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If you want to experience Northern Thailand then the Mae Hong Son loop is a must. This route takes you through some of the most picturesque and culturally rich parts of Northern Thailand, including Pai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, and Chiang Mai.
From rolling hills blanketed with lush green rainforest to small riverside villages full of friendly locals and stunning temples hidden in the mountains, this loop will give you an unforgettable experience.
Along the way, we stopped at various viewpoints to enjoy the magnificent views and visit some temples scattered across Northern Thailand.
From exquisite temples to one-of-a-kind experiences with elephants, no two days look the same for those willing to journey off the beaten path.
A 600-km trip from the incredible city of Chiang Mai will entice explorers who choose the legendary Mae Hong Son Loop pathway.
On this picturesque trek, you will anticipate a rendezvous with quaint towns like Pai, Mae Sariang, and Mae Hong Son, complemented by glimmering waterfalls, limestone caves, and remote wilderness.
So why not set sail on an unforgettable adventure as you discover delightful hidden gems in Northern Thailand? Our trip was truly an unforgettable experience, and we’d recommend it to anyone looking for a unique way to explore the region.
Overview of Mae Hong Song Loop
Before we delve deeper into each place in the Loop, let us first get a glimpse of the entire route.
- Doi Inthanon (2 hours from Chiang Mai)
- Mae Sariang (3 hours from Doi Inthanon)
- Mae Hong Son City (3 hours from Mae Sariang)
- Baan Rak Thai (an hour from Mae Sariang)
- Wat Tam Wua (1 hour and 30 mins from Mae Sariang)
- Pai (2 hours from Mae Sariang)
- Back to Chiang Mai (3 hours from Pai)
The Mae Hong Son Loop starts in Chiang Mai, the vibrant digital nomad capital of Northern Thailand. It takes about two hours to get from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon, which is 92.6 km away. Doi Inthanon is a nature reserve and home to Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon mountain.
From Doi Inthanon, you will continue your journey to Mae Sariang via Route 108, which takes about three hours since it’s 165.8 km away. Mae Sariang boasts of its rich culture and heritage, from traditional Shan houses to its beautiful temples.
From Mae Sariang, you must travel almost three hours to get to Mae Hong Son City via Route 108. Even though it’s 163.9 km away, you won’t feel the distance since you will be captivated by the amazing views of the valleys and mountains.
Next, you can travel to Ban Rak Thai from Mae Hong Son taking roughly an hour since it’s only 43.3 km away. During this short trip, you will pass through the incredible Tham Pla-Namtok Pha Suek National Park, known for its lush green forests and beautiful waterfalls.
After exploring Ban Rak Thai and the surrounding attractions, you can visit the Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery, just one hour and 30 minutes away. Here, you can meditate and appreciate the beauty of nature.
After soaking up the peace and tranquility in Wat Tam Wua, you can drive to Pai in approximately two hours, as it is 69.8 km from the forest monastery.
Here, you can explore its vibrant nightlife, breathtaking attractions like Pai Canyon, and abundant activities such as trekking and exploring waterfalls.
Lastly, you will return to Chiang Mai, which will take about three hours. During this ride, you will be presented with some of the most incredible views of Northern Thailand. Make sure to take lots of photos to remember the amazing journey!
So, who’s ready for an adventure along the Mae Hong Son Loop? As you take on this legendary road trip, prepare for a unique and exciting adventure like no other in Northern Thailand.
Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon
How much time does it take to travel from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon?
Starting your journey in Chiang Mai and traveling to the majestic Doi Inthanon National Park will require a pleasant 1.5-hour drive along route 108. While it’s easy to succumb to the city’s charms, try breaking away and embracing the wilds of nature as you explore the sprawling rice paddies, quaint villages, dense jungles, and soaring mountains; all coming together to give an immersive experience that is good for your soul.
What to expect in Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon is an incredible day-trip destination from Chiang Mai, but getting there isn’t always easy. For those looking for the simplest way to go, booking a tour is likely your best bet; with door-to-door pickup and drop off, all you’ll need to bring is yourself and 30 USD.
If you’d like to take matters into your own hands and drive yourself, it’s important to note that the road can be treacherous for learners — definitely something to think about!
Another option is taking a yellow songthaew for around 140 baht or 5 USD each way, although you will have to change songthaews in Chom Thong. And finally, you can hire a private driver, though it’ll set you back 90 USD for the day — well worth it if you’re after peace of mind.
Heading off to Doi Inthanon is an easy undertaking in Chiang Mai. To take public transport from the south of the Old City, simply make your way to Pratu Gate and search for the deceivingly small red songthaews.
Be sure to spot them quickly, or you’ll risk missing one! When you arrive at Chom Thong, switch over to another yellow-painted vehicle that will carry you up toward your desired destination.
The roughly two-to-three-hour journey is bearably comfortable. However, it should be noted that this route won’t take you to any of the principal temples or many of the nearby waterfalls.
When you drive this route on your motorbike from Chiang Mai, please exercise caution as the roads through Doi Inthanon are not as well maintained as most of the rest of the highways.
Where to stay
Maewin Terrace is an affordable 3-star accommodation that won’t break the bank. With a car park at no extra cost, you’ll be well situated to explore the city without hassle.
Tourists can relax with a massage while they experience cultural spots such as the iconic Wat Chedi Luang nearby, where there are also fantastic dining opportunities to cherish. The price starts from $18 per night.
The Leaf Homestay
The Leaf Homestay offers top-notch amenities, comfortable beds, and unbeatable prices to ensure your trip gets off on the right foot. Not only do they offer a car park free of charge, but this 4-star property also features in-house facilities that add extra delight to your stay.
While you’re there, don’t forget to explore the enchanting sights at Doi Inthanon or visit Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most popular temples in Chiang Mai. Rates start from $31 per night.
Chiangmai Elephant Home Family 1
This luxurious 5-star property in Chiang Mai is a great choice if you’re looking to start your vacation off right. Set near the idyllic Doi Inthanon, here you’ll find yourself with convenient access to some of the town’s most interesting attractions and dining establishments.
But allure doesn’t just come from off-site, as Chiangmai Elephant Home Family 1 offers an array of impressive in-house facilities for maximum leisure and comfort.
Price starts from $22 per night, which means that you can plan hassle-free vacations while getting your money’s worth.
What to do nearby Doi Inthanon
Once you step on Doi Inthanon, the fairytale-like Sirithan Waterfall is not far away. Glimmering in the lush green jungle, this majestic 40-meter cascade awaits you to take your breath away!
Apart from amazing sights, it offers all the necessary amenities: a viewing platform to fully enjoy this peaceful sight, a car park, and a charming cafe to refuel with some hot coffee or snacks before getting back on tour.
Doi Inthanon is the highest point in Thailand
Witness an unforgettable view as you reach the highest point in all of Thailand – Doi Inthanon. Many visitors have claimed that the temperature drops significantly here, so make sure to bring a jacket!
While visiting this majestic peak go to the royal temple situated in its neighborhood. It is composed of a white statue that ensconced the ashes of King Inthanon himself.
Even if for a few seconds, take the time and immerse yourself in the serenity of this beautiful spot.
Wachirathan Waterfall in Doi Inthanon
Wachirathan Waterfall is an impressive natural wonder, towering at a tremendous 80m of sheer power. With ledges that stretch up high and wide, showering the surroundings in a spray of mist and energy, one can’t help but be awe-struck, beholding this enormous glory of nature.
