Impressions of Towns on the Mae Hong Son Loop

Mae Hong Son. More Thai tourists than foreigners. Provincial capital with a small tourist district, so walk 5 minutes in any direction and it’s just another thriving Thai town, albeit one ringed by mist shrouded clouds. A 10 minute motorbike ride puts one in farmland or headed up hill to a national park. Interactions with both locals and tourists was low key and friendly. The Thai food here was the best by far among the three towns. That’s because most of the places are cooking Thai food for Thai people. Only photos of the town itself were posted previously.

Soppong. The Lonely Planet calls it a ‘trading center’ which translates into a wide spot in the road containing businesses for the local farmers. It’s also called an adventure center which means guest houses and day trips to caves and hill tribe villages. Get off the main road and it’s quiet. Walk into a business serving foreign tourists and it’s just as quiet. Business is so slow that taking care of customers is a side job to whatever else the person has to do that day. But someone always came quickly when I called out ‘Sawadee kop’ (sp?) or ‘Hello’. Thai food was bland slop for the tourists, with dishes varying widely from the Thai conventions for it.

The one exception was the Little Eden guesthouse. Once I ate there I was done with the other options. Besides, ya gotta love a guesthouse that has it’s own suspension bridge.

The hangout overlooking the bridge and stream was cool.

Photos and a blog about the big cave in Soppong already posted. Only one photo of the town. It ain’t much, both the photo and the town.

Pai. I’ve met people with strong opinions about it. To me it was just another Backpacker (as in ‘Yes, I’m a Genuine SE Asia Backpacker’) infestation but an equally large contingent of Thai tourists.

Pai has charming places but Pai itself was not so blessed. Their used to be a bungalow warren on river bank opposite the town but recent floods swept most (all?) of it downstream. Various forms of lodging were rebuilt, but it has the charm one would expect of new construction on a big, rocky sandbar. Night life options abound, but that’s not for me. Food was better than Soppong, but forgettable.

One thing stood out. It didn’t surprise me to see several tattoo shops (or teachers of yoga, meditation and assorted artsy-craftsy stuff). What did catch my eye was how many had customers getting inked as I walked by. Probably saw more tattooing in progress in 48 hours than in an entire high season in Hua Hin.


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