavily on the mind. Until the Second World War, when an unsurfaced road between the northern capital and Mae Hong Son was first built under Japanese tutelage, no satisfactory land link existed between Chiang Mai and the far northwest indeed it was safer, faster, and certainly more convenient to travel to Mae Hong Son by way of British Burma.
  • And once in Mae Hong Son, what awaited the Siamese administrator but boredom on a good day, danger on a bad; the company of Shan lowlanders speaking a version of Thai all but incomprehensible to the denizens of Bangkok, or hill tribes deemed both barbarous and uncouth. Truly, Mae Hong Son was a punishment posting.
  • Today, such is no longer the case. Indeed, by a strange quirk of fate, those very qualities which one made Mae Hong Son so feared tranquillity, morning mists, a varied and diverse population now combine to make the hidden valley desirable, a veritable Thai Shangri-La.
  • Ringed by forest covered hills and mist-enveloped mountains, Mae Hong Son was first established as a permanent settlement in the early 19th century when Chao Phuttawong, Lord of Chiang Mai, ordered an expedition to the northwest with the aim of capturing wild elephants. The leader of the expedition, Chao Kaew Muang, set up his camp at a favoured spot on the banks of the Pai River. Many elephants were caught and despatched to Chiang Mai, where they were domesticated and pressed into service as beasts of burden.
  • Meanwhile Chao Kaew Muang's camp prospered, and took on the trappings of permanence. Itinerant Shan tradesmen and Chinese muleteers, attracted by the business to be done in and around the camp, came and settled down. In 1874, though by no means large, Mae Hong Son had achieved sufficient size to be designated a city by the ruler of Chiang Mai. Nineteen years later, in 1893—prompted, in part, by the British annexation of neighbouring Shan Sates the region was made a province by the Siamese Ministry of the Interior, with Mae Hong Son as provincial capital.