I have been in love with Mae Hong Son since I first set foot in the town 2 years ago. I instantly felt at home and my affection for this sweet place has only grown. After failing my meditation goals at Wat Pa Tam Wua I decided to spend the rest of my time away from Chiang Mai in Mae Hong Son. Funny thing, I was much more relaxed and at peace in Mae Hong Son than I was at the forest monastery. I need more Mae Hong Son in my life! So why do I love this place, let me count the ways.
Clean air- For the majority of the year, excluding the smoky season when it has the worst air in the country, Mae Hong Son has very little smog. This make exploring the town on foot, my usual mode of transport, so much more enjoyable.
Slow pace of life- In general Thailand has a much slower pace of life and here in Mae Hong Son it feels even slower. For someone like me who suffers from a bit of anxiety it is very calming to be in such a slow paced environment.
Friendliness- In Mae Hong Son I am much more likely to get greeted or at least acknowledged on the street, in shops, or by street vendors. It feels like there are more smiles in this small town than in many big cities combined.
Walkability- Though there are no sidewalks on many of the smaller streets and the sidewalks that do exist are often cracked and uneven, there is also little traffic contend with making Mae Hong Son a very walkable town.
Opportunities to speak Thai- Because there are not big crowds, shop keepers and food vendors are both more patient and more helpful as I bumble through my market Thai with them.
Ease of making friends- The last time I visited I made friends with a shop keeper and a tour guide who I’d stop by and chat with each evening. This is also a factor of the town being less busy and people being more willing to engage with me.
Space to exercise- The steps to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu in the early morning or early evening are a great place to get a free workout.
Nature nearby- With many waterfall and trails, like the Mae Sakut Nature Trail, in close motorbiking distance it is quick and easy to go swimming, hiking, birding, or botanizing.
Handicraft heaven- Also within close motorbiking distance you can visit villages where artisans specialize in producing pottery, weaving, and silver products. Villages producing sesame, various roasted beans, and tea that are sold under the OTOP label can be easily visited as well.
Huge morning and evening markets- The morning market is full of fragrant fresh veggies and herbs and noddle vendors. The night market is full of prepared foods where I pick up seriously good fried chicken, roasted eggplant dip, and custard filled pumpkin.
Cost of Living- I have found both rent and food to be cheaper in Mae Hong Son. Seriously, when are we going to move here?
Alawaa Cafe- Yes, this place gets a nod of it’s own. This sweet little coffee shop overlooking Jong Kham Lake is run by the friendly Pii An and serves up the best Thai tea.
Plane spotting- I developed a bit of a new hobby the last time I was in Mae Hong Son, plane spotting. On certain days of the week between 4:30 to 5:30 you can see the arrival and departure of 2 very different aircraft from the top of Doi Kong Mu. It isn’t often you can see planes from this vantage point and I love seeing the little prop planes take off after using less than 10% of the runway.
Most of all I love how I feel when I am in Mae Hong Son. Besides the speaking Thai part and exchanging planes for hot air balloons, this town sure reminds me of another small town I love. Are Winters and Mae Hong Son twins who were separated a birth? I need someone from Winters to visit and confirm.
Who is up for the task?