Mae Hong Son Loop: Part 1

Chiangmai to Pai

I had gone over different ways of how to do the trip to Mae Hong Son. Mae Hong Son (แม่ฮ่องสอน) is a remote northern province west of Chiangmai. There was only one commercial domestic airline serving the area. The flight schedule between Chiangmai and Mae Hong Son was not frequent enough when trying to coordinate with flights between Bangkok and Chiangmai. It’s also very expensive.

I briefly considered a bus from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son. But the time it would have taken for the trip would have been too much for Krich to be off work. Plus the thought of a long bus ride made it easy to abandon the idea.

A combination of flying from Bangkok to Chiangmai and a better way to get to Mae Hong Son was the most logical way. However, instead of taking public transportation to Mae Hong Son, we decided that we could use a tour company to help arrange a trip. A few years ago David and I did a 3-week road trip through Vietnam. A tour company in Hanoi arranged for private vehicles and accommodations. It turned out to be one of our best trips. So we wanted to do a similar thing. We contacted a local company in Chiangmai before we left the US. They arranged for a private van and a personal driver. The company also booked hotels that we would stay each night. The trip itinerary was provided but, since it’s a private tour, we had the flexibility to choose what we wanted or not wanted to do base of on our preferences and the time we had. We weren’t the type of travelers who need to see and do everything. We like to take time to enjoy the places and people. Such flexibility in the plan worked well for us.

Our trip started from flying out of Bangkok Don Mueang Airport to Chiangmai. The van driver picked us up from Chiangmai Airport and drove us to Pai (อำเภอปาย). Pai is a district in Mae Hong Son Province. When I was growing up in Thailand, Pai wasn’t known much for its tourism. It’s now full of tourists both Thais and foreign visitors. It’s a little town tucked in the valley with a river running through it. The road between Chiangmai and Pai is up into mountains and has many twists and turns. It was a good idea to have an experience driver taking us there rather than driving it ourselves.

We stopped at Pong Nan Ron Tha Pai (hot springs, โป่งน้ำร้อนท่าปาย) to stretch our legs and dip our feet in the hot springs. Next was Pai Canyon, relatively unknown to many Thais. Pai Canyon has a cool geological feature formed by continuous erosion that carved narrow ridges of lands in the forest. It’s not too scary for David and me to climb and explore. But we would be a bit concerned if it had rained previously. After a few other stops, we checked into a resort to unwind and unpack. We went out for dinner in town and visited Pai’s night market. We stayed in Pai for the night.

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Continue to Part 2: Pai to Mae Hong Son

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