Tag - pai

Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand

This beautiful Northern Province is located along the banks of the river Pai near the border with Burma.

Mae Hong Son, with a population of around 7,000 people, is also the name of the Province capital. The town can easily be reached from Chiang Mai or via Mae Hong Son Airport.

Mae Hong Son is surrounded by mountains and is much cooler than the rest of Thailand, making it a great place to visit in the scorching summer months. In fact, for most of the year the valley is shrouded by mist and fog, which adds a mystical quality to it.

For nature lovers, Mae Hong Son is the perfect destination. Here you will find sparkling waterfalls, glittering caves such as Tham Mae La Na and the beautiful Tham Pla National Park makes a great day trip.

Mae Hong Son Province is home to the Padaung Hill Tribe villages, also known as the ‘Long Neck Women’ tribes after the long coils the women wear around their necks, which can weight as much as 22kg!

Many people visit the province in order to go trekking and visit these intriguingly exotic hill tribes. The hill tribe village of Ban Ruam Thai is particularly welcoming to independent visitors, or travellers can opt to go on a trekking tour, where a guide will take you to several villages in the area.

After trekking, you may want to relax in the Pha Bang Hot Spring, or pay your respects at the many local temples. There are dozens of gleaming temples to explore, such as Wat Huang Wiang, Wat Jong Kham or the nearby Wat Si Bunruang.

For the adventurous, Mae Hong Son is a great place to go rafting, and all your retail needs can be met at the bustling night market.

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand

There are 17 provinces in Northern Thailand, all featuring stunning scenery, grand temples and a range of activities and opportunities to engage in extreme sports. Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand and is certainly the largest and loudest, although all the provinces have something to offer the tourist with a sense strong of adventure and an interest in the diverse history of the region.

Northern Thailand displays heavy influences from the neighboring cultures of Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan (China). The kingdoms of Lanna and Sukhothai were the first historical Thai nations.

A series of Communist insurgencies and the effects from Myanmar’s drug battles and civil wars has meant that recently a large portion of northern Thailand was off limits. However, these problems have now been mostly resolved, and safe, easy travel is possible throughout the north.

Although standard Thai language is widely understood, the people of Northern Thailand have their own Thai dialect called Kham Meaung. The hilltribes also have their own languages, and if you wish to make extensive contact with them it may be a good idea to employ a translator/guide.

The main airport in Northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, which serves both domestic and international flights. There are also small domestic airports at Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai.

Spicy and bitter, Northern Thai food is quite different to that eaten in the rest of the country. There are dozens of local specialties and this is a great place to sample the traditional food of the hill tribes as well. A regional specialty is thick, slightly spicy sausages stuffed with raw garlic, the pride of Chiang Mai Province.

Other dishes to look out for include:

kaeng hang le – Burmese-style pork curry

khanom jiin naam ngiew – rice noodles with pork ribs and thick sauce

khao soi – a Burmese curry noodle soup served with shallots, lime and pickles to add as required.

Pai – Northern Thailand’s Sweetest Find

Pai – Northern Thailand's Sweetest Find
Pai – Northern Thailand's Sweetest Find
Pai – Northern Thailand's Sweetest Find
Pai – Northern Thailand's Sweetest Find
Pai – Northern Thailand's Sweetest Find

It’s possible you’ve never heard of Pai. This small town lies tucked away in the Thai landscape, a stomach-churning bus ride through the mountains west of Chiang Mai. While those who have passed through become fierce fans, it’s a town left off most travel routes. If you do make the journey and want to draw smiles here, tell fellow travelers that you only plan to stay a night or two. Every response is the same, a friendly caution. “You say that now, but wait…”

But no one in Pai is doing much waiting. Instead, they occupy their days bathing in nearby hotsprings and waterfalls, or eating and drinking in offbeat cafes. Visitors will find themselves getting Thai cooking classes, massage lessons, bamboo tattoos, and chatting the hours away with Pai’s eclectic population of passing backpackers and fun, friendly locals. After one or two nights, most travelers will gladly postpone their outbound tickets another few days, weeks, or indefinitely.

So what makes this town so exceptional? It doesn’t hurt to point out that Pai is undeniably beautiful, situated in the northern mountainscape. An easy motorbike rental allows access to the town’s nearby sites; waterfalls, hotsprings, elephant camps and explorer-friendly caves. Intrepid backpackers can use Pai as the base for jungle treks, hill tribe tours, and rafting trips.

But beyond the landscape, Pai’s charming small-town friendliness seems to be infectious, as strangers smile and say hello to one another on the street. It’s the town’s warm and relaxed atmosphere which makes it feel more homey than transient. Any traveler who has tired of busting cities and long tuk-tuk rides will delight in Pai’s walkable downtown. Here, travelers have drinks and chat leisurely at streetside cafes. On the main street, by the bus station, movie booths and art galleries line the road, among Khmer handicrafts and homemade jewelry stalls.

To a visitor, it feels that Pai has reached a happy medium of offering traveler-friendliness without being suffocated by tourism. Schoolchildren bustle home along the main streets, local artists sell their wares, a nightmarket on the eastern side of the town comes alive in the late afternoon. Though small in size, Pai’s active daily culture keeps it vibrant for local and tourist alike.

At the end of a long day, the town doesn’t quiet down. Fubar, a hilltop bar just across the bridge from the centre of town, is arguably the best nightspot in Pai. Here, you can catch the spectacular mountain sunset, as well as delicious local food. Even at nightfall, the town remains laid-back and social. After dark, Pai ignites as one traveler community, with people chatting and strolling around the foodstalls of the main street, off to sample the local Burmese-influenced cuisine, then to catch the live music at nearby BeBop. Not a bad way to spend a night, or two, or most likely more.

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.