Such a show is best viewed from afar, free from barriers, selfie sticks, or anything else to dampen your appreciation for its majestic grandeur.
So if you ever find yourself in Doi Inthanon National Park looking for some peaceful respite among thunderous waterfalls — Wachirathan Waterfall is it.
The Twin Pagodas
The majestic Twin Pagodas of Doi Inthanon National Park perfectly represent Thailand’s King and Queen.
It’s no wonder this site is so captivating — it boasts breathtakingly beautiful architecture, and its flower gardens are also truly remarkable!
Where to eat in Doi Inthanon
Mae Chaem Gate Restaurant
In an ambient atmosphere, Mae Chaem Gate Restaurant is the ideal place to grab some delicious Thai cuisine. The menu features a range of different cuisines to satisfy everyone in your group.
If you drink, you can complete the experience with one of the famous craft beers or a glass of wine. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating for visitors, so on a pleasant day, you can relax outside and enjoy some time in nature.
The prices are affordable here and the engaging hospitality from the staff. The average price per meal is around 7 USD.
For a delicious and unique dining experience, visit Sikon Restaurant. Here, guests can savor the flavors of tantalizing Thai cuisine. Guests can also enjoy a hot bowl of soup or feast on nicely-cooked pad Thai.
Based on reviews, service is always quick and efficient, which makes for a pleasant dining experience. The good news? The amazing dishes are served at average prices that won’t hurt your wallet — with meals averaging around 5 USD per person.
With views of rolling hills, glittering streams, and vibrant wildlife, Doi Inthanon is a paradise for the adventurous traveler looking to explore Thailand’s natural beauty.
But safety comes first! When visiting the mountain, always stay on marked paths and trails; the park headquarters has guides who can help you plan your excursions.
Don’t forget to check the weather before venturing out because heavy rain can make pathways muddy and steep slopes slippery. It’s best to bring plenty of drinking water and snacks to avoid the risk of dehydration or hunger.
Doi Inthanon to Mae Sariang
Our Story in Mae Sariang
Traveling to Mae Sariang was an exhilarating experience for Richa and me. As we set off from Chiang Mai, we decided to see the beauty of this rural Northern Thai town without visiting Doi Inthanon as I’d already seen it.
The small but distinct road leading to Mae Sariang was packed with numerous villages, markets, rivers, and hill country — giving us a unique opportunity to explore the countryside while taking in the mesmerizing views.
Apart from our short insight into the local cultures, displaying the unseen beauty of Thailand — and more noticeably along our journey — this trip gave us more insight into the nature and customs of Mae Sariang.
Upon our arrival, we discovered an idyllic community that left us with a great story to tell when we returned home.
How much time does it take to travel from Doi Inthanon to Mae Sariang?
For those planning a scenic journey from Doi Inthanon to Mae Sariang and passing by Mae Chaem, you’ll be rewarded with approximately 4.5 hours of leisurely driving through some of the most spectacular panoramic views Thailand has to offer.
With lush forests and rolling hills at every turn, this journey promises stunning peaks and memorable moments that will be worth stopping for a photo or two.
What to expect in Mae Sariang
If you’re heading for the small and cozy town of Mae Sariang, it’s never been easier or more convenient to get around — walk or rent a bicycle at the local guesthouses for just 50 baht or 1.52 USD per day.
If you’re around in November, don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing Mae U Kho, blooming out gloriously in a golden hue thanks to the Dok Bua Tong.
Where to stay in Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son Loop
Mae-Sa-Riang Home provides a comfortable and affordable stay in Mae Sariang. All rooms include bedding and towels so you likely don’t need to pack your own towel. An Asian breakfast is available every morning at the hostel to get you fueled for the day.
Prices start at around $16 per night — an ideal option for budget-conscious travelers in search of quality accommodation during their visit to Mae Sariang!
Riverhouse Hotel (The Teak House)
The Riverhouse Hotel is located on the banks of the Yuam River, which is a perfect location for travelers looking for a tranquil and peaceful stay.
It provides air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi, free private parking, and in-room amenities such as handmade wooden furnishings, TVs, and private bathrooms with showers.
Guests can use the nearby River Resort’s swimming pool and bicycles at no extra cost. The hotel is a convenient 1-hour drive from the Myanmar border (Salween river) and a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai.
Travelers can also enjoy delicious local Thai cuisine or Italian dishes at the on-site restaurant. Prices start at around $37 per night.
We chose the Riverhouse as our first night’s accommodation in the small city of Mae Sariang because of the high reviews and location in town. It was busy with other travelers, but its location next to the river made it a good place to kick back after a long day.
Situated along the Yuam River, River House Resort offers modern and cozy guest rooms, making it the ideal destination for a much-deserved getaway. This resort comes with comfortable air-conditioned rooms, including private balconies, cable TV, and a refrigerator.
Those looking to explore the area can make trips to Tham Kaew Komol Cave or take a stroll through the sunflower fields of Doi Mae Ho in just 30 minutes. For added convenience and security, the facility also provides on-site parking and safety boxes.
With free Wi-Fi throughout the property and meeting facilities available, River House Resort promises guests a luxurious stay at an affordable price starting from around $50 per night.
What to do nearby Mae Sariang
Visit Wat Chom Thong
Visiting Wat Chom Thong is an experience you will never forget. Start from Mae Sariang, take Rural Road Mae Hong Song 4057, and cross the Yuam River — from the bridge, you’ll see the tall golden statue of Buddha on the hill in front of you.
The road will lead to an intersection, and shortly after that, you’ll spot a Thai-style gate leading uphill. After a short climb, you will reach the temple, where you can park your bike.
Once at Wat Chom Thong, marvel at the magnificent view and take a leisurely stroll around all of its mesmerizing attractions — pick some flowers, admire beautiful dragons, and bask in the grandeur of Buddha’s giant presence.
Take a dip at the Mae Um Long Luang Hot Springs in Mae Sariang
Mae Um Long Luang Hot Springs is a unique destination for those wishing to explore and experience a traditional hot spring in Thailand.
You must drive east from Rt 108 to Chiang Mai before taking a left and turning the road into a track.
After 2km, you will find a bamboo bridge and park your vehicle here — walking across the bridge gives you access to the hot springs. Locals are friendly, though few speak English, so be sure to ask questions and take everything in.
There are two huge baths up the hill filled with beautiful hot water — just make sure you bring your towel. It’s an unforgettable experience that offers relaxation, discovery, and connection with nature.
Visit the Karen and Lawa Hilltribe Villages
Visiting the Karen and Lawa hill tribes in Mae Sariang promises to be another unforgettable, cultural experience. These authentic villages are off the beaten track and difficult to find, but with some local knowledge, you will be able to dive into a whole new cultural realm.
Thailand Hilltribe Holidays provides a range of guided treks and car tours in order to explore these magical villages while practicing responsible tourism.
During your journey, they specialize in providing unique opportunities for cultural immersion, something that you can take back home and remember fondly for many years.
While we didn’t go do this ourselves, we did visit the hill tribes with Ethnic Hill Tribe eco trails in Doi Inthanon, which you can learn more about in the video below.
