Until the 1980s, Thailand's northwestern province Mae Hong Son and its little capital with the same name were known only to nomadic hill tribesmen, opium armies, Burmese border patrols, and the Thai military, who was involved in year round fights with the drug barons who ran opium plantations and heroin factories. An impenetrable jungle covered the misty hills where only hill tribesmen and drug caravans knew their way. Today the opium business is under control in Thailand (which does unfortunately not mean that is has stopped altogether; the drug barons have simply withdrawn into Burma (Myanmar) and operate from there).
First news of the
of the scenery and the fascinating hill tribe cultures were
brought to the West by journalists who came to report on the fights and
military conflicts and when the situation calmed down, the first tourists
arrived in Mae Hong Son - and liked it. Nowadays, the region is really
safe for travelers. The locals soon discovered that tourism was a profitable
industry and today many guest houses, some modest hotels, and one very
good one, tour operators, souvenir shops, and a night market can be found
in Mae Hong Son.
View of Mae Hong Son
The best thing is, despite these changes, Mae Hong Son is still beautiful!
Apart from sightseeing in the little town itself, raft or boat tours on the Mae Hong Son river can be arranged, elephant rides, visits to hill tribe villages - the villages of the Padaung Karen with the so-called Giraffe necked women are specially popular. Trekking and hiking in the hills is also possible. Although it may be tempting, you should not go on your own on such tours - always go with a local guide. The hill tribe people are friendly and accommodation, though basic, and food can always be found in the their villages, but the real danger is that you might accidentally cross the border to Burma.
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Last Updated 10.02.2007