After a two night stay in the River House, it was time to move on to Mae La Noy. Each person in the group wants to return to Mae Sariang angto enjoy the comforts of the River House. (Finally, after a third shopping excursion to the one and only Seven Eleven convenience store in town, we did manage to leave the small city.)
The Governor had informed us that 80% of the province was inhabitable due to the mostly mountainous terrain. We were about to find that fact out for ourselves during the required eight hour drive to reach Mae Hong Sorn city passing around 800 bends in the road.
On arrival in Mae Lay Noy, most members of the township were on hand to greet us at the most scenic spot. After watching the children perform the Ginggala dance in beautiful costumes, we were served breakfast while we looked upon the pastoral view of wide green valleys and tall mountains. It was a view I have never seen at breakfast. The newly opened tourist rest stop also features a hilltribe swing that is usually only seen during tribal new year. We saw exactly how the giant swing worked. A stop at the souvenir shop offered beautiful silver jewelry and rings set with auspicious birthstones. How could we resist not buying?
We drove along highway 108 passing though the mountain range for 5 kms to Gaew Gomon Cave. This is a calcite cave which was discovered only a few years ago by the local engineering office. The cave walls are covered with calcite crystals in various formations. After Queen Sirikit and the Crown Prince visited the cave, it was renamed “Cave of Beautiful Crystals”. This is the only calcite cave in southeast Asia. Five distinct crystals types have been identified. The park offers a fact filled brochure and all visitors are guided by a park ranger.
The hilltop location of Huay Horm Village, a Royal Project, has an outstanding panoramic view. Friendly greetings were given and lunch was served. At the end of the meal, the women eagerly performed a dance to a lullaby complete with swinging dolls in blankets. I have to admit I have never seen that folk dance before. Then they showed us a lively dance while they stepped through moving bamboo poles. Huay Horm Village lies about 32 kilometers from Mae La Noy district. I don’t know if the entertainment is for every visitor but you should certainly ask for a performance during your visit.
We drove a short distance to an award winning OTOP village where sheep are raised for the wool. The village was in the middle of a steep hillside and though parking spaces were nowhere to be seen the clever drivers managed to find a place to park. Here women carded the sheared wool and wove beautiful soft shawls. Another unusual item to be had from Mae Hong Sorn.
Coming back to the highway 108, drive north toward Khun Yuam District about 67 kms away, is an interesting temple with a design of northern and central regions’ architecture at the Mae La Luang area, 12 kms from Mae La Noy. This new “Mae Paang” temple is located in a small village, Mae Paang of Santi Kiri subdistrict, 1.5 km after the right turn. If we could spend another half day in the area of Khun Yuam, additional attractions to enjoy are : Toong Bua Tong, Doi Mae Oo Kor -- When winter comes, tourists favor this area to appreciate the beauty of the yellow Mexican Sunflower wild fields covering the mountain face especially during November-December when the Mexican Sunflowers are in full bloom. The national park authority built an impressive point to observe the picturesque views especially in the morning and evening when the scene is fantastically more beautiful. Mae Surin Waterfall -- A fantastic waterfall originating from the Mae Surin creek. The water flows from a 100 meters-high cliff. There’s a viewpoint to see the water from a long distance. All appreciate the beauty of the waterfall flowing to the lower floor through rocks and a variety of plants. Also the waterfall is perfect for those who love an adventurous walk from the upper to the lower floor.
Finally, we reached the city of Mae Hong Sorn in time to have dinner at Milk & Maew Garden Restaurant in the city. It was dark when we checked into the Golden Pai Suites Hotel and Resort and we could not admire the hotel grounds clearly. Once inside the large guestroom, the coolness was so inviting. Very welcoming especially after travelling in the van around 800 curves that day.
The next morning we were up early to see the spectacular Poy Sang Long parade, a grand Shan - style ceremony when novices (Loog Kaew) are initiated into monkhood. It was a thrill to see one hundred novices ornately outfitted early in the morning. Senior men danced with the grandsons on their shoulders through the streets of Mae Hong Sorn City. The main ceremony took place at Wat Hua Wiang. Later, these boys attended a short course teaching the practice of Buddhism philosophy.
After the parade, we drove to Baan Paang Tong Villa. As with all royal villas, research on agriculture products is foremost here. There on the hilltop is a clear reservoir with small charming cabins for rent. This is another get away that we promise to return to get to know better..
We drove about 44 kilometers from Mae Hong Sorn City to Moo Baan Rak Thai. Here we sampled the isolation of the last village before the Burmese border. The village was established over 30 years go, but the modern road was constructed only four years ago. It has a definite feeling of a Yunanese Chinese settlement with the small shops of the mud adobe look. In the small lanes, donkeys wait patiently to carry supplies to an even more distant camp. We bought an assortment of delicious black oolong tea. The vendors were very eager to allow us to sample nearly every type of black tea on the shelf. Lunch was typical Chinese food, steamed pork knuckle with large soft white dumplings, herb soup and vegetables from the mountains along with unlimited pots of steaming hot black tea. As we drove away from the village, we noticed a large clear reservoir and small cabins perfect for long stay in the remote area.
We drove to at Baan Mork Jumpae, home of the famous mud spa, Phu Klone Country Club, looking forward to a treatment using the nutrient enriched clay. The owner tells us that found on the grounds of the country club is one of the top clays in the world ranking alongside France, Romania, and the Dead Sea. We all enjoy a mud facial. The health centers offers several beautify products made from the clay. Another shopping must to be had. The lovely staff remembered us from our previous visit in 2006. It’s the end of the day and with faces all clean and glowing, and we head back to Golden Pai Hotel. After a short rest, we went to explore the shopping street in the city. We returned to the hotel for dinner at a table near the river that was flowing very placid in April.
Next morning we left Mae Hong Sorn town and headed west for Lod Cave in the Thaam Lord Conservation Development Station in Paang Ma Pha district. A simple walk through the cave. So as not to discourage us, we were told the walk was three hundred meters but it turned out to be three kilometers. The cave interiors were very fascinating in the cave.
During June to November, visitors can sit in a long boat on the Nam Lang flowing inside to view the underground grotto. In April, the water level is too low for a boat ride.. We walked through two of three caves. The third cave is known as Tham Peeman or spirit cave and has ancient paintings on the walls. It was not open to the public during this visit. The guide informed us the log spirit coffins have been removed. The walk through was quite an adventure. Better suited for young scouts who would like climbing up and down wooden ladders to several levels. Outside the cave, the surrounding park area seems to be an ideal place to camp in a tent.
The next stop Wat Naam Hoo, a chedi in memory of King Naresuan’s older sister. The Buddha image is estimated to be more than 500 years old. Our drive took us closer to Chiangmai. We stopped in Pai for lunch and said farewell to the TAT Mae Hong Sorn officers who were our hosts for the past five days.From Pai, we managed to get back to Chiangmai city about 6 pm. Five days of adventure was suddenly over but we dream of visiting this fascinating area to see even more sights of Mae Hong Sorn province, the province of natural beauty. Thanks to Khun Opal of TAT Region One office for the arrangements.
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