Where to eat in Mae Sariang
Ing Doi Secret Garden Restaurant
Dining at Coriander in Redwood is a great way to savor the flavors of spring rolls, fish, and chicken. The pleasant atmosphere created by the accommodating staff means that guests can sit back and enjoy themselves and their meals.
Service at Coriander in Redwood is lightning-fast — so you can get your food quickly without sacrificing flavor or freshness.
The prices here are fair for what you’re getting, with each guest spending around THB 330 to THB 820 (or approximately $10 to $25).
If you’re looking to venture into the world of international cuisine, Sawadee is well worth considering. Not only do they offer delicious salads, but also a variety of refreshing beers.
The courteous staff is professionally trained and is attentive to your needs, creating an enjoyable atmosphere in which to dine. Prices are remarkably reasonable, with meals ranging up to THB340 or $11 per person — perfect for any budget-conscious diner.
Cafe de Grill
Cafe de Grill is renowned for its divine coffee and deserves its great reputation. Not only that, but visitors will also get to enjoy the wonderful array of Thai cuisine served here.
The delicious steaks are particularly popular with guests, who appreciate the superb quality and value for money. Visitors can dine with peace of mind knowing they won’t break the bank at this cafe; each person is likely to spend no more than THB 330 or $11.
With unbeatable service and fantastic food, Cafe de Grill stands out as one of the best choices in town.
If you’re after quality Thai cuisine and a pleasant atmosphere, look no further than Inthira Restaurant. Whether you’re craving crispy fried chicken, succulent garlic fish, or the traditional tom yum soup, this restaurant has something for everyone.
Not to mention, the elderly Thai staff is both friendly and efficient in making sure your visit is an enjoyable one. You’ll be able to find something within your budget too; the price range offered extends from THB340 to THB860 (USD 10-25).
Customers will also get hearty servings at value-for-money prices! When we ate there, the old ladies were so nice, but the food was insanely spicy. It’s perfect for those of you who can handle a bit of heat.
Visiting Mae Sariang can be an enjoyable experience for travelers, as the city is known for its friendly inhabitants and helpful attitudes.
To ensure a safe journey and enjoyable experience, it is important to note that the roads that take travelers to waterfalls or hot springs tend to be bumpy in certain parts, especially during periods of rain.
Renting motorbikes or cars requires extra caution when driving throughout the town.
Additionally, visitors should bear in mind that if they happen to need medical assistance while in Mae Sariang, there is a hospital located there; though, more serious problems should be resolved by returning to Chiang Mai.
Becoming aware of these potential hazards will help ensure a pleasant and secure stay while visiting Mae Sariang.
Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son City
Our Visit to Mae Hong Son City
Our little adventure to Mae Hong Son City begins with an unlucky encounter. We were caught in a torrential downpour! We ended up being forced to buy new, weather-appropriate clothing for only $3 at a used clothing store we randomly found on the side at the road.
We spent an extra night at Fern Resort in Mae Hong Son City, which allowed our belongings some time to dry out from the storm. Our experience wouldn’t have been complete without meeting another couple, Max and Tatiana from Bangkok, at a local cafe who joined us for the view of a spectacular rainbow over the city of Mae Hong Son.
How much time does it take?
With a driving distance of 160 km, it takes about two hours and 28 minutes to get from Mae Sariang Subdistrict to Mae Hong Son.
This travel route runs through lush countryside and picturesque valleys, allowing travelers to admire the natural beauty along the way.
For those looking for an adventure, a drive down this winding and mesmerizing road may very well fit the bill; this is particularly true if one takes their time and allows themselves to really take in what nature has crafted.
With paddy fields dotting the horizon, mountain peaks that seem to peer down upon travelers, and quaint little villages tucked away in quiet corners, journeying between Mae Sariang Subdistrict and Mae Hong Son will always be a rewarding experience.
What to expect in Mae Hong Son City
When visiting Mae Hong Son City, the best way to explore the region is on foot. It is a small town, and walking allows for the most immersive experience.
Bicycles may be rented from Titan internet shop conveniently located near the 7-11 and post office. For access to any of the areas beyond walking distance, a bicycle or motorbike will be necessary.
The new bus station is situated in an advantageous location for local transportation providers such as tuk-tuk and motorbike taxi services, but visitors should find it easy enough to walk from there to the city center in less than 15 minutes.
Simply walk left out of the station and follow the street up to the golden statue found nearby. From that point, it’s only a short distance further into Mae Hong Son City proper.
Where to stay in Mae Hong Son City
Saiyud Hostel provides a quality accommodation option for those visiting Mae Hong Son. It features air-conditioned rooms with access to amenities such as a shared kitchen, lounge, and bathroom with shower.
Each room at the hostel also has free WiFi and mountain views, while bed linen is provided to ensure guests’ comfort. The convenience of Saiyud Hostel’s location is further enhanced by its proximity to the nearby Mae Hong Son Airport.
Rates start from just $19 per night, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers.
Boondee House provides comfortable accommodation with free Wi-Fi and free parking available. Each air-conditioned room features traditional wooden furnishings such as a cable TV, refrigerator, and tea/coffee maker, along with a private balcony.
With luggage storage facilities and a tour desk at the front desk to help you make travel and sightseeing arrangements, it’s an ideal base.
It’s situated just three minutes away from Sai Yud Morning Market, five minutes away from Night Market Walking Street, and ten minutes away from Wat Phrathat Doi Khong Mu. Rates start at just $22 per night for a memorable stay in Mae Hong Son.
Located in Mae Hong Son, Fern Resort Mae Hong Son provides exceptional lodging. Guests can choose from various air-conditioned guestrooms complete with wooden flooring, a balcony, and a private bathroom.
With a free shuttle from the airport and bus station, access is easy. People who love the outdoors can take advantage of the resort’s outdoor pool and National Park views.
There are also barbecue facilities, laundry services, and a library for guests to enjoy. Plus, free drinking water is provided for all guests.
For those looking to explore downtown Mae Hong Son, there is a free shuttle that takes you there in 15 minutes. Prices start from $56 per night, making it an attractive option for travelers looking for convenience and comfort at an affordable price.
What to do nearby Mae Hong Son City
Visit Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu
Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu is a spectacular sight, with its two white pagodas constructed in 1860 overlooking the city from atop Doi Kong Mu Hill.
The architecture is distinctive and provides a tranquil environment for paying respects that locals often engage in throughout the day.
Furthermore, the vantage point offers unparalleled beauty for those who make early morning visits as they are treated to breathtaking views of the sunrise over the city and its surrounding mountains.
Go to the morning market or Talat Chao
After taking in the beautiful sight of sunrise at Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu, drive down to Mae Hong Son’s Morning Market (Talat Chao) to experience first-hand the relaxed culture of its people.
This morning market mainly deals in fresh produce and cheap clothing, and right at the entrance is The Congee Restaurant, where you can enjoy traditional Thai or Vietnamese breakfast dishes like Khai Krata (fried eggs on a pan), congee, and soup.
See The Wooden Temple At Wat Hua Wiang
Visiting Wat Hua Wiang is a true delight for sightseers, as the grounds boast a labyrinth of Burma-style architecture in addition to the stunning wooden temple hall.
With its tiered roof design, the temple hall resembles traditional wooden churches found in northern Europe and the Balkans, all crafted with beautiful teak wood.
Visitors coming to explore the morning market can also park their cars on-site at Wat Hua Wiang. Afterward, they can take the time to really immerse themselves in the sights that this Burmese temple has to offer.
