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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Mae Hong Son city is the capital of the province with the same name. It is located in the far northwest of Thailand, not far from the Burmese border. The city is a very nice size, more than just one main strip, but still walkable. There is a small night market each day near the center of town. One of the vendors, Amnot, freehands the graphics on all of the t-shirts he sells and even dyes the fabric himself. The food was good, but was not among the best I had on the trip. It was nice to try Burmese cuisine. I stayed at Prince’s Guesthouse because it was 200 baht (just under $7) per night and had in room bathroom and wifi. The British ex-pat owner had zero personality and no concern for customer service, but I didn’t find any better options.
MHS is a great staging point for day trips and treks. On my first afternoon, I came across Mr. Chart. He is a trekking guide and quite a character. Him and his trek sounded like what I was looking for, but unfortunately, no one else was interested in doing a trek while I was there and it is price prohibitive to go solo. Mr. Chart did let me know where to eat and where to go on my own for day trips. Having a motorbike was essential to taking full advantage of what MHS had to offer.
I took a cruise up to the Chinese village of Mae Aw, located on the Burmese border. Mae Aw has an interesting history. It was established as a safe haven for anti-communist Chinese refugees at the time of the Chinese revolution. They specialize in growing tea and make the best Chinese (Yunnanese to be exact) food I’ve ever had. I had a dish called moo pan pee that consisted of pork over some seriously spicy greens that ranks among the best pork I’ve ever had. There is also a border crossing in Mae Aw, but it is not your typical one. There are no police, military, or officials. In fact, there are no people working the border at all. I strolled right into Burma without my passport or a visa. There is a school and a village right on the border and I walked around for a bit. When I returned to Thailand for lunch, I recognized some people that I had seen in Burma 30 minutes earlier. Outside of the Burmese people, I was the only other foreigner in Mae Aw and it made me very happy.
On the way to the village, I stopped at the Foa Sua waterfall. It was very big and nice, and I didn’t see another person there as well. After Mae Aw, I stopped at a palace, 2 towns, and a long neck Karen village on the way back to MHS. The only other visitors I saw were at the Karen village. The palace wasn’t very palatial. The buildings were very modern and not imposing at all, but the grounds were beautiful and very well maintained. The towns I visited were surrounded in pine forest and featured large lakes and traditional houses. I had debated whether or not to visit the long necks. They are being exploited by the Thai government and it’s not right. They were relocated to their current villages, where the Thais charge 250 baht ($8+), which is a lot for Thailand, to visit. Only a handful of older women had neck rings on, all of the men had western clothing, there were cell phones, motorbikes, and satellite dishes. The people didn’t seem happy either, there were a lot of -pardon the pun- long faces. I almost didn’t go on moral grounds, but I cracked because I had to see the long necks. I also took a day trip south to Nam Tok Mae Surin National Park. There was a nice, and not easy, trail that took a few hours and was very scenic. Towards the end of the loop, there are a couple nice sized waterfalls. I saw 2 other people during the four hours I was at the park.
The city of MHS was very nice overall and the surroundings make it an outstanding travel destination. There is enough tourist infrastructure where you can have wifi and other modern conveniences, but the city still has a soul.

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