If you are doing the Mae Hong Son loop, you might discover that the city of Mae Hong Son is in the middle of the loop.
A small town that isn’t really special during the day. In the evening you will find a very nice night market with the best food you will taste.
During the day it’s better to explore the areas around the city. There are some pretty nice temples like Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. Try pronouncing it five times in a row. The ride towards this temple was a bit hard but worth it.
Another tourist attraction is Su Tong Pae Bridge, a bamboo bridge made by monks which leads to the village of Kung Mai Saak. Across this bridge, they sell everything, mainly food and drinks. There is a temple as well.
How to get to Mae Hong Son
It doesn’t matter how you get to Mae Hong Son. Most people go from Chiang Mai to this city. Buses and own transportation are the best ways of getting there.
Well, the most obvious way to get here is by motorcycle (big bike) or scooter (110 cc motorcycle). And you won’t be disappointed since the route goes right through the best nature of Thailand.
Renting transportation isn’t really hard. Things have changed after Covid. We rented a scooter in 2023. The vehicles are in better condition, passports aren’t needed to be held by the renting company (they do make a copy), a deposit is normal, and the full-is-full policy is really in effect. Still, you do need a license to drive one. If you don’t have one you aren’t ensured and you need to pay for everything yourself in case of an accident.
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Another way to get to Mae Hong Son is by bus. This will be cheaper, but it will take you a long time. Approximately 6 hours of corner taking in a bus. If you get carsick quickly, I wouldn’t recommend it. It will be around 10 dollars for a one-trip ticket.
Yes, there is an airport, but there are only flights between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai or Bangkok Don Muang Airport. Although it is really hard to find flights, it is possible.
What to do in Mae Hong Son
One of the reasons we love Mae Hong Son is the fact it’s a rather small city. No mass tourism and tourists usually stay one day before continuing on the Mae Hong Son loop. There isn’t much to do, except for some temples… Of course.
Some activities are a bit out of town. Transport is required. There are some operators who can bring you where you want.
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Like most cities in Thailand, there is a night market in the center of Mae Hong Son. It’s pretty big and does not only offer food. It also offers clothing and things you might need in and around the house.
During the night market, they close off some streets. If you are on a bike it’s easy to park. If you are there by car or (small) bus you are up for a challenge. The entrances of the market are easy to find.
The food is really good and you can sit down alongside the big lake in the middle of the town. Enjoy a walk around the market, find that one souvenir, or have a nice conversation with a local. Most of them speak pretty good English.
If you don’t want to eat food on the market, you can check out Good View Bar & Restaurant, but be sure to book in advance. Other restaurants are a bit around the lake, but there aren’t many. The night market offers a wide variety of food, so don’t worry; you won’t starve.
Su Tong Pae Bridge
This is a bit outside the town, but it’s a bamboo bridge made by monks which leads to the village of Kung Mai Saak. Across this bridge, they sell everything, mainly food and drinks. There is a temple as well.
Before you enter the bridge you will find a temple or buildings that form the temple. Take a minute to enjoy these simple, yet beautiful, structures.
It’s a short walk between rice fields and some cows that aren’t bothered at all. The bridge is decorated with colorful flags that move in the wind. Walking here in silence makes you calm inside. A small piece of advice: Go early, otherwise the sun will burn you alive.
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
Like most cities in the north of Thailand, Mae Hong Son has a lot of temples. But there is one that stands out: Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. Which is surprisingly the only one I could pronounce correctly the first time.
Be aware that the road toward this temple is pretty steep and a small scooter could have some trouble going up. Going doing is a challenge too, but it’s worth it.
The big white temple can be seen from afar and the view from the top makes you forget all the troubles in the world. You can see over Mae Hong Son. If you are lucky you can see an airplane go up. The mountains in the background make you forget all about the temple.
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Long Neck Karen villages
Before I start, no… These are not the Karens we know from complaining to the managers. These are the world-famous women with big rings on their necks.
It’s a strange sight at first, but it has something special too. There are two Karenni subgroups, the Kayan and the Kayaw. Another name, more local, for these women, is Pa Dong. They have been living in Thailand since 1985 after they fled Myanmar.
Just be careful, it might feel as if the village, which you can visit, is set up for tourists to pay a lot of money for souvenirs. There are different tour operators that will give you that unique experience. Read the reviews before you book. We don’t suggest operators, because things change over time.
One of the best things I enjoyed most about Mae Hong Son is nature. I have never seen something like this. The mountains are all green, the roads are perfect, and the air is pure.
If you go with your own transportation I would highly suggest just driving around a bit. Explore roads, go on the forbidden track.
I can’t tell you much about the nature, it’s something you need to experience yourself! But here are some pictures:
Where to stay in Mae Hong Son
There are many places to stay when you are in Mae Hong Son. Stay in town if you don’t have your own scooter or big bike. But the area around Mae Hong Son is much quieter and offers resorts. Here are our top 3:
A little bit outside the city, so transport is required. Good lodges and it’s also possible to camp here. In the middle of nature.
Located in the city center of Mae Hong Son and the airport. Convenient if you want to be close to the inner city. Close to a walking street.
Rooms in the jungle, with a balcony. Quiet and peaceful. Hotel offers a shuttle to the Mae Hong Son.
And what do you think?
Well, that was Mae Hong Son in a nutshell. It’s an experience I will never forget. The food and the people are so much different here. We have seen a lot of Thailand, but this felt special. This was really where the smile of Thailand was invented.
Have you been to Mae Hong Son? Let us know what you think about this little town. What have you done or how did you experience it?
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