Kingdom of Thailand
Nestled in a deep valley hemmed in by high mountain
ranges, Mae Hong Son has long been isolated from the outside world.
Virtually covered with mist throughout the year, the name refers
to the fact that is terrain is highly suitable for the training
of elephants. Former governors of Chiang Mai used to organise the
rounding up of wild elephants which were then trained before being
sent to the capital for work. Today, Mae Hong Son is one of the
"dream destination" for visitors who are attracted by
its cultural and natural wonders.
Thai Yai Architectural Style Although a part of
the Lanna region, the indigenous Thai Yai or Tai people living there
are faced with very cold weather during winter and extremely hot
weather in the summer, with mist or fog practically throughout the
whole year. Not surprisingly they have had to adapt to the environment.
As a result, their architectural style has developed into something
different from other Lanna communities. Their living quarters are
usually built with tall floors and low roofs, the sizes differing
according to one's social status and position. Homes of the ordinary
folks are usually with one single level of roof, while those of
the local aristocrats have two or more levels forming a castle-like
shape. The space thus proved to help air circulation. An interesting
feature of the Thai Yai style d designs along the eaves which are
an architectural identity of the area.
Phraya Sihanatracha Memorial commemorates the first
Chao Muang (governor) of Mae Hong Son. A Thai Yai native from Burma,
he was regarded by the people as the governor of Khun Yuam, which
as to the south of Mae Hong Son. Later, he was officially installed
as the Chao Muang of Mae Hong Son by the King of Lanna in 1 874.
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu located on a hill to
the west of town, is a major provincial landmark. There are two
Burmese-style Chedis (pagodas). The larger on was built in 1860
while the smaller one was erected in 1874. A panoramic view of Mae
Hong Son can be enjoyed from the site.
At the foot of Doi Kong Mu is Wat Phra Non, which
houses a 12 metre long Reclining Buddha in the Thai Yai style cast
in 1875 by Phra Nang Miah, wife of Phraya Sihanatrcha. Another main
feature of the temple is the two large sculpted lions Iying side
by side, presumably providing the passage for those going up to
pay homage to the Kong Mu Holy Relic on the hill.
Opposite Wat Phra Non is Wat Kam Ko, an old temple
built in 1890. A special architectural feature is the cover over
the passageway from the entrance arch to the Burmese-style Vihan.
It also stores text in Thai Yai script chronicling the Thai Yai
Wat Hua Wiang or Wat Kiang Muang on Sihanat Bamrung
Road next to the Morning Market was built in 1863. It houses the
Phra Chao Pharalakhacng, a Buddha statue dressed in beautiful attire.
It is a replica of a major statue in Mandalay, Myanmar.
An old temple, Wat Chong Kham is located on the
bank of the swamp Nong Chong Kham and was built in 1827 by Thai
Yai artisans. The pillars are gilded in golden flakes. The temple
houses a large Buddha statue with a lap width of 4.85 metres cast
by Burmese craftsmen. The principal statue is another statue which
is a replica of the statue in Wat Suthat in Bangkok.
Next to Wat Chong Kham is Wat Chong Klang where
a replica of the Phra Phutthasihing is installed on an altar. There
are several interesting items such as wooden figurines of human
and animals depicted in the Phra Vejsandon Jakata (pronounced Cha-dok
which means one of odd stories of former in carnations of the Buddha)
created by Burmese craftsmen and brought over in 1857, painting
on glass about the Jakata and on Prince Prince Siddhartha, as well
as on the ways of life of the time. The captions are in Burmese.
There are also notations that the paintings were by Thai Yai artisans
OUT OF TOWN ATTRACTIONS
The Pha Bong Hot Spring is located on Highway No.108,
about 11 kilometres from town. There are facilities for mineral
water bath for health purpose.
About 17 kilometres from town on Highway No.1095
(Mae Hong Son-Pai) is Tham Pla Forest Park. The surrounding areas
are brooks and cool hilly forests suitable for relaxation. A special
feature is the hollow cave filled with fish. The fish are quite
safe from being caught as they are believed to belong to the gods.
Namtok Pha Sua is in Tambon Mokchampae about 17
kilometres from the provincial seat on Route 1095 to Pai district
with a left turn at Ban Rak Thai village. The waterfall is a further
twenty kilometres from the village. It is a large fall with its
water source in Myanmar. Pha Sua runs full during the late rainy
Another five kilometres further on along the path
to high hill are the hilltribe villages of Na Pa Paek and Mae Or
on the Thai-Burmese border.
The Tham Lot Forest Park is situated I n a forest
in Pang Mapha district some 77 kilometres form town. Here nature
has created an exotic subterranean wonder of darkness and mystery.
A brook runs from the cave mouth through to the other side of the
mountain. It is a route where visitors may travel by raft or by
foot to explore the 1 kilometre-long cave along which can be found
beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Also discovered are 2,000
year-old remains of utensils and coffins. There are services provided
by villagers to guide visitors in their exploration.
Another site where stalactite and stalagmites can
be found is the Mae Lana Cave. The stream inside the cave is habitat
to eyeless and colourless fish that live in dark environment.
