Happy New Year Everyone! Hope 2020 will be a better year for most!
Continuing on from the previous post, I flew into Mae Hong Son from Chiang Mai via a domestic flight – Bangkok Airways. Currently, there are only 2 airlines that fly to Mae Hong Son – Bangkok Airways and Nok Air.
The flight to Mae Hong Son was 45mins and from Chiang Mai, there were only 2 flights. I was scheduled for the 4pm flight to land in Mae Hong Son at 5pm. I bought the tickets about 3 nights before flying at 1900++baht. A sandwich and a drink were served on board.
To digress a little, evidently from the photo, it’s my first time on a propeller plane and I hope M will remember the kind of thing I did for love. LOLS. The flight landed smoothly and we even manage to reach 10mins before schedule. When we landed, the view was amazing. Blanketed by the “golden hour”, the surrounding mountain and forests became “softer” and even more enchanting than it already was.
As my flight was the only flight for that timing, everything was done really fast. Disembarking, collection of luggage, etc.
M and his mum had already flown to Chiang Mai a week before me and started their tour (around Doi Inthanon and Mae Hong Son) about 3 or 4 days before. I joined the tour entourage (M, M’s mum and his relatives) at their hotel – Palm House. The lodging was okay and I heard that they chose this place mainly because there was the triple room option and also of its’ proximity to the Night Market/Walking Street.
We had dinner at Kai Muk Restaurant and also celebrated M’s birthday. I was laughing my heads off when M was giving out cakes to each relative because from M’s grandpa to his grandaunt etc all of them gave their blessings one by one. I was laughing from the expectation of what the driver must be thinking (to say) but turns out, he only said thanks. Bummer.
Mae Hong Son Night Market
After dinner, we took a walk to the Mae Hong Son Night Market. It was unexpectedly big for a small town and very scenic as it was beside the lake and in the distance, a templed that was all lit up.
The crowd at the night market was relaxing, not too many people but enough to maintain a lively atmosphere. Most of the items sold at the night market were souvenirs, handicrafts, or food.
The party separated and M, M’s mum, M’s grandpa and I walked along the night market stretch and indulged in the street food while the rest of the relatives sat by the lake for another round of food. The food options at the night market felt endless. From the regular Thai fare – Som Tum (papaya salad), Meatball Skewers etc to the International favourite – Crepe, Mini Pancakes, etc.
We ended the night and came back around 8pm-ish while M’s mum and grandpa came back around 9pm and she was saying how the hawkers were already packing up at that hour.
The next morning we woke up at 6(-ish)am to leave for the famous Su Tong Pae Bridge. Which also marks the end of my estimated 12 hours in Mae Hong Son – I do hope that I will be back again on a less busy schedule.
We had breakfast at a restaurant nearby. Truth to be told, I am unable to compare breakfasts as I rarely wake up early anytime, anywhere (in fact, I missed the hotel breakfast in BKK because I overslept. lols).
But I like the breakfast vibe in Thailand because it is always low-key bustling but everyone is very patient. There is a kind of rush but no one is pushing anyone for anything and everyone is very orderly. I think this is the kind of slow-down I need.
Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma
To get to the famous Soo Tong Pae Bridge, the guide brought us to Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma. We came close to 7am and there were barely any tourists in the area yet. I did a quick search and it seems like most people just go directly to Soo Tong Pae Bridge via the village of Ban Gung Mai Sak which I think its a real pity because those people miss out the real length of the bridge and also the beautiful temple.
The bridge leading to the temple is made of bamboo and creak on each step. With the morning fog that was affecting my vision, I spent my trek concentrating on not breaking through the bridge. But lucky for me, I made it out alive.
Once we reached the temple ground, we can see how meticulous the monks are in taking care of the place. The temple is absolutely clean and comfortably serene.
Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge
The Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge was constructed by the villagers to serve the monks of Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma and the locals of Ban Gung Mai Sak.
Currently, the bamboo bridge is believed to be the longest in Thailand. It stretches over several rice paddies and when crossing the bridge you can see the locals working on their field.
The village of Ban Gung Mai Sak at the end of the bridge.
Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint And Rest Stop
We stopped at Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint for a break and it seems like this is quite a popular stop with both locals and tourists. This is the highest point of the journey between Mae Hong Son to Pai. The seats that M sat on was actually a rotating swing/ferris wheel that can accommodate 4 people at one time.
Built during the World War 2 era, Santichon Village is home to the Yunnan tribespeople. The village includes a restaurant, tea shops, ancient clothes rental, games booth and a huge man-made fortress. Although the village is not too big, we manage to spend close to 2 hours wandering around here.
Almost everyone in the village is able to converse in both Thai and Mandarin Chinese.
M and I trying archery at 100baht. The stall owner was very patient in teaching us and obviously, M was better at archery than me. Next, we also played with P269D sized BB-guns and damn, those hours I clocked on PUBG sure paid off. *Sorry M*
As usual, M was lagging behind the tour group and when we reached the last point – the fortress, everyone was getting ready to leave but M insists that since he is already here, he needs to take time out to rule his people.
If you are a trekking person, the canyon will be perfect to explore. But unfortunately, 70% of our tour members (above 50yo) plus me who has slip disc almost died on this hike.
Pai Historical Bridge
During the Second World War, the Japanese army wanted to have a route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son to effectively transport goods and soldiers to attack Burma. So the bridge was built over the Pai River. After the war, the Japanese soldiers left and burnt down the bridge (so that’s how burning bridges came about lols) but during the time, the bridge has become an integral part of the villagers in the area, so they rebuilt the wooden bridge.
Today the area is bustling with tourist and stalls. The Pai River is now famous for bamboo rafting among many other activities in the area.
Pai Walking Street
I first heard of Pai from a random GrabHitch driver on the way to work. After some search on Instagram (using Instagram photos to determine if the place is worth a visit lols), I ask M if he would like to include this place in the itinerary and he agreed.
While M’s mum and the driver was doing things old school by going from guesthouses to guesthouses asking if they have availability, I found Villa de Pai and suggested it. We reached the villa and reserved 5 villas for us to sleep for the night.
Each room was in a villa/hut and when we arrived, only the 2 person villa was available. The room was rather clean although pretty chilly with minimum heating facilities. Each of the room had a hammock outside for us to hang out at.
The streets of Pai were bustling with foreigners. M thought that it was very similar to Phuket minus the number of people. The vibe of the Pai walking street was fun and there were so many things to eat.
Along the street were the usual night market ware and there were pharmacies, bookstore, tattoo parlours, 7-elevens, restaurants, cafes and a lot of guesthouses as well.
We spent the night walking around and eating street food. The walking street was pretty big in a cross junction layout with food and every stretch. I kind of underestimated Pai thinking it will be another village but turns out, there was not only 7 eleven, but there was also Watsons as well.
There were these stalls franchises selling drinks (cha yen, chrysanthemum, butterfly tea etc) in bamboo cups at Pai. The first drink was 40baht with subsequent drinks at 10baht if you reuse the bamboo. We had at least 3 (or was it 4) cups to make our baht worth. Hahahahah.
We decided to take out most of our food to eat at the villa.
Snippet: While having dinner at the balcony, M and I heard someone (sounded like the mum’s voice) calling him. After making sure that it doesn’t seem to be anyone, we continued eating and we heard it again, in fact, the voice was almost next to us. M totally freaked out, lost his appetite and went in the room. HAHAHAHHA.
Overall, Mae Hong Son was beautiful and Pai was unexpectedly fun. Next time, I would love to spend more time in both areas if I get the chance to! Moving on, I will be sharing a little about M’s mum province so please stay tuned.
Till then again,