Mae Hong Son to Soppong Posted by sasha on Jan 7, 2015 in Culture, Travel
After making the long drive from Mae Chaem up to Mae Hong Son, we had to think about our plans for the rest of our MHS Loop motorbike adventure. Originally, we had planned to most likely spend two nights in the capital city of the province by the same name. However, based on what we had read and heard, we began thinking it would be a better idea to forego a second night in Mae Hong Son in favor of spending more in both Soppong and Pai. Knowing that you can never sell a place short until you actually see what it has to offer, we decided to stroll around town and weigh our options for things to do.
Although it is a provincial capital, MHS is very much a sleepy mountain town. We settled on a guesthouse near Jom Kham lake and then took a lap around, stopping in to admire the various temples. The twin temples of Wat Jong Klang and Wat Jong Kham situated on the north side of the lake were built in the early 19th century in more of a Burmese style, making them distinct architecturally from other temples in Thailand.
Inside of one of the temples, you’ll find a stunning wooden Buddha in the Shan style. The white and gilded chedi of Wat Jong Klang has become a symbol of the town, and it truly is a spectacular sight. There are also a number of paintings on glass that depict stories of Buddha originating from India. It was a nice afternoon slowly exploring the temple grounds, and we then walked around town to see what our options were for an adventure the next day.
There are plenty of opportunities for trekking, visiting villages, and all that good northern Thailand stuff in MHS, but we decided to leave the next morning in order to spend more time checking out the caves in Soppong and then enjoying all that Pai has to offer for a while to end the trip.
When the sun goes down, the lights come up on the temples. It’s a beautiful sight, and it made us appreciate the calm of this small Thai town as compared with the big cities of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
There’s a nice little night market that goes on around the lake, so we naturally checked it out and went in search of some tasty Thai street food. You’ll also find plenty of vendors and shops around this area, making it a cool place to do some window shopping or just go for a walk. A few bars can be found in the area as well, so we headed to one with a small rooftop to enjoy a drink and watch the town move below. We had grand plans to get up at sunrise to go see the view from a hilltop temple, but in the end we decided to take the few extra hours of sleep and just head up there in the morning.
It’s a winding road uphill to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, but it all pays off when you get to take in the stunning panoramic views from atop Kong Mu hill. This temple complex is also of a Burmese style, and it features a giant Buddha looking out from the top. Taking in the sunrise here is probably great, but we were happy to have gotten a little more sleep before getting back on the bikes. Here are a few more shots from the temple:
After taking in the views and exploring the temple grounds, it was time to get back on the road and head to Soppong. It’s not such a long ride there (75 km), so you can take advantage of some of the stops along the way. We made a few pitstops to stretch and take in the views, which is one of the best parts about riding the MHS Loop.
On the way to Soppong, we made three stops: a small waterfall, a “fish cave,” and a mud spa. While the waterfall wasn’t very strong as it was the dry season, it was still a nice break from sitting on the bike to take a walk in nature.
At the fish cave, visitors buy an entrance ticket and then take a short nature walk along a stream to arrive at a little cave. Apparently, thousands of fish just happened to show up here one day. You can buy a bag of greens to feed the fish and check out the little shrine, but in the end it just seems like a random tourist trap. Either way, we laughed at the whole thing and were happy to stay off the bikes and get lunch.
Our last stop for the day was a mud spa, where we got our faces caked in some healing mud and soaked our feet in super hot tubs. There’s a nice scenic pool here, too, but it wasn’t open on our visit.
That evening, we arrived in the town of Soppong and headed to the famed Cave Lodge to check in. In the next post, I’ll introduce this awesome northern Thai town, one of the coolest guesthouses in Thailand, and some interesting things to do in the area.
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