Thailand | Hello, Mae Hong Son

As we said goodbye to UHDP (sadly) and purchased woven goods from the little tribal shop, the fog was beginning to life and the warm sun shine. The mornings here are breathtakingly beautiful. It’s sad to leave, but Mae Hong Son awaits. The car ride was long and difficult, full of bumpy roads and winding paths, but the views were amazing. Every now and again, a water buffalo or cow could be seen wandering beside the well-paved street. We stopped for lunch in Pai, and I am not impressed…

It seems strange to see so many farang (westerners), and we are no longer stared at. It was easily the most exposure to mass tourism that we have had here, which was especially clear after our stint at UHDP. The people did not expect any Thai from us, and rarely looked warmly in our direction. Strangely, the farang stared at us here much more than the Thai. We were on assignment to examine the various hill tribe tours offered in this area, which were horrible: packed with meaningless activities, sans authentic food or interaction, and zoo-like. The guides did not even speak Karen! Though the food here was delicious, we were ready to get out…

Three hours later, we got our first glimpse of Mae Hong Son. Given some rare free time, we wandered down to the lake, where a large, outdoor market was set up. Suddenly, we were large, loud farang again, our rightful place in this society, attracting every pair of eyes. Though often uncomfortable and slightly eerie, this is a good sign, for it means we are off the beaten track here and may get some more insight into reality. We ate delicious treats in the market: little ricey pancakes, crepe-like cookies, thai noodles, and many amazing fruits. I would recommend Mae Hong Son for this night market alone. Also, we met Nic, a young Karen women selling hill tribe goods in a little booth by the lake. She was from Huay Hee and knew our guide/program and had even worked temporarily in a Colorado hotel! We bought some Karen bags from her and made friends. Mae Hong Son is fabulous. I could really stay here for ages; definitely worth a visit for those crossing through the area or wanting to explore a world where Karen really meets Thai.

Tip: Do not eat “hamburgaaars” in Mae Hong Son, as it caused most of the group various unpleasantries.

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