Sightseeing around Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand

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Things to do


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January, 2019

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Mae Hong Son, is the capital of a remote, mountainous province in northern Thailand, bordering Myanmar. We stayed for three nights at the “Fern Resort”: to see some of the local sights

Our first stop was Wat Phra That Doi Kong Moo, reached after driving up a steep hill. At the top we found a Burmese-style monastery with two ornate white chedis or stupas built in the 19th century. One had seven small alcoves around it, containing a golden Buddha, in different poses. Each represents a day of the week and the day you were born dictates many things including who you pray to and the temples you should visit during your lifetime. In the town down below, we could make out the lake, temples, airstrip and white-walled prison but as it was still early, mists were also visible in the valleys and distant mountains. A roll of gold material was available for devotees to sign which would then be wrapped round one of the chedi. As usual, there were many opportunities to donate money, but one we’d not seen before was paying to launch a small wooden boat containing a candle in a pool of water.

We drove back down and found a reclining buddha (Wat Phra Non) built in 1875. It was wrongly described on the sign outside as being 12 feet long, but it was actually 12 metres. It was Burmese style with painted lips and more colourful adornments. The exterior entrance was guarded by two white stone lions. A museum at the side had various amulets, Buddha images, bank notes from several countries and paintings of the nine royal kings both as novice monks and later in life. In addition to the abbot, an 11-year old novice monk resided in the temple. He’d apparently been there for four years and was obviously very bored.

Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham were both in town on the lakeside where royal elephants used to be bathed. Outside Wat Chong Klang was a Buddha which, at first glance, appeared to be made from wood, but on closer examination, it was made from stone, whilst inside was a Buddha woven from bamboo. To the side was a museum with paintings of the Buddha’s journey and lots of wooden ‘dolls’ to demonstrate the story. Bizarrely there was also an Olympia typewriter on display which seemed totally out of kilter with everything else.

We had a leisurely stroll around the lake and to a vantage point for photographs. We returned to this site later in the evening when the two temples were beautifully illuminated and the reflections in the lake were stunning. A night market is held around the lakeside and as it was a Saturday, many locals were sat round enjoying their night out.

Our final visit of the day was to the daily market, held in a huge, cavernous building where a range of food, clothing etc was on sale. Our guide skirted round the meat area possibly because our Rough Guide referred to the sale of porcupine meat complete with quills to verify its authenticity. Instead he started a discussion on what made up the perfect vegetarian green papaya salad.

Helen Jackson

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