Where to eat in Mae Hong Son City
Salween River Restaurant
Presiding in the center of town since before anyone can remember, Salween River Restaurant is a beloved restaurant for both locals and expats alike.
With an impressive and extensive menu to choose from, patrons have a lot of choices as they are able to select from a range that includes Burmese tea leaf salad, Khao Soi, hamburgers, and pizzas.
To top off the experience, bottles of whiskey and local beer are served while you can browse through the large library of books available to exchange. Affordability is guaranteed here with prices starting at $4 per person.
Bai Fern Restaurant
Located in Mae Hong Son, Bai Fern Restaurant offers customers a delicious selection of both Thai and international cuisines.
Not only that, but customers will get the chance to enjoy dinner accompanied by live music from a traditional wooden building — a great way to mingle with locals and experience the local culture.
With an average price of $11 per person, there’s no excuse not to try out this charming restaurant.
Charlie and Leks
If you’ve been hiking around Mae Yen Waterfalls and need a good place to rest, Charlie and Leks is a great spot.
Here, you can enjoy authentic Thai cuisines such as papaya salads, spring rolls, and Pad Thai at an affordable rate. After a long week, indulge in one of their yummy beers or cool off with one of their refreshing smoothies, juices, or Thai tea.
The staff is friendly and welcoming, making this place a pleasant experience for everyone who visits. Plus, the cozy decor and atmosphere provide visitors with a relaxing setting to rest after your hike.
With meals averaging $11 per person, you can look forward to delicious food without breaking the bank!
Safety Tips for Mae Hong Son City
Mae Hong Son City is an exciting and beautiful destination for travelers, but it’s also important to stay safe and alert. While crime rates are low in the city, it’s helpful to take some sensible precautions for a stress-free experience.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs, use ATMs in well-lit areas during daylight hours, travel only in official taxicabs, avoid public demonstrations and political rallies, and look after your belongings carefully while you’re out and about.
Above all else, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem quite right, find a safe place as soon as possible where you can get help. By following these guidelines, you should have a pleasant time discovering all that Mae Hong Son City has to offer.
Mae Hong Son City to Ban Rak Thai
Our Trip to Ban Rak Thai
Our visit to the region of Ban Rak Thai was an unforgettable experience. We took a drive through the peaceful forest, watching the clouds rolling in overhead, and it felt like something out of a movie.
The food in Ban Rak Thai was something special, with local flavors that we had never tasted before. Sunrise over the lake provided a stunning spectacle that we will remember always.
We picked up some heavy-duty rain jackets to prepare us for any inclement weather — they still come in handy today! All in all, it was a wonderful time staying at the Lee Rak Wine Resort and eating at the nearby resort restaurant that we still fondly look back on.
How much time does it take to travel from Mae Hong Son City to Ban Rak Thai?
Traveling from Mae Hong Son City to Ban Rak Thai via Route 1095 and 4001 is a convenient journey, taking just over an hour to reach the latter.
The area’s lush scenery along the way makes for an enjoyable ride that most travelers remember fondly; fields of golden-tipped rice paddies create a patchwork landscape, with mountains and karst formations visible in the distance.
Despite it being a relatively short trip, it can often take somewhat longer due to traffic and road conditions. However, arriving at Ban Rak Thai will certainly bring a smile to your face.
What to expect in Ban Rak Thai
Ban Rak Thai is a picturesque village located in Mae Hong Son province near the Myanmar border, tucked away amid a cluster of Yunnanese-enclave towns in the Chiang Rai Province.
The village’s ancestry dates back to KMT soldiers who relocated to the area from China, leaving descendants that still inhabit the region to this day.
A peaceful body of water provides a tranquil backdrop for rolling hills that are home to countless patches of tea, with many tea shops readily available for visitors.
For those of Chinese heritage, Ban Rak Thai can revive hidden memories or provide a sense of nostalgia through its serenity, while anyone would find themselves charmed by the town’s alluring beauty and its friendly inhabitants.
Where to stay in Ban Rak Thai
There are three places to stay in Ban Rak Thai. The Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort, Phu Nam Rakthai Resort, and the Chasa Rakthai Resort.
Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort
Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort is the perfect choice for those wishing to stay in Ban Rak Thai and experience the best it has to offer.
Every bungalow here boasts breathtaking views of the town and lake, and all can be enjoyed while surrounded by a tea plantation — allowing visitors to be immersed in the culture and nature of this iconic destination.
The tea field surrounding the resort is farmed commercially, meaning that regular passers-by can spot the harvesting of leaves daily. It is truly a one of a kind experience that you must try while passing through.
Phu Nam Rakthai Resort
Phu Nam Rakthai Resort offers the perfect lakeside getaway with its newly-constructed and boutique accommodation. Set directly opposite the Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort reception, visitors will enjoy immediate access to the surrounding lake and beautiful scenery.
For convenience and comfort, a roadside reception area, complete with a dining area and gift shop, is available, along with a shared kitchen with the neighboring Lee Wine restaurant. To stay updated about offers, activities, and other news at Phu Nam Rakthai Resort, simply follow the Resort’s Facebook page.
Chasa Rakthai Resort
Chasa Rakthai Resort is an excellent option for both business and leisure travelers. Located in the Mok Cham Pae part of Mae Hong Son, this 4-star villa offers an ideal location for sightseeing around the area or simply relaxing by the pool.
All rooms come with free Wi-Fi, allowing you to stay connected to work and friends while away from home. With its car park free of charge and a restaurant on site, it is a great destination for those looking to enjoy a more indulgent experience.
As a bonus, it’s only a short distance away from Mae Hong Son Airport and has various dining options, making it a great retreat at an unbelievable price of just $37 per night.
Mong Homestay Resort
6 km from Pang Ung viewpoint and 7 km from Ban Rak Thai Village, Mong Homestay Resort presents visitors with a nature retreat that is surrounded by the breathtaking mountains and rivers of Mae Hong Son.
Offering basic rooms and bungalows with a private bathroom and fan, as well as a private balcony that looks out over the scenic landscapes, all at an affordable rate, starting from $18 per night.
What to do nearby Ban Rak Thai
Visit Pang Oung Lake
Located in the Loei province of Thailand, Pang Oung Lake is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In the mornings, enjoy a mist-shrouded stroll around the lake and snap postcard-perfect photographs of the serene landscapes. If you have time, rent a bamboo raft and explore the lake’s tranquil waters further.
There are camping grounds nearby to the northwest side of the lake; however, be sure to read up on National Park fees, as entry is restricted during wet seasons.
For international visitors seeking overnight accommodation, Ban Rak Thai lies only 20 minutes away, with plenty of lodging options available.
Take a tour of the Tomato Village
Taking a tour of Tomato Village is a unique experience that no one should miss.
From the colorful wooden temple of Wat Ban Huai Makhuea Som in the center of the village to the picturesque road leading to Pang Oung Lake, there’s plenty to explore in this remote northern Thai province.
During your visit, you’ll get an authentic look into how locals live without worrying about catering to tourists. It’s definitely worth making the 20-minute drive out of Ban Rak Thai Village and taking in all that Tomato Village has to offer.
