Road to Mae Hong Son-Part 3 The road back home
December 15, 2016
Our time on the road to Mae Hong Son gave us a great opportunity to get out and see the country. Part 3, the road back home will share our experiences in Mae Hong Son at the evening market, as well as the trip home through Mae Sariang.
We arrived at the hotel to discover again that emails were sent but not received. This hotel was also booked up, however they sent us to a beautiful spot just around the corner from the lake. The Romtai Guest House had a room with air conditioning for $22.32/night. The room was big enough, clean and the bed not so hard as in Pai. The shower was just in a corner of the bathroom again, but it felt like camping. There was coffee and tea available in the “lobby” which was just an open area with a soccer game playing on the tv. When the owner heard we were in Thailand until March she said, “You can stay here as long as you want.”
The things that set this place apart from just another guest house were the grounds that were Mexican resort-like. There was a huge lily pond filled with fish and little paths led through the jungle to hidden cottages. There was a large covered area with furniture and several lawns with flowering plants. From the street, it looked like a regular low-budget motel, with towels drying on the railings and racks but inside was such a surprise. And less than $25/night! The only con was it is much cooler in the mountains at night and I could have used another blanket on the bed.
Wat Jong Kam
The lake near our guesthouse was apparently used to bathe elephants in the olddays. Now it just provides a gathering place for the Sunday market, as well as great reflections of the Wat Jong Kam. There is a strong Burmese influence here since the border to Myanmar is quite close and the spires on the wat reflected this. The teak construction in the coffee bar also helped to remind us where we were in the world.
Mae Hong Son Sunday Market
We sat up on the second floor of the Coffee Bar and watched the market unfold below us. There were numbers on the pavement for each cart. Some sale items came in cars, or push carts, but most arrived in side carts on scooters. People seem to buy at the market like the place is a big salad bar. They get a stick of meat here, a bag of soup there, a banana leaf pouch of I don’t know what’s in them yet, a fruit drink somewhere else. There were some tourists in the area, but this town is much less popular than Pai, so we saw mostly locals doing their shopping. Most shoppers were on foot, but some use drive through and pull right up to a stall. On the website, I included a separate page of photos under the Travel menu on the ways we have seen families travel so far.
Time to Wonder
As we sat in the same spot for breakfast the next morning, looking out at the quiet empty street, I so glad we decided to come and spend enough time in Thailand to really wonder. What are in those banana leaf packets? Are those brown cubes roasting over the charcoal really sticky rice? How do families manage to live with so little? How do parents look so calm while riding down the road with their 2 children wedged on the bike between them. We find when we just travel quickly through a place the questions are all about us. Where will we sleep tonight? Where will we go next? Having time to wonder makes this trip so enriching.
View point surprise
The first viewpoint of the day was well worth the stop. The hills are so green and lush now that the rainy season has ended. It rained one day the first week we were here but we haven’t seen another drop since. This spot had cement viewing steps with a Burmese style roof. The coffee shop here had pots of strawberries is racks and a cement fire pit in the middle of the floor to boil water for tea.
Pete ordered a banana smoothie. I didn’t want anything, but he brought over a little teapot with 2 tiny cups and a small bowl of roasted chickpeas to nibble. He said they offer that to everyone. His smoothie came with a plate of cut up banana topped with a sweet syrup and garnished with a flower. What a special place to sit and appreciate the care that had gone into our order.
Namtok Mae Surin National Park
There were many other beautiful views for the next hour or so, but no places to stop along the road for pictures. After heading south from the viewpoint we turned at Khun Yuam and headed east then north back into the hills towards the National Park.
Along the road we saw many farming areas where the women were sitting on the ground or around tables sorting some kind of small crop. We saw very small houses on stilts that looked like the change house at the hot springs. Sometimes a scooter was parked underneath. There were some farm trucks (over)loaded with products on the roads. One was loaded with kids.
About 12 km up the hilly, twisty road, we arrived at Bua Tong or Wild Sunflower fields. The hills were just covered with these bushes that were covered with yellow flowers. They were more the size of small daisies than what I think of as sunflowers. They were past their prime but November is when they begin blooming and the locals celebrate with a festival. There was a viewpoint here, but it was busy and we didn’t know how much longer it would take us to get to the National Park and the waterfall at the top.
We saw a few large plants covered in red flowers. Pete asked me what they were and I replied with, “How the heck should I know.” In the parking lot at the park we saw one of the big plants with red flowers. I was very surprised to find it was a wild poinsettia. There was a nice blue hydrangea too. Neither seemed very Thai.
Mae Surin Waterfall
It wasn’t much farther and after paying the tourist entry of 200 baht each, (not much by our standards, but almost as much as our hotel room) we drove down a very narrow one way road to the parking lot. After a short walk up the path, we saw the Mae Surin (Mae meaning river) waterfall. AT 85 m it is the highest waterfall in Thailand. The viewpoint is right across the valley from the top of the falls, so it was a great spot. The sharpened bamboo posts and barb wire certainly reminded you not to go beyond the fence. There is a trail to the bottom but we didn’t have time to take it down.
On to Mae Sariang
The rest of the ride was uneventful. We stopped for a quick lunch in a restaurant back in Khun Yuam. I had a noodle soup and Pete pointed on the menu to a meat and rice dish that didn’t really taste great to him. He only ate a little. We arrived at the Good View Guest house about sunset and our emailed reservation for room 10 actually worked. (about $37) The whole building is teak and looks out on the Sariang River. We even had a balcony with folding shutter doors to open to the view. Unfortunately there were no screens so we didn’t want to leave them open.
It was good we had a room with a private bathroom as something Pete ate was not good for him. We don’t know if it was the pork lunch, the ice in the smoothie or something he touched along the way. He was sick all night. The hotel offered tea and toast for breakfast which stayed put so Pete was able to drive us back to Chiang Mai the next day. The rental car was safely returned to the airport and we took a $4.00 private taxi van back to our apartment.
He laid low for a couple of days but everything is fine now. We feel pretty lucky that we have eaten mostly what we wanted and made it 5 weeks before Thai bacteria overwhelmed our Canadian stomachs.