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Pai and Mae Hong Son

I have been in Pai a couple of times, and both of them I was amazed by the landscape, those mountains are really marvelous.

The first time I arrived via bus from Chiang Mai, the second on a motorbike trip. I arrived in Mae Hong Son at the end of a motorbike trip in December 2004.

I was already living in Chiang Mai and from there I followed the road to Mae Rim then turned on left and started to enjoy the mountain road that will take you to Pai first and to Mae Hong Son later.

Totally (with a scooter) is 7/8 hour trip, so I stopped one night in Pai, this is a must unless you want destroy your engine.

The trip is fine in dry condition from November to February, avoid that during the monsoon season!

The best are the fresh condition in December when you can really appreciate the amazing landscape.

You will not believe in December on the mountains in north Thailand, 1500 meter hight, how cold can be, prepare yourself.

Around the main town of Mae Hong Son there are several villages where the hill tribe people live peacefully. Regretfully, I have to say, some of them are fully exploited by the government and by the tourism industry that end up creating really a human zoo. They are not even Thai but actually Burmese, and they will remain in their villages whatever it cost because they will be persecuted in their own country.

I just want to remind that Thai government has always treated them as some sort of refugee and has never allowed them to enter in Thailand or to be real citizens. This will not change now that they are source of business.

Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village.Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman at work. Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, elephant camp.
Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, children playing.Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, children playing. Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, children playing.
Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman cleaning herself.Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman working at spin. Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman with baby.
Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman working at loom.Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, children playing. Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, vendor.
Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, woman playing instrument.Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, children playing. Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Ban Huai Seau Tao, Karen village, baby.
Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.
Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.
Northern Thailand, cold morning in Pai.Northern Thailand, cold morning in Pai.Northern Thailand, cold morning in Pai.
Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.Northern Thailand, along the road to Pai.

Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people but nowadays Pai primarily thrives on tourism.

Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, the town is full of cheap guest houses, souvenir shops and restaurants.

In the proximity of Pai there are Spas and elephant camps. Some resorts tap the hot springs and feed hot water into private bungalows and public pools.

As Pai lies at the foot of the mountains, many tourists use it as a base for trekking.

Pai in the last few years has appeared on the Thailand tourist map and has received major infrastructure upgrades including an airport with several daily flights, two 7/11’s, several small-to medium-size luxury resorts, a couple of live music clubs, beer bars and two sets of traffic lights. A new age of prosperity for Pai, others point to the loss of Pai’s traditional customs and culture.

This small town is not anymore Thailand, for years has received tons of backpackers that for some reasons (mostly for cheap smoke) decided that this place was ‘cool’. All you will find is cheap coffee shops, cheap guest houses, horrible pizzas and burgers, and Thai guys with hair style like Bob Marley.

All the original culture of this place is gone and the old fellows complain daily with the authorities about the future of this, once, peaceful little Thai village.

Mae Hong Son is one of the northern provinces of Thailand, and at the same time the westernmost. Mae Hong Son (The City of Three Mists) is nestled in a deep valley hemmed in by high mountain ranges, Mae Hong Song has long been isolated from the outside world.

It is the most mountainous province in Thailand it is virtually covered with mist throughout the year.

Most of the areas of Mae Hong Son Province are still pristine virgin forest representing  the 88% of country’s forest regions.

Mae Hong Son is today a well appreciated Thai tourist destination, daily flights into its small airport bring growing numbers of people, attracted by the natural scenery, numerous hill-tribe communities.

It is believed that the lands of Mae Hong Son had already been settled before the arrival of Lord Kaeo of Ma and his consequent resettlement in the area 1831 A.D. However, there is no evidence as to what time or period they arrived, nor of their migrations thereafter. These former inhabitants have left evidence of their activity in the area and are believed to have been Lua, or Lawa, hill tribes’ people.

These first settlers of Mae Hong Son were likely depopulated by either malaria or war, with survivors then dispersing out to safer areas.

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– Pai and Mae Hong Son pictures / Thailand – portfolio © www.artphotoasia.net –