Head over to Pha Suea Waterfall
Pha Suea Waterfall is an almost 100-meter-high waterfall with multiple tiers and cascades of white water. With its deep pool at the bottom and sun-dappled rocks and cypress trees in the surrounding area, it has a fresh beauty steeped in ancient tradition.
As one of Thailand’s most visited natural landmarks, this waterfall exudes all the charm of a Thai rainforest paradise, making it worth the trip for anyone visiting Mae Hong Son Province.
Where to eat in Ban Rak Thai
Lee Wine Yunnan Restaurant
The Lee Wine Yunnan Restaurant is the perfect place for a romantic dinner by the lake. The ambiance of the setting is tranquil and serene, with delicious food options to suit all tastes.
The price range is quite reasonable, too, with meals ranging from THB 340 to 840 (or $11-$26), so you don’t have to break the bank.
The Yunnan Restaurant at the Chasa Resort is a perfect restaurant to enjoy while in town. With views of the lake and plenty of space to spread out, you’ll never feel crowded and can relax with your meal.
They offer a variety of dishes for all budgets — from THB 330-THB 820 per person ($11-$26). For those looking for an affordable, crowd-friendly dining experience with stunning visuals, this restaurant is an ideal choice.
Safety Tips for Ban Rak Thai
Ban Rak Thai is a bustling community with much to offer its visitors. To ensure you have the safest experience possible while visiting this picturesque destination, we recommend that travelers observe a few simple precautions.
This place is extraordinarily safe but use common sense like refraining from flashing large amounts of money around, and try not to take any belongings that are too expensive. Keep in mind petty theft can sometimes occur, and it’s best to stay aware of your possessions as much as possible.
Familiarize yourself with local laws, customs, values, and language wherever you go. It’s also always a good idea to purchase travel insurance before leaving your home country just in case of any unforeseen incidents.
Heed safety warnings issued by local authorities, such as those on signs posted at certain beaches or national parks, and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
Ban Rak Thai to Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery
Our Visit to the Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery
Located in the hills of northern Thailand, Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery was our destination for a few days of meditation and reflection. We were welcomed by its wooden plank beds, walking meditations, and 6-hour daily meditation sessions.
Entrance to the monastery is free, although donations are requested of all visitors. We weren’t originally planning to visit this specific monastery, but we ran into some friends who had just spent some time there and decided to try it.
Richa and I spent our time reflecting on our lives in meditation and even made a few new friends — including an American monk. Men and women had to stay in separate dormitories while participating in chores like fruit picking, maintaining the space around the monastery, and more.
We even encountered frightening but remarkable moments, such as when I found a snake inside my room! Overall, Wat Tam Wua was an incredible place that shaped our experience on the Mae Hong Son loop in a meaningful way.
How much time does it take to travel from Ban Rak Thai to Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery?
For those looking to make a journey from Ban Rak Thai to Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery, the trip takes just over an hour.
When using Route 1095 and มส.4001 as the main roads, travelers can expect to cover a distance of 51.5 kilometers in 1 hr 10 min.
Along this route, there are many picturesque views and cultural experiences to be had, creating a truly memorable journey that must not be missed.
What to expect in Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery
Visitors of Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery should be aware that they are entering a holy and sacred space. As with many religious places, there is a code of conduct to be observed.
Those visiting should adhere to the rules and regulations of the monastery and show their reverence and respect towards it. Any who come with superficial intentions are strongly discouraged from treating this as a touristic stop. Instead, one should pay a visit for religious education, meditation practice, or simply to experience something new.
Whatever their reasoning, they should do so in a respectful fashion for the customs of Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery. They provide white clothes for men and women to wear at the monestery so there is really nothing you need to worry about bringing when you arrive.
What to do nearby Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery?
Samatha meditation is an important practice in Buddhism, with the aim to help bring a restless mind to peace and joy.
This is achieved by cultivating concentration, or Samadhi. Samadhi can be divided into two types – Aramma-n’upanijjhana and Lakkha-n’upanijjhana.
Aramma-n’upanijjhana involves object-examination, which draws one’s attention a particular object for observation.
Lakkha-n’upanijjhana refers to characteristic examination, where one recognizes certain qualities within objects for further inspection.
Both forms of Samadhi claim to cultivate an internal serenity that brings about clarity of mind and increased understanding of our own being.
Vipassana Meditation is one of the oldest ways to access a form of meditation called samadhi. It is a technique that enables people to gain insight into the true characteristics of the body and mind, along with mental and physical phenomena.
In order for this practice to be successful, one needs to cultivate ‘the knower’ — a concentration of the characteristic examination variety which allows people to detach themselves from objects and observe them non-judgmentally.
With this objective in place, people can then begin their journey of cultivating Vipassana meditation.
With diligent practice over some time, it will eventually become easier to tap into what lies beneath the physical and mental phenomena that lie before us and truly find peace within.
Wat Tam Wua to Pai
Our Visit to Pai
Leaving the serenity of the meditation center behind, we hit the open road and wound our way through the curvy Thai highways. I was stunned by the spectacular views of the mountainous countryside and valleys that made up Pai’s landscape.
As we drove through the stunning landscape it felt as if we were in the middle of a mountainous postcard. As we arrived in Pai, there was a completely different vibe than the meditation center. We were ready to explore this charming little mountain town surrounded by lush forests and rice fields.
How much time does it take to travel from Wat Tam Wua to Pai?
Traveling from Wat Tam Wua to Pai is simple and direct. Following Route 1095, the journey should take approximately one hour and twenty-seven minutes — covering a total distance of around 69.8 km.
This stretch of road is scenic and winding, perfect for those wanting to enjoy some of North Thailand’s picturesque countryside on their way to Pai. With its mountain landscape, vibrant culture, and fun activities, visitors won’t be disappointed by what this region has to offer!
What to expect in Pai
Visitors to Pai should be mindful of the activities that go on before they visit. You will encounter a party culture with a decent amount of drug use and drinking going on around you.
If your intention is a more traditional tourist experience, it’s best to steer clear of these activities which can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for those not seeking this kind of visit.
At the same time, younger or more carefree crowds may find Pai nightlife appealing. If this is your aim, do thorough research and plan accordingly for the type of activity that suits you.
Where to stay in Pai
Pai My Way Hostel
Pai My Way Hostel is a great option for budget travelers looking for comfortable accommodation in Pai.
Located just two minutes walking distance from the Pai Bus Station, guests will find affordable rooms and suites with a patio with stunning mountain views and WiFi.
Guests can also relax or socialize in the hostel’s garden, shared lounge, or terrace area.
Per-night rates begin from only $13.
Hugga Pai is perfectly situated in Pai City, just 300 m from the renowned Pai Walking Street, 350 m from the Pai Bus Station, and 805 m from the awe-inspiring Wat Phra That Mae Yen.
The hotel has free WiFi and comfortable air-conditioned rooms with flat-screen TVs, fridges, and electric kettles.
Guests will find many local restaurants within walking distance, while other attractions such as Pai Canyon and The World War 2 bridge are close by.
Hugga Pai offers excellent value for money at discounted rates starting from $24 per night for private rooms.
Pai Village Boutique Resort
With traditional Thai massages and beautiful landscaped Koi pond gardens, there is no doubt that Pai Village Boutique Resort provides an indulgent, high-end experience.
Located on the banks of the Pai River and within tropical gardens, guests can stay in rustic wooden cottages which feature private balconies with views of either the mountain or garden and a private seating area.
