Our journey began by heading south from Airport Plaza along route 108 through Hang dong, Sanpatong, Jomthong and Hord. Then we turned right and kept driving on Route 108 for 105 kilometers south of Chiangmai, We stopped at Orb Luang National Park for a 15 minute rest. We continued our trip and arrived at Mae Haw KM marker 84,about 28 kilometers before Mae Sariang; (150 kilometers away from Chiangmai). Here we visited a social and welfare center. At 1,100 meters, its the highest spot in Mae Sariang. The village is known for growing Arabica coffee beans and tamarin fruit. The area has caves and waterfall. Many hilltribes make their livelihood from agriculture in this area. For years the village did not draw tourist but now the Tribal Culture Center is open to the public. The exhibition identifies the five tribes of the area, their respective dress and house styles. This scenic area is known for its colorful flower plantations. Each November, the entire valley is covered with wild Mexican sunflowers.
Mae Sariang is a pleasant easy going riverside town with a few restaurants, shops and two Shan style temples. The shan style temple Museum and Exhibition Hall houses local artifacts and OTOP products that presented the way of life of Shan ethnic and hiltribes of Lua,, Lawa, Karen and Hmong. This hall also has tourism information on various site in Mae Sariang and its surroundings. Mae Sariang is laid-back; its citizens take price in their town's temples and Buddhist festivals.
There are four revered temples, "Wat Prathart" denoting each temple with that prefix is believed to have Buddha's relic in the top part of the pagoda.
Prathart Jom Jaeng: northern Lanna art and architecture mixed with other beautiful styles. Prathart Jom Thong: built in authentic Lanna style, with a large Buddha image. Prathart Jom Gitti: outstanding stupa with Lanna design. On the 8th day of first half of the 9th lunar month (around June), a celebration is held here. Prathart Jom Morn: also northern design with the festival in July. Visitors are impressed with local artists who painted those beautiful murals of Lord Buddha's lives.
Other attractive temples in the town are Wat Gitti Wong: houses relics of the Lord Buddha brought from Chiangmai along with important manuscripts discovered in Pha Daeng cave recounting the history of relations between Burma (Myanmar) and Lanna Kingdom. Wat Jong Soong (Wat Uttayarnrom): features two white mon-style pagodas along with a very beautiful Burmsese-style Wiharn. Wat Sri Boonrueng: features a beautiful Shan-style Wiharn with neat wood carvings. This temple also has mural paintings of Lord Buddha's life. Wat Saeng Thong: A beautiful old bronze image of Lord Buddha subduing Mara which dates back to Chiang Saen period. Another Buddha image named, Pra Buddha Sihing is held in high respect by local citizens. Wat Pra Supan Rangsri: A pavilion and bell tower with beautiful architecture of Shan (Thai Yai) and Burmese.
After Mae Sariang we headed toward the deep south of Mae Hong Sorn province during that afternoon to Sob Moei District. Fifteen kilometers away from the district office is the Mae Ngao National Park that covers the southern border of Mae Hong Sorn and the northern border of Tak provinces. Seventy percent of the whole area lies in the south of Mae Hong Sorn province through steep mountions -- Doi Pui Luang, Doi Serterlue and Doi Kui Luang. Several rivers pass through different parts of this national park -- Mae Naam Ngao, Mae Naam Yuam, Mae Naam Rid and Mae Naam Kong. It is very green landscape and we really enjoyed bamboo rafting for 35 minutes. This is an excellent place for a real rafting adventure among pristine natural surroundings. Three options of bamboo rafting are available:
Mae Ngao National Park has accommodation available for rent as well as areas to camp. Visitors have to bring and prepare their own food. For more details, contact 053-681323. After the very damaging flood of 2005, the fish are only now plentiful and being seen swimming in the river. Each Saturday and Sunday many local residents come to enjoy the water sport.
Our group left Mae Ngao National Park for another national park -- Salaween National Park about 8 kilometers west from the city of Mae Sariang. We arrived in the evening at the office of Salaween National Park where we were hosted for one night stay. Visitors can contact the office for camping site. We stayed at the national park's cabin that has three bedrooms cooled by fans and two bathrooms where we were provided with big fluffy bath towels. (A) 1 big bungalow/1,200 baht, (B) 3 medium sized bungalows/each 900 baht, (3) 1 average bunaglow/550 baht. Salaween National Park, P.O. Box 8, Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Sorn 58110. Mobile Phone : 081-024-1854, 081-366-7356. On the other hand, one more site within the national park, 50 kms away from the district office, is available for explorers.
Salaween Loom Naam Kong National Park is another popular attraction on the "Big Teak Trail" adventure are the giant teak trees so stout that it takes eight men linking hands to encircle its trunk. The area is rich in flora and fauna, and its best visited in the wet season when the waterfalls are in full flow and the wild flowers are blooming. Mae Saam Laeb is a village on the Salaween or Naam Kong, 46 kilometers west away from the city of Mae Sariang via Rte. 1194 (Officially, this village is located in Sob Moei subdistrict, 62 kms north of Sob Moei District office).
An amazing site is the simple bamboo buildings edging the narrow road for at least one kilometer at the edge over the river. Lining the lane were mostly mini stores selling dry goods. Standing around were villagers of all ages and many military dressed in uniforms of all colors. High on the other side of the river flew the flag of the "Union of Myanmar". To board the boat we walked through soft white sand for about 300 meters. On board, I prayed not to see any bodies floating in the river. The feeling of solation, remoteness and insecurity ran through my mind. We were travelling slowly and could be an easy target.
On the wide river, we passed huge boulders and wandering caribou. Not any sounds or suspicious moves occurred during the boat ride. Off the boat again, we walked in the soft sand to the meeting point for lunch. The area looked pristine and not touristy at all. The Thai Police, Border Patrol and Volunteer Rangers with all their paraphernalia are travelling along with us.
The split of the KNY and Kariang Buddhist about 15 years ago brought a halt to any and all prosperity in this village. Back then a very prosperous furniture production center operated. Not far from here is a large waterfall similar to Tilor Jar is a natural attraction. South of the village is the Mae Naam Moei. Many boats sailed to Mae Sord but all that has stopped now.
After our box lunch in the deserted guest house, we walked through the village. It's quiet and secure. The officials are hoping to promote homestay. There are 15 rooms in the village. We walked through the village with no one around. A 6 pm curfew is now enforced. All people must stay inside the houses. Boats are not allowed to stop at the pier after 5 pm.On the return cruise against the water current and wind, we arrived at Mae Saam Laeb but decided to sail on further north. It would take from 45 minutes to 1.25 hour to reach Baan Tha Ta Fung with the white beach called Haad Taen Gaew which means "A Platform of Crystal".
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