Until I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, I’d never heard of Mae Hong Son, until many of my Thai friends mentioned how they go there every year. Always a popular northern province to travel to for middle-class Bangkokians, in recent years it’s become one of the destinations for foreign tourists who enjoy the outdoors, places that are unspoiled, or simply love to hike, mountain bike, or go rafting. With so many things to do in this incredible place, here are some of the best and most fun, and ones you should not miss.
The Doi Mae U-kho Flower Fields – If you ask any Thai who loves to travel if they’ve been to Mae Hong Son, just about every one of them will mention the Doi Mae U-kho flower fields, and they’ll then whip out photographs of themselves and their families standing in them.
The Doi Mae U-kho flower fields are famous for their Dok Bua Tong, or wild sunflowers, which grow in amazing numbers in this area. Thais travel from all over the country to Mae Hong Son in the blooming season in November, so they can have their photographs taken in fields just packed full of the biggest blooms you’ve ever seen. If in the Mae Hong Son region in November, you really shouldn’t miss it.
Namtok Mae Surin National Park – One of Thailand’s wonderful national park, Namtok Mae Surin is huge. It’s popular with travelers who like to hike, picnic at pretty waterfalls, or love to find unusual wildlife, flora and fauna.
The park is a botanical and wildlife reserve so, of course, you must be careful about not harming or damaging anything, and picking plant life is absolutely prohibited, but for a day trip or longer, to one of Thailand’s still relatively unspoiled places, and to enjoy true, mountain crisp air, it’s lovely.
Rafting, Mountain Biking and Trekking – There are travel groups all overthe Mae Hong Son region that will take you rafting, mountain biking or trekking. Most groups are small, fees are inexpensive compared to similar trips in a developed country, and guides are extremely knowledgeable.
Elephant trekking is also popular in the region, and travelers can hop on the back of an elephant and be escorted through the jungle by a mahout (elephant handler), have a traditional Thai lunch, take a bamboo raft ride down the river, and do some jungle walking, all for an all-inclusive low price.
Shop for Local Handicrafts and Products – Although buying handicrafts is popular all over Thailand, you’ll find even more unusual ones here. The Mae Hong Son area is known for its tea cultivation, much of it done by local hilltribes, so you can buy this tea from small shops, market stalls and even hilltribe vendors themselves in the area. Prices are inexpensive, and the quality is superb.
Also look for hilltribe textiles and products made from them. Bags are popular, as is clothing with intricately woven decorations, and even traditional Karen headgear (I’ve lost count of the number of western tourists I’ve seen in Thailand wearing it.). You’ll also find some gorgeous household accessories (ornaments, carved boxes, window blinds, etc) and handwoven baskets.
Getting to Mae Hong Son from Bangkok
By the way, don’t miss reading this if you’re not sure how you’re going to get from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son. You’ll discover a few ways you can do just that.