Rafting along the Mae Pai is an exciting and delightful
recreation. Mae Pai itself is the longest river of Mae Hong Son
originating from mountain ranges in Laos which flows through Pai
district of the province and eventually joins the Salawin river
in Myanmar, a total distance of 180 kilometres. With an average
depth of some 7 metres, the river bed is mainly pebbled. There are
several sectors eminently suitable for rafting past rapids and natural
scenery including beautiful waterfalls. Tour operators in Mae Hong
Son town or in Pai district can provide the necessary service, some
also able to provide elephant rides. The best time for rafting is
from October to March.
Mae Ngao River is a good water route for shooting
the rapids. Adventure travel tourists can enjoy the unspoiled scenery
along the river banks. Services available from tour operators in
Mae Hong Son.
At Km.65 on the Pai-Mae Malai route (No.1095),
there is a turning leading to the headquarters of the Huai Nam Dang
National Park. Visitors can spend the night in tents to wait for
the spectacular views of sunrise and mist-shrouded mountain views
in the morning. Cherry blossom during January adds charms to the
The Tha Pai Hot Spring, two kilometres off route
1095 at Km. Marker 87, has an average temperature of 80 Celsius.
Steam from the spring permeates the site in the morning creating
fascinating sights. The area is also rich in teak woods and suitable
for overnight camping.
The Khun Yuam Indigenous Cultural Centre, located
at Km. 200 on Highway No. 108, has a considerable collection of
Thai Yai and other hilltribes handcrafted products. It also displays
military accessories and equipment of the Japanese army which entered
Khun Yuam district during World War II.
Wat To Phae is located 7 kilometres from Khun Yuam
having a large beautiful Burmese style Vihan. According to the legend,
it is said that raft assembling people used to gather up in this
area prior to making a teak trees raft trip to the marketing places.
The Dok Bua Tong (may be classified as wild sunflowers)
on Doi Mae U-kho blooms during November painting the entire Khun
Yuam district in brilliant yellow drawing flocks of visitors to
the area. A camping site is located about 26 kilometres from the
district town on Highway No.1263. A little further on is a huge
waterfall, the Mae Surin, cascading one hundred metres down below.
Here camping can also be set up.
Covering an area of 721 square kilometres, the
Salawin National Park, is on the bank of the Salawin river on the
Thai-Burmese border, about 164 kilometres south of Mae Hong Son.
Transport can be hired to travel go Mae Sam Laep village (46 kilometres)
and proceed on hired boat to reach the park headquarters. Scenery
along the Salawin banks is captivating with forest and mountains
and dotted with small hamlets. On the sandy beach in front of the
headquarters camping is permitted.
Being in a cool valley, Mae Hong Son is suitable
for tea-growing. The main area of tea plantations is at Ban Rak
Thai, a border village. In February, a Tea-Tasting Fair is held.
Visitors can ride on horses to view the surroundings and performances
by the villagers who are descended from Yunnan Chinese.
The traditional headgear called "Kup"
worn by the Tai is wide-brimmed with taper top. Together with bamboo
blinds and Karen woven fabrics, they are quite popular items to
buy among visitors.
Poi Sang Long Procession is in fact the celebration
of novice ordination which the Thai Yai tribe people hold to be
a highly meritorious occasion. Traditionally, the candidate-novice,
his head cleanly shaven and wrapped with head-cloth in the Burmese
style, will don a prince-like garment and put on valuable jewels
and gems, and ride a horse or be carried over the shoulders of a
man to the city shrine. Then he will visit abbots of various monasteries
to beg for forgiveness. On the ordination eve, a procession of offerings
and other necessary personal belongings will be paraded through
the town streets and then placed at the monastery where the ordination
will take place the next day. It is usually held during March-May
before the Buddhist Rain Retreat period.
Chong Phara procession The Chong Phara in the Thai
Yai dialect means a castle made of wood, covered with colourful
perforated papers and decorated with fruits, flags and lamps. It
is placed in the courtyard of a house or a monastery as a gesture
to welcome the Lord Buddha on his return from giving sermons to
his mother in heaven, according to traditional belief. The rite
is held during the post rain retreat season from the full-moon day
of the 11 the Lunar month (around October) to the waxing moon night
of the same month.
Other activities to celebrate the occasion include
dances where performers are dressed in animal costumes. This is
based on the belief that during those long-gone days, both humans
and the animal kingdom were equally joyful of the return of the
Lord Buddha and therefore joined in a jubilant performance as tribute
of the Enlightened One.
Bua Tong Blossom Festival Each year in November,
the hillsides of Khun Yuam and Mae Sariang districts are filled
with a host of golden Bua Tong Blooms. As gay as a daisy and almost
as large as a sunflower, the Bua Tong only blossoms for a month.
At Doi Mae U-Kho, the blossoms appear profusely.
Finally, the golden blooms become part of the scene. Some specialists
have classified these Bua Tong as weeds and because of this, they
may be cleared to make way for cash crops. Fortunately a group of
researchers have discovered the flowers insect-repellent properties.
And perhaps that is why the Bua Tong, a symbol of Mae Hong Son,
is still preserved on the hillsides.
Loi Krathong Festival Loi Krathong Festival is
held on the full moon night in the month of November every year.
Villagers make "krathongs" to float in rivers. At Nong
Chong Kham, various entertainments and a contest of large krathongs
are held near the central pond. Lamps and candles are lit all around
the area. Moreover, at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, there is a ceremony
of releasing candle-lit krathongs bound with balloons to the sky
(known as "Loi Krathong Sawan").