MAE HONG SON is 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 destinations for visitors. Daily flights into its small airport bring growing numbers of tourists, attracted by the spectacular scenery, numerous hilltribe communities and soft adventure opportunities.
THAI YAI CULTURE
The Thai Yai can be seen along the northern border with Myanmar. They may at one time have been the most numerous of the ethnic Thai tribes that stretch across Southeast Asia. A large group settled in Mae Hong Son.
The Thai Yai culture has had a strong influence on the province, as can be seen in its architecture. Although a part of the Lanna region, the indigenous Thai Yai people living in Mae Hong Son 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 ones 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 provided is believed to help air circulation. An interesting feature of the Thai Yai style is the perforated designs along the eaves which are an architectural identity of the area.
How to get there from Bangkok
Mae Hong Son is located 924 kilometres from Bangkok. Drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then choose the following routes to Mae Hong Son:
Chiang Mai Hot Mae Sariang Khun Yuam Mae Hong Son (Route 108) with 1864 curves, a distance of 349 kilometres.
Chiang Mai Mae Malai Pai Mae Hong Son (Route 1095), a distance of 245 kilometres.
Muang Nuea Yan Yon Tour (Tel: (0 2936 3587-8) operates an air-conditioned bus which runs directly from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son every day. The bus departs from Chatuchak (Mochit 2) Bus Terminal at 6 p.m. The trip takes about 17 hours.
One can travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by rail and then continue to Mae Hong Son by bus. For more information, call 1699, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or visit www.railway.co.th
Thai Airways flies Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son daily. Reservation should be made in advance at Tel: 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000 or call 1566 or visit www.thaiairways.com for current schedule.
SGA Airlines offers flights from Chiang Mai -Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai - Pai For current schedule, please call 0 2664 6099 or visit www.sga.co.th