Nestled in a deep valley hemmed in by high mountain ranges, Mae Hong Son has long been isolated from the outside world. Virtually covered with mist throughout the year, the name refers to the fact that is terrain is highly suitable for the training of elephants.
Former governors of Chiang Mai used to organize the rounding up of wild elephants which were then trained before being sent to the capital for work. Today, Mae Hong Son is one of the ream destinationfor visitors who are attracted by its cultural and natural wonders.
Distances from Mae Hong Son town (Amphoe Muang) to the other districts:
An old temple, Wat Chong Kham is located on the bank of the swamp Nong Chong Kham and was built in 1827 by Thai Yai artisans. The pillars are gilded in golden flakes. The temple houses a large Buddha statue with a lap width of 4.85 metres cast by Burmese craftsmen. The principal statue is another statue which is a replica of the statue in Wat Suthat in Bangkok.
Namtok Pha Sua is in Tambon Mokchampae about 17 kilometres from the provincial seat on Route 1095 to Pai district with a left turn at Ban Rak Thai village. The waterfall is a further twenty kilometres from the village. It is a large fall with its water source in Myanmar. Pha Sua runs full during the late rainy season (August-September).
Another five kilometres further on along the path to high hill are the hilltribe villages of Na Pa Paek and Mae Or on the Thai-Burmese border.
Thai Yai Architecture can be seen in most temples. Although a part of the Lanna region, the indigenous Thai Yai or Tai people living there are faced with very cold weather during winter and extremely hot weather in the summer, with mist or fog practically throughout the whole year.
Not surprisingly they have had to adapt to the environment. As a result, their architectural style has developed into something different from other Lanna communities. Their living quarters are usually built with tall floors and low roofs, the sizes differing according to one social status and position. Homes of the ordinary folks are usually with one single level of roof, while those of the local aristocrats have two or more levels forming a castle-like shape. The space thus provided is believed to help air circulation. An interesting feature of the Thai Yai style is the perforated designs along the eaves which are an architectural identity of the area.
Phraya Singhanatracha Memorial commemorates the first Chao Muang (governor) of Mae Hong Son. A Thai Yai native from Burma, he was regarded by the people as the governor of Khun Yuam, which was to the south of Mae Hong Son. Later, he was officially installed as the Chao Muang of Mae Hong Son by the King of Lanna in 1874.
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu , located on a hill to the west of town, is a major provincial landmark. There are two Burmese-style Chedis (pagodas). The larger one was built in 1860 while the smaller one was erected in 1874. A panoramic view of Mae Hong Son can be enjoyed from the site.
At the foot of Doi Kong Mu is Wat Phra Non , which houses a 12-metre long Reclining Buddha in the Tha Yai style cast in 1875 by Phra Nang Miah, wife of Phraya Singhanatracha. Another main feature of the temple is the two large sculpted lions lying side by side, presumably providing the passage for those going up to pay homage to the Kong Mu Holy Relic on the hill.
Opposite Wat Phra Non is Wat Kam Ko , an old temple built in 1890. A special architectural feature is the cover over the passageway from the entrance arch to the Burmese-style Vihara* (Vihara means an edifice housing a a principal Buddha image of the temple). It also stores text in Thai Yai script chronicling the Thai Yai history.
Wat Hua Wiang or Wat Klang Muang on Sihanat Bamrung Road next to the Morning Market was built in 1863. It houses the Phra Chao Pharalakhaeng, a Buddha statue dressed in beautiful attire. It is a replica of a major statue in Mandalay, Myanmar.About 17 kilometres from town on Highway No. 1095 (Mae Hong Son-Pai) is Tham Pla Forest Park . The surrounding areas are brooks and cool hilly forests suitable for relaxation. A special feature is the hollow cave filled with Phluang fish, which is of the same family as the carp. The fish are quite safe from being caught as they are believed to belong to the gods.
The Pha Bong Hot Spring is located on Highway No. 108, about 11 kilometres from town. There are facilities for mineral water bath for health purpose.
The Tham Lot Forest Park is situated in a forest in Pang Mapha district some 77 kilometres from town. Here nature has created an exotic subterranean wonder of darkness and mystery. A brook runs from the cave mouth through to the other side of the mountain. It is a route where visitors may travel by raft or by foot to explore the 1 kilometre-long cave along which can be found beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Also discovered are 2,000 year-old remains of utensils and coffins. There are services provided by villagers to guide visitors in their exploration.
Another site where stalactites and stalagmites can be found is the Mae Lana Cave. The stream inside the cave is habitat to eyeless and colorless fish that live in dark environment.