On trips to Mae Hong Son, I always sign up for at least one of the area’s popular tours. Mae Hong Son is one of Thailand’s still relatively-unspoiled regions and, because of that, is a mecca for Thais and foreign visitors who love to go jungle trekking, river rafting or mountain biking. So taking a tour is fun and a great way to meet people. Luckily, if you’re always on a budget like me, there are several companies in the Mae Hong Son area that run excellent all-inclusive tours.
Rainforest Trek and Hilltribe Homestay – Several companies run trekking tours through northern Thailand’s rainforests as well as have trekkers stay overnight in Karen hilltribe villages.
On these treks, you’ll walk through jungle, rice fields and rivers. You’ll get to birdwatch, climb waterfalls, swim in rivers, and walk for hours through some of the most beautiful, unspoiled scenery in Asia. At night, you’ll do a homestay with local Karen hilltribes people, experiencing how they live — fishing with them, eating the food they prepare, and sleeping the way they sleep. Treks are for at least two nights, and during that time you may stay at two different villages. Expect a lot of hiking over difficult terrain, and to be hot, sweaty and, sometimes wet. But, if you like getting back to nature this tour is the authentic deal.
Prices average around 9,000 baht ($300) per person, but if you can get three or four people to go with you, they often fall to 6,000 baht ($200).
Rafting Tours Around Mae Hong Son – Rafting has grown in popularity in Thailand in recent years, so various companies in Mae Hong Son run rafting tours. You can usually choose from one, two or three day packages but, if you love to raft, the three-day tours are the best deal.
Tours include all transfers, an English speaking guide, meals, accommodation and often an extra excursion. Most companies are good about safety, so you’ll be trained in how to safely handle your gear, as well as be given safety tips on acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It normally takes a few hours to get to the rivers where you’ll raft, so that’s also why three days is the best trip — you get more time on the water. You’ll then spend two days rafting, hiking, having picnics, and camping out in tents.
Prices start at 5,100 baht ($164), which is all-inclusive. If you want a private tour with more people however, you can often negotiate a lower price per person, depending on how many people will go.
Paddle and Pedal Mountain Biking – Mountain biking is huge all over Asia nowadays, with some of the most extreme biking done here. Around the Mae Hong Son area, there are several biking tour companies with experienced guides who know the area well, so can lead you on the most amazing natural trails.
The small local companies often do the best job, as they’re not in it for the big bucks, they just want to have fun and take a few people along with them for the ride. One of the best mountain bike tours is a “Paddle and Pedal” tour, where you do a four-hour trek on jungle paths, through caves and river rapids, stop for a picnic lunch and then end up back at the starting point utterly exhausted but absolutely buzzed.
One company, Cave Lodge, even has its own bungalow accommodation, and runs other tours including kayaking, birdwatching and even a cooking course. You could stay here a few days and be busy doing a different tour every day (see link below).