This boutique resort provides a high-end getaway spot at a decent rate per night starting from $147.
What to do nearby Pai
Go exploring in Pai Canyon
Exploring Thailand’s Pai Canyon is a unique opportunity not found in many places in the world It presents challenging hikes, with some paths that are quite sketchy, so make sure you are wearing appropriate shoes if you intend to explore.
You will want to hit up Pai Canyon for sunset while in Pai for an unbelievable experience.
Visit Pai’s Walking Street Night Market
Pai’s Walking Street Night Market is a must-visit. Every night, locals and tourists alike flock to the main street of Pai to find delicious street food and make their way through the market stalls.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect souvenir or simply eager to savor some local cuisine, the options are varied and only get better as the night wears on.
The selection of food available is excellent; from sushi to Indian food, there’s something for everyone.
It’s also a great place just to sit back and take in all that Pai has to offer — it’s an atmosphere full of life, with locals out enjoying themselves and working their way through stalls.
Take a dip at the Pam Bok Waterfall
Pai has a wide selection of beautiful waterfalls, making it the perfect escape from the hot summer days.
Pam Bok Waterfall is especially picturesque, tucked under high cliffs that provide much-needed shade for those seeking respite.
Information about the swimming surface is vital for a safe and enjoyable dip in the waterfall, with established ledges to make precision jumps away from potential hazards.
Pam Bok Waterfall provides refreshing waters to overcome the heat of Thailand in complete safety and tranquility.
Where to eat in Pai
A visit to Na’s Kitchen is bound to exceed your expectations. Despite its deceptive exterior, this venue houses some of the most mouth-watering Thai dishes in town, all of which are surprisingly affordable — with pricing that ranges from just one dollar upwards.
On top of this, the cheerful staff will greet you with a smile. With a menu that includes starters, fried fish, curries, soups, salads, and stir-fries, there is something for everyone here.
Enhancing your meal even further is their selection of fruity shakes — including their unique pineapple and basil combination. You can have a complete meal here for around $11.
The Blue Ox
The Blue Ox offers something a little different in Pai. This open-air restaurant has colorful lanterns and bunting banners, creating a classy yet comfortable atmosphere.
Breakfast offerings include homemade jams, fresh yogurt, and made-to-order eggs, while lunch and dinner feature Thai dishes with modern twists, such as the popular deep-fried soft-shell crab.
The Blue Ox also offers classic American favorites too.
Everything served here is organic and chemical-free, and the average cost per meal is $26, making it slightly more expensive than other eateries but worth it for the commitment to using sustainable practices like composting and recycling.
Ganesh Bar & Restaurant
Located in the heart of Pai, Ganesh Bar & Restaurant provides an exotic experience with its delicious Thai cuisine. The portion sizes are generous yet wallet-friendly — at around $2 per plate — making it easy to please even the pickiest eater.
People cannot help but return here every day during their trip to town due to the hospitality and warmth of the staff serving them.
For those looking for a unique culinary experience, Khao Soi is highly recommended as a must-try dish.
Safety Tips for Pai
Pai can be a great destination for travelers looking to experience the beauty and culture of the region. However, it is important to observe safety tips in order to enjoy your trip safely and securely.
From taking taxis at night to keeping your belongings safe from theft, these small precautions will go a long way in helping you stay safe.
Make sure you avoid unfamiliar people or areas that seem dangerous and always lock the doors of your accommodation when leaving — even if it’s just for a few minutes. You’re most likely fine but it’s better to be on the safe side with such a high volume of travellers coming through.
Always watch out for motorbikes driving on footpaths and listen to locals’ advice about tourist hotspots. Finally, understand local laws and customs to help ensure your own well-being and that of those around you.
Pai back to Chiang Mai
Story of the Ride Chiang Mai
Driving from Pai to Chiang Mai was a thrilling yet harrowing experience. The winding roads with hundreds of sharp turns pose a significant safety hazard, but the magnificent views were absolutely unforgettable!
We faced heavy traffic as we approached Chiang Mai before returning to our long-term stay. However, there were plenty of cafes and restaurants along the journey that offered beautiful sceneries and a unique glimpse into the lives of local Thai people.
Without a doubt the Mae Hong Son loop was an incredible trip that offered unbelievable experiences, thrills, torrential rain, and gave me insight into how I could be living a little bit differently.
How much time does it take to travel from Pai to Chiang Mai?
Traveling from Pai to Chiang Mai typically takes 3-4 hours. Traveling by motorbike may be done quicker, yet many travelers may choose to take their time and enjoy the stunning views along the route.
What to expect in Chiang Mai?
When planning a trip to Chiang Mai, it is important to be aware of the weather and air quality.
Temperatures and humidity can be very high during certain parts of the year, and visitors should come prepared for these conditions. The best way to do so is by packing lightweight and breathable clothing, avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day, and drinking plenty of water.
If you can, try to plan your trip outside of the burning season, which typically runs from mid-March to June. Chiang Mai has some of the worst air quality in the world during this time. Just keep an eye on the air quality score before you visit to make sure you avoid any potentially dangerous air.
You should always pack a toilet roll or tissues and some change in case there is an entry fee for using restrooms. Hand sanitizer is also a good idea since public facilities may not always have adequate hand-washing capabilities. With simple preparations like these, travelers can ensure they get the most out of their experience visiting Chiang Mai.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
Thai Thai Hostel
Thai Thai Hostel is conveniently located in the heart of Chiang Mai and provides unbeatable value for guests staying in the city.
With easy access to many attractions and landmarks, like Chedi Luang Temple, Three King Monument, and Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport, it is the perfect place for holiday-makers looking for an adventure.
The hostel offers spacious guest rooms, coffee, a shared bathroom, and wifi. Certain rooms come with a balcony and Chiang Mai city views. At such affordable rates starting from $16 a night, it’s not a bad deal at all.
The Common Hostel
The Common Hostel SHA is a great choice for guests looking for a quality stay in Chiang Mai’s Old Town area.
Air-conditioned rooms with reading lights, shared bathrooms stocked with free toiletries, private rooms with tv, and en suite bathrooms are all part of the package.
Guests are also offered useful amenities such as microwaves, vending machines, 24-hour front desk staff, safety deposit boxes, and motorbike parking spaces to make their stay comfortable.
Furthermore, Sunday Walking Street is only 500 m away from the property, making it an ideal choice for those looking to explore Chiang Mai’s vibrant lifestyle.
All these can be enjoyed at an pretty affordable rate for a decent stay starting from $39 per night.
Bodega Social Hostel
Bodega has convenient access to the area’s top attractions making it an ideal accommodation choice in Chiang Mai.
From its location just 700 m from Tha Pae Gate and 800 m from Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, guests are only moments away from Three Kings Monument and Chedi Luang Temple.
The hostel boasts comfortable units with a private bathroom complete with a shower, as well as an onsite bar and restaurant, an indoor pool, evening entertainment, and a 24-hour front desk.
To make this worthwhile stay even better, the hostel offers amazing value with prices starting at $21 per night.
What to do nearby Chiang Mai?
Go to the Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is a rescue center dedicated to the welfare and protection of elephants that have endured abuse due to the tourism industry.
Visitors and volunteers alike can experience elephants in their natural setting without having to ride them as this approach is strictly prohibited.
