On my latest journey to Thailand I was determined to visit a few parts of the country I have not yet seen. This trip my focus would be a private custom tour to Mae Hong Son and Pai. I would follow it up with some relaxation in Krabi, one of Thailand’s premier beach resort areas. It was not the best time to visit northern Thailand in May due to the extreme heat, but it was the only time I could fit it into my busy work schedule.
The beginning of my Journey
The trip started off smoothly from Boston to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific’s nonstop service. However upon landing in Hong Kong I learned my connecting flight to Chiang Mai would be delayed. I now had almost 8 hours to wait at the airport. I proceeded to the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge, complete with a complimentary restaurant with excellent food , shower facilities and many options to work or relax in comfort. I asked if any Cabanas were available, and luckily they did have one for me. The Cabana is a private room, similar to a small hotel room. Complete with a work area, large bath tub, and sleep sofa. It was perfect to relax for 6-7 hours. It’s a great perk if you are flying first class with Cathay Pacific.
My visit to Chiang Mai
Upon arrival in Chiang Mai I was greeted by my friend and guide Sergent Kai. He would be my private guide and driver for the next 4 days. I arrived in the early evening and had a quick meal across the street from the hotel and a 60 minute massage. The massage cost $9.30 and my 2 Thai dishes I ordered was around $4. Not a bad start at all !! I usually prefer to eat outside of the hotel whenever possible to get the true flavors of the local cuisine, and of course it is usually less than half the price.
The next morning Kai picked me up at 8:30 am. We headed out of Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon National Park. On the way we stopped at Wat Phartad Doi Kham. The highlight is the giant Buddha in gold and white towering over the landscape which can be seen from miles away. The next visit was the Twin Stupa on top of Doi Inthanon , the highest mountain in Thailand. Our day also included stops at Hmong Market featuring the goods of local hill tribes and THE hot springs at Mae Chaem the beautiful Wachirathan Waterfall and the Japanese Memorial Museum before arriving in Mae Hong Son early evening.
My time in Mae Hong Son
This was the hottest day of the trip with temperatures nearing 107 degrees. I always travel with powdered Gatorade to mix with my bottle of water while sightseeing and hiking. It is important in extreme heat to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water and keep away from alcohol. A cold beer may be tempting but best to drink water or Gatorade.
In the morning we stopped at a local coffee plantation and I had probably the best iced coffee in my life. We had a very busy day planned. Our first stop would be to visit the Karen Long Neck tribe village. The advantage of a private tour we were able to arrive at the village early before any tourists arrived. I have visited the Long Neck tribe in the past and I am always amazed with their customs and lifestyle. The women start from their early teenage years wearing rings around their neck. As they grow older more rings are added. They live a very humble and simple life and are very friendly to tourists visiting the village.
Other stops during our busy day included Wat Prathat Doi Kong Mu on the hill and Wat Jong Come at the lake city in Mae Hong Son. The next interesting stop was at the Phu Klon Mud Spa. There are only three natural mud and hot mineral springs in the world. Phu Klon is located 10 minutes from Mae Hong Son. The mud spa treatment is supposed to be very good for your skin. Upon arrival I was directed to a treatment room where the mud was brushed onto my face. After 15-20 minutes the mud would start to dry and form a mask. After it was washed off, my skin felt great and had a nice glow to it. It was quite an experience…the Thai version of the Dead Sea mud bath in Israel.
Mae Hong Son is a very quaint and small town, with just enough restaurants and quite a few guest houses. There are also a few nice smaller hotels in the area. We had dinner at a wonderful farmhouse restaurant. The scenic drive from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son to Pai includes many hair pin turns thru the mountains. Our next overnight we be in the town of Pai.
Tham Lod Cave in the Town of Pai
Our first stop was to visit the incredible Tham Lod Cave. It is located between Mae Hong Son and Pai. It is a large, spectacular limestone cave system. We were greeted by a local guide with a lantern. We hiked thru the cave for at least an hour marveling at the fantastic limestone formations. The only light was from the kerosene lantern our guide held. We then boarded a raft in the cave for the remainder of the journey, it felt so surreal floating on the waterway thru the cave, with fish swimming along the raft, until we finally saw daylight at the end of the cave.
Pai was an interesting small town filled with backpackers from around the world enjoying its laid back atmosphere. Downtown had lots of restaurants and small shops. The next day would feature stops at the Lisu tribe Village, The Chinese Village and the memorial bridge before heading to the airport.
The scenery is beautiful in this part of the world. It has a very laid back and peaceful atmosphere. The drive is not easy and not suggested for those with a queasy stomach with all the curves and turns thru the mountains. I had a lot of new experiences during the few days we spent in Mae Hong Son and Pai. I would recommend this trip to my clients who are seeking new travel experiences away from the mainstream tourist areas.