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Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

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Geneva, Switzerland
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Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Hi,

We are planning a week in Chiang Mai beginning July. We would spend about 2-3 nights in Chiang Mai and then head for Mae Hong Son.

What kind of weather to expect? Any itinerary suggestions for a 3-day visit? We will have our two kids aged 9 and 10 with us. They are very interested in meeting local people and children, and also love exploring nature, especially caves. They of course are not fans of long drives and spending too much time in the car. We are looking for the best experience with minimum driving hehe

And some suggestions on where to stay...

Thanks in advance for your help xox

lewes uk
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1. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Hi,

Whichever way you do it it's a pretty long drive. The northern route via Pai is a bit quicker than the southern route via Khun Yuam but the southern route is a bit less hilly. The other thing about the northern route is that you can stop off in Pai which has plenty of accommodation and your kids might enjoy it there. There are some caves close by and also on the drive to HMS you pass Tham Lod caves near Soppong and the 'Fish' cave nearer to MHS. July is the wet season so the driving could be tricky especially on the north section as it's very steep and windy, landslips are possible too so you need to be cautious. However if the conditions are dry then it's not bad driving and quite fun, but road rule observance is a bit haphazard so do expect oncoming traffic to be in the centre of the road sometimes and crazy overtaking.

In MHS itself there are quite a lot of travel shops that can organise day tours to tribes etc or hook you up with guides. Mae Aw is a lovely day trip to see the lake and visit the royal project on the way and there are various waterfalls around there too.

Fern resort just out of town is magical, if you want to be central then Piya resort right by the lake and night market is good after the recent refurb and very good value.

Pai has many good options, but it's nice to stay by the river.

Cheers

Geneva, Switzerland
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2. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Thanks so much for your reply. Just to clarify, is the loop doable in 3-4 days, if fairly dry weather, without it being too much for the kids? Or do you suggest that we do just a part of the loop, for example the northern part? We would all love to get the feel of the place and its people, and enjoy. Rather than rushing to complete the loop... Thanks again xox

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

The loop is do-able in 4 days if you cut back through Hot. You may feel a little rushed, but it's certainly not impossible. Like Paul suggests, there are some nice caves along the way. It will be wet season, and the climate in the hilly northern areas is milder than in Chiang Mai itself. I would stop at Pai overnight, as the night market is quite nice to see. Having said that, it won't be peak season so you won't get the full atmosphere.

Mae Sariang is a nice little town too.

The following is a map I found very useful when I did the drive, but like I said I didn't do the full loop through Mae Sot and Tak, rather I cut through Hot to get back to Chiang Mai:

budget.co.th/images/…worldclass_mae_eng.pdf

Bangkok, Thailand
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4. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Considering that it will probably be raining at least part of the time (it will be the middle of rainy season), you are looking at 10 - 12 hours of driving, with lots of concentration required for all the twists and turns and erratic pickup drivers. That may not be the most exciting thing for your kids. And if they get car sick - very bad idea.

One option would be to hire a driver one way and then fly back from Mae Hong Son. That would let you see all the villages and lovely mountain scenery that you want, while at the same time giving you more time to do some local exploring and relaxing rather than sitting in the car. If you like caves and nature, Soppong would be the perfect base for that. Pai might not be your best bet, as it is a huge tourist scene now. Apart from the western backpackers, Pai is now becoming filled with Chinese tourists as well. Just guessing that you are not going to be looking for a tattoo, late night blues jam sessions, or souvenir stands that begin 10 km before you even get to Pai town.

Geneva, Switzerland
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5. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Thanks so much for the map link, its a really great source of info!

Having read more reviews on the loop drive, windy, curvy, and probably rainy in July, Im thinking if it isn't better to head to Chiang Rai instead of doing the loop... But can't decide :)

Wanna do what's the best for our kids, and they are not into touristy stuff... Help! :)

Geneva, Switzerland
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6. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

I would maybe do a tattoo, but a sacred tattoo if an opportunity presents itself :)

Thanks for your kind reply. You also made me laugh :)

lewes uk
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7. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Hi,

If you did chose Chiang Rai and self drove, you could head off the Mae Salong which is a pretty cool place with lots of tea plantations set on the mountain slopes, sort of a Chinese Thai town. Then an easy but spectacular drive is to take the road from there to Tha Ton which has a wonderful hillside temple and then head down to Chiang Dao. All these areas have fantastic hill tribe villages and it's easy to stay in Mae Salong, Tha Ton and Chiang Dao.

Cheers

Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Indeed, if you chose to go to Chiang Rai, I second the motion to go visit Mae Salong - it's quiet and out of the way, with very nice scenery.

Nonetheless wherever you go in this region you will encounter windy roads, and if it's raining, then it'll be raining almost everywhere. The Mae Hong Son loop has some great scenery and feels more secluded, like you're there by yourselves, but the Chiang Rai district has lots to see also, such as the White Temple, the Golden Triangle area, Chiang Rai itself, and if you're keen you could consider a border crossing into Burma for a few hours at Mae Sai! The roads to Chiang Rai do seem to have less twisty/windy sections overall though.

Tookay, that's very interesting news you provide about Pai being overrun with Chinese tourists. While trying not to be too racist, I suspect the atmosphere of the place will be lost if nothing is done. I noticed the same thing in Chiang Mai earlier this year. It is a noticeable, and unfortunate, difference. They have a reputation that precedes them, and in the majority of cases it seems to hold true - the loud, careless behaviour; the seeming lack of understanding/interest in the more cultural/natural things around them; the spitting and pushing.... I amused myself watching a group at the moat buying fish food from a little kiosk, and feeding the pigeons, seemingly thinking that the pigeons were the attraction - you had to be there, but it was comical!

Passport queues in Bangkok were noticeably longer, apparently due to the visibly larger number of mainland Chinese. The same thing is happening in Australia, and we have to be very politically correct here despite some people seeing the writing on the wall. I actually fail to see what they get out of some of their trips here as they seem to revolve around seeing the casinos, seeing some major shopping centres, being bussed around several Chinese-owned vitamin and supplement supply stores, seeing perhaps a few major tourist sights such as the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, and then going on to New Zealand to do the same - buy some manuka honey, buy some sheepskin, then go home! And boy can you hear them when they're coming! So sad.........

Edited: 06 June 2014, 00:03
perth
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9. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

Hi

While I have nothing to add on this topic I have to say car sick can happened to an adult too lol. All of you guys knowledgable of the areas are priceless.

robol...totally agree with you regarding your sentiment in post # 8.

Travel safe !

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Mae Hong Son loop in 3-4 days beginning July

With only a few days to spare I'd heed the suggestions above and maybe head to Chiang Rai - only three hours by bus and a very pleasant trip. There are some great guides based around Chiang Rai, who will organise trips to visit hill tribes as well as other things in the area. We have used the services of Jermsak, a wonderful guide who has a great knowledge of the tribes in the area. He also has a raft and can take you along the river for the most relaxing couple of hours ever. It is only 2-3 hours' drive from CR to Mae Salong (see paulo's suggestion, and robol's). With an overnight stay there you can visit a couple of tribes and a tea plantation - I think the young ones would enjoy that.

If you opt for the MHS loop, Tookay's suggestion is a good one - by car CM - Pai - Soppong - MHS, then back by air. It is only a half hour trip. But you still won't have much time to stop and catch your breath.