As the reigning champion among elephant operators in town, Elephant Nature Park offers its guests a more expensive but more elephant friendly experience at the park.
Located in Kuet Chang and open from 7 AM – 5 PM every day, admission costs 2,500 THB or $76 per person.
Go hill tribe trekking in the surrounding mountains
Chiang Mai is a great destination for visitors to Thailand looking for a more immersive and historical experience. Its surrounding mountains and jungles contain a variety of hill tribes that are rarely found by short-term visitors.
Trekking in these areas will provide some of the most beautiful natural scenes in Thailand, as well as opportunities to meet local people and learn about their lives.
In order to respect the local cultures, it is important to find a reliable tour operator who puts the interests of the community first. With the right operator, travelers can explore this fascinating region while supporting the local tribes and enjoying a truly enriching experience.
Explore the Sunday walking street markets
The Sunday night street markets in Chiang Mai are a must-see for any visitor to the city. An eclectic mix of local artisans and vendors bring their wares to the streets in an atmosphere that truly captures the spirit of Thailand.
Items range from traditional handicrafts and souvenirs to contemporary fashion and jewelry, giving shoppers plenty of options when it comes to finding the perfect memento of their travels.
These street markets offer visitors a great way to savor all that Old City has to offer. Plus, after a long day’s shopping, you can even unwind with a cheap foot massage!
Explore the Sunday walking street markets next time you visit Chiang Mai; you will surely leave with both wonderful memories and bargain finds.
Where and What to eat in Chiang Mai?
Khao Soi is a unique and delicious dish that you have to try in Chiang Mai.
The combination of creamy coconut milk, lightly crisped egg noodles and your choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or fish is sure to bring a smile to your face. For an extra-special crunch, you can mix in pork rinds for added texture. There are vegetarian options of this dish available all over Chiang Mai too.
Served with pickled cabbage, red onions, and a wedge of lime, it’s sure to become one of your favorite meals at an average cost per person of only $1-2 at a local restaurant.
When in Chiang Mai, the one restaurant you should certainly not miss is Suki Koka.
Serving its signature Thai suki with seafood and a variety of vegetables cooked with mung bean noodles, it is no surprise that Suki Koka has become popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
Eating at Suki Koka doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket either; the average cost per meal per person at less than $10.
It stands close to Cowboy Hat Lady, another renowned food stall in the same cluster.
Kiat Ocha has been serving up Southern Chinese Hainanese chicken rice since 1957, making them the experts in the cuisine. ‘
The dish is composed of poached chicken served with oily rice cooked in chicken fat, alongside homemade broth with freshly minced red chili and garlic, dark soy sauce, and ground ginger — a tasty combination to excite any palette.
With Kiat Ocha being one of the popular places to eat out in Chiang Mai, be sure to get there early as they close at 3 PM. T
Safety Tips for Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is an incredible destination full of captivating culture and beautiful scenery, making it one of the most popular tourist spots in Thailand.
When visiting Chiang Mai, tourists need to be mindful of potential risks. To help ensure a safe visit, certain important safety tips should always be kept in mind.
While driving around town or on transportation sites such as tuk-tuks and songthaews, keep personal belongings within arms reach. You can easily drop your phone or lose anything that isn’t secure.
Stay hydrated. It can be hot and the sun can be brutal especially during hot season.
Always research possible scams in the area for additional knowledge about what types of situations to look out for beforehand. These are less likely in Chiang Mai but are always prevalent in touristy areas. Taking these precautions will assist in creating a fun and safe stay in Chiang Mai!
Travelers eager to visit this beautiful southeast Asian country should become familiar with the many different visa options available to them.
Depending on one’s nationality, visa needs may be as simple as attaining a Visitor Visa from the Thai Embassy or Consulate before arriving, or they could take advantage of the Visa on Arrival option available to 19 different countries and those enjoying the privilege of Visa Exemption available to a further 64 nationalities.
Whichever visa applies, rest assured that Thailand provides an abundance of options to ensure your journey is enjoyable and hassle-free.
Visa on arrival
The Visa on Arrival option for certain passport holders provides an opportunity for an extended 30-day stay in Thailand.
Passport holders from Bulgaria, China, Ethiopia, and Mexico are allowed entry with this visa type. Current information can be obtained via the Royal Thai Embassy website, and potential travelers should note that changes could occur after the given date range.
Payment of the 2,000 THB ($53) fee must be done in cash, with only Thai currency accepted. Consequently, proper financial planning before arriving is necessary by exchanging money beforehand or having a suitable ATM card.
Travelers from the European Economic Area (EEA), the United States, the United Kingdom, and APAC, as well as some South American countries, are permitted to enter Thailand without a visa under the Visa Exemption criteria.
This applies to those who travel to Thailand by air, land, or sea. Since October 1, 2022, travelers have been given extended stay periods of 45 days under the new regulations set in place on that date — information which can be found on The Thai Embassy website.
As these regulations are continually changing, it is important for travelers to check the Embassy website for updates on Visa Exemption status and stay limits.
Important rules on Traveling to Thailand
When traveling to Thailand, it is essential to be aware of the important rules and regulations in place. Allegedly, all visitors must provide proof of a confirmed return ticket to receive a Visa on Arrival or be approved for a Visa Exemption. I’ve only ever been asked for this once on entering Thailand so it isn’t a commonly enforced rule.
Food throughout the journey in Thailand
Embarking on the Mae Hong Son loop in Northern Thailand is an experience like no other. Not only will you get to marvel at the region’s stunning landscapes and fascinating cultures, but you will have the opportunity to sample some truly delicious local food as well.
Throughout your journey down the Mae Hong Son loop, you’ll find that none of the dishes are quite like anything from your hometown cuisine.
You’ll be able to sample a variety of unique delicacies, such as Khao Soi — a popular dish made with egg noodles and a broth of flavorful spices — or Pa Khanom Jeen, which are simmered rice cakes served with any number of condiments and curry sauces.
Regardless of where you stop along your journey, you will surely find something delicious that will tantalize your taste buds.
Local dishes to try in Thailand
Green Thai curry
Green Thai curry is a famous dish in Thailand and can be found in many different varieties throughout the country. This spicy curry is made with coconut milk, green Thai chilies, and various herbs and aromatics. It can be served with rice, noodles, or even roti.
Tom Yum Goong
Another famous dish in Thailand is Tom Yum Goong or spicy shrimp soup. This hot and sour soup is made with lemongrass, chilies, galangal root, lime juice, fish sauce, and juicy shrimp.
It is the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors that will have you coming back for more.
Pad Thai is a popular noodle dish throughout the country. This stir-fried noodle dish consists of rice noodles, eggs, peanuts, shrimp, and bean sprouts.
It is seasoned with fish sauce, tamarind paste, garlic, chili peppers, and palm sugar for a unique flavor that will tantalize your taste buds.
Khao pad (also known as fried rice) is a popular Thai dish made by stir-frying cooked rice with various ingredients such as vegetables, eggs, meat, and seafood.
The dish is seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and other spices, and is typically served with lime wedges and sliced cucumber. Khao pad is often eaten as a main course or as a side dish with other Thai dishes.
Nam Tok is another traditional Thai dish made of grilled or boiled meat (usually beef or pork) that is sliced thinly and mixed with herbs, spices, and a spicy sauce made with lime juice, fish sauce, chilies, and other ingredients.
It is typically served with vegetables, herbs, and sticky rice. Nam Tok translates to “waterfall” in Thai, which is thought to refer to the sound of the sizzling meat as it is cooked.
Moo ping is a popular Thai street food consisting of grilled marinated pork skewers.
The pork is typically rubbed with a mixture of garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper before being grilled to perfection. It can be served with sticky rice and a spicy dipping sauce.
Things to do along the way
Festivals, events, and nightlife
There are plenty of exciting events and festivals that happen along the Mae Hong Son loop throughout the year. From music and cultural festivals to lively markets, you’ll find something for everyone during your trip.
Be sure to check out the nightlife in some of the larger cities like Chiang Mai or Pai as well. You can grab a drink at one of the local bars or enjoy a traditional performance at one of the city’s many temples.
Popular festivals in Chiang Mai
Loi Krathong Festival
The Loi Krathong Festival is an enchanting annual festival celebrated with glorious sights and calming peace.
It traditionally takes place in November, when people wash away the past year’s sins by floating small krathongs — banana leaf bouquets containing a lighted candle and incense — down riverbanks or other bodies of water.
To add to the spectacle, khom (glowing paper balloons) are launched into the night sky, making for a truly special event that captivates those witnessing it. It is no surprise that this peaceful festival of light continues to be celebrated with an abundance of joy and delight each year.
Songkran is a traditional festival celebrated in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia to mark the traditional New Year’s Day based on the lunar calendar. The festival typically falls between April 13th and 15th and is known for its water-throwing activities, which symbolize the washing away of bad luck and sins from the previous year.
The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word “saṃkrānti,” which means “astrological passage,” and the festival is also known as the “Water Festival” due to the large-scale water fights that take place during the celebration. The festival is also a time for family reunions and making merit by visiting temples and performing good deeds. Overall, it is a time for renewal, joy, and the welcoming of a new year.
Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places to celebrate Songkran in Thailand, and the festival here is known for its exuberant water fights, cultural parades, and traditional rituals.
During Songkran, the streets of Chiang Mai are filled with people armed with water guns, buckets, and hoses, dousing each other with water as a way of cooling off from the heat of the day and symbolizing the washing away of the old year. The festivities last for several days and include traditional ceremonies such as merit-making at temples, pouring water on Buddha images, and splashing water on the hands of elders as a sign of respect.
Chiang Mai also hosts the famous Songkran Parade, which features colorful floats and traditional performances such as dances and music shows. Another highlight of the festival in Chiang Mai is the Miss Songkran Beauty Contest, in which contestants compete in traditional costumes and perform cultural acts.
Songkran in Chiang Mai is a joyous and festive time, with a mix of traditional and modern celebrations that make it a unique experience for locals and visitors alike.
Every year, visitors to Thailand are drawn to the stunning Flower Festival in early February. This iconic event is held along the southwestern corner of the city moat, where a breathtaking array of exquisite plants are carefully arranged in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues.
The festival showcases an impressive selection of tropical flowers, including exotic orchids, spectacular roses, and ancient bonsais, which have been tended to with loving care.
This month-long celebration is a must for nature lovers and has earned its place as one of Thailand’s most celebrated festivals.
Safety along the Mae Hong Son Loop
A road trip around Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand is an adventure of a lifetime for any traveler. However, it’s important to think about safety and plan ahead before beginning the journey.
Since roads can be precarious, it is advised to adhere to local driving regulations and avoid taking unnecessary risks with speed or maneuvers.
Being aware of one’s surroundings can help minimize any surprise encounters with wild animals along the roads.
Besides taking proper precautions while behind the wheel, travelers should carry basic supplies like a fully charged phone and medical kit in case of emergency. Apart from that, having reputable contacts handy is also a valuable asset since finding help in remote areas can be difficult.
With planning and calculated risk-taking, a Mae Hong Son road trip can be an experience full of unforgettable memories!
Women’s safety in Mae Hong Son Loop
The Mae Hong Son Loop is a 400-kilometer journey through beautiful villages, mountains, forests, and rivers in Northern Thailand. For many visitors, this loop has been their ticket to captivating scenery and cross-cultural experiences.
As welcoming as the locals may be, female travelers should take regular safety measures when exploring the region. From understanding the local culture better to being prepared to face any emergency situation, there are a few ways female travelers can protect themselves during their visit and ensure a smooth journey.
Women travelers should research the cultural nuances relevant to them beforehand, follow local laws closely, maintain situational awareness in public places, and have emergency contacts at hand just in case they need help or support during their stay. Plus, dressing in a respectful manner and avoiding any behavior that may be regarded as inappropriate in the local context can go a long way toward ensuring safety.
Female travelers should also be mindful of any suspicious activities or people and trust their intuition if they sense any potential danger. Taking these measures should help ensure that the Mae Hong Son Loop is an unforgettable journey filled with safe and pleasant experiences.
LGBTQ+ safety on The Mae Hong Son Loop
Though many people visit this area every year, there are important safety considerations for travelers within the LGBTQ+ community to be aware of.
Local laws do not address discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, so visitors should take caution when displaying affection in public and should be aware that attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals may vary substantially throughout the region.
For example, although same-sex couples may not face any repercussions for their displays of affection in the city, they should use discretion when traveling to more rural areas.
LGBTQ+ travelers should also keep in mind that some activities, such as climbing mountains or visiting temples, might require them to dress and act according to gender norms.
However, while respectful of local cultural practices, travelers can still make the most out of their experience by researching community-specific safety tips prior to their arrival. Failing to do so can put them in positions where they are not aware of their rights and may, at times, be subjected to discrimination or harassment.
With proper research and preparation, LGBTQ+ travelers should have no reason to worry about their safety while taking in the beauty of the Mae Hong Son Loop!
Things to Remember when you go on a Road Trip to Mae Hong Son Loop
- Be prepared for challenging driving conditions, as the Mae Hong Son Loop is a winding, mountainous road with steep inclines and sharp turns. Make sure you are comfortable driving on narrow, unpaved roads.
- Check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly. The area can experience cooler temperatures and frequent rain, especially during the winter months (November to February).
- Allow plenty of time for your journey, as there are many interesting stops along the way. The loop includes several charming towns and villages, as well as national parks and cultural sites.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks for the journey, as rest stops may be few and far between. It’s also a good idea to carry a first aid kit and any necessary medications with you.
- Respect local customs and traditions, especially when visiting temples or other religious sites. Dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering any sacred spaces.
- Consider hiring a local guide or joining a tour group to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
- Be prepared for language barriers, as English is not widely spoken in some parts of the loop. It may be helpful to learn some basic Thai phrases before your trip.
- Finally, have fun and enjoy the journey! The Mae Hong Son Loop is a beautiful and scenic drive with plenty of opportunities to explore the natural beauty and cultural richness of northern Thailand.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is a wonderful and unique journey through history and nature. With pristine forests, vibrant villages, and stunning mountains, it’s an unmissable experience for anyone visiting Northern Thailand.
Our hope is that this guide has provided some useful tips on how to make the most out of your Mae Hong Son Loop adventure while staying safe.
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, following these safety guidelines should help ensure that your experience is unforgettable in the best way possible!
From our experience, we know that the locals are friendly and welcoming, and with the right preparation, you can make the most out of your Mae Hong Son Loop journey!