Travel gives us the opportunity to challenge our limits. In Mae Hong Son, where we stopped after several days on the road, I tested mine. One of the highlights of the city is to do a jungle trekking, and long treks are a challenge for me since I have a small problem in my back.
After several days on the road, we decided to slow down and stay a few nights in Mae Hong Son. We needed to rest, and this quiet city seemed to be the perfect place.
The plan to rest changed soon, though, since we discovered that Mae Hong Son is known for its jungle trekkings. We had never been inside the jungle, so we decided to go.
Now, a confession. Trekkings are very challenging for me. I have a small problem in my back so walking 5-6 hours per day tends to be my limit.
Last year I tested my limits in New Zealand. There was a popular day trekking that I really wanted to do, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (also known as Mordor, one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen). It was long, it was difficult, but I did it! However, I was alone so I could advance at my own speed and take rest whenever necessary.
In Mae Hong Son, on the other hand, trekkings can only be done with a guide and often they are organized in groups. But there’s a saying by Jerry Dunn that says
Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits
And so I did. I challenged my limits, and we booked a guided day trekking.
This post is part of the series “Northern Thailand by Motorbike”
The city of Mae Hong Son
I like water places. It doesn’t matter if it’s an immense ocean, a still lake or a moving river, I always feel its attraction, like a magnet.
One of the first things we saw in Mae Hong Son was the little lake. We arrived in the evening, exhausted from a long day on the road. There were a lot of people eating street food, and the temples were reflected on the water. Nice atmosphere, great views. I instantly loved it.
Needless to say that the lake was my favorite part of the city. We found a guesthouse in one of the nearby streets so we stayed within a walking distance.
There was a walking path all around the lake. It was short, but it made a pleasant stroll. I liked to stop at the viewpoints and observe the fish and turtles.
Two temples were built on one side, one next to each other, Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham. At night the lights were on and they were perfectly reflected on the water.
The lake was beautiful day and night.
Mae Hong Son is very quiet at night.
It’s a remote city nearby the border with Myanmar, so there aren’t many visitors. Yet.
Next to the lake, on the South West side, there is a night market. The products that are sold there are very similar to the ones found in the night market in Chiang Mai and the main street in Pai.
A part from that, everything was closed. It was even difficult to find a non European restaurant for dinner. Even the street food stalls next to the lake were closed in the evening.
The first day we had dinner in a touristic restaurant. The next day we found 2 or 3 food stalls in front of the post office. The last days we finally found local restaurants which were a bit further away.
One night when we were coming back after dinner we saw lights flying in the sky. They were coming from the temple… they were sky lanterns, it was the Chinese new year! We had never seen them so we approached the temple. I was surprised to see that the lanterns are actually huge, more than one meter high!
We bought one and lit it with fire. We had to hold it while the air inside the lantern got hot, and then, we let it go and it flew away, up, to the sky, and it disappeared between the stars.
A park and a festival
We heard that there was a festival going on in the city, so one afternoon we took the motorbike and went to explore.
There was a little park with a water channel, white elephants and games for children. And a bit further away, we found the festival. It was very crowded! There were many street food stalls (really, a lot), in addition to shops, games and ethnic traditional dances.
Jungle trekking in Mae Hong Son
A part from my beloved little lake, the jungle trekking was the highlight of our stay in Mae Hong Son.
We were a group of six: a French girl and her father, the guide, an assistant, and both of us.
Part 1: along the river
“Along the river” means exactly that: along the river. During the first part of the trek we followed a river and quite often we had to walk in the water.
It was early morning, the weather was cool and the water very cold, but I cannot say it was unpleasant. It was kind of relaxing, soothing, to feel the movement of the water on my feet.
Nope, the guide, spoke very good English and told us interesting things along the way. For instance, when we saw a very big tree we were told that animals go there to feed, and hence hunters go there to hunt.
We also observed the trees that climb other trees until they’re strong enough to hold themselves. I love these trees, and I couldn’t resist climbing one of them (an easy one!).
We tasted a very bitter fruit. Apparently, after eating the whole fruit (which I couldn’t do, ugh!) the water tastes sweet.
After two hours we stopped. Some people took a bath but I didn’t, I preferred to take rest since I had pain in my back. Later on I regretted it though, the water was cold but it looked inviting.
We kept following the river until we found a very small village where we had lunch. There were only 3 houses, owned by the 3 families who lived there.
Part 2: up!
It was after lunch that the way became very steep. We were going up the mountain. We were truly inside the jungle, and there were so many trees that we could barely see the distant mountains.
The vegetation looked different than before, and I was very surprised to see a few pines. I’m not a botanical specialist, I always associated pines with the Mediterranean, but I guess they can grow in other regions too.
Finally, we reached the top of the mountain, and we saw… many trees.
The vegetation was very dense and in addition it was a bit foggy, so we couldn’t see much of the surrounding landscape.
Part 3: down
The way down was even more steep than the way up, if that was possible. While going down we got some views of the distant mountains that are in the border between Thailand and Myanmar. It was still misty.
By then I had to ask the group to stop for 10 minutes every hour or so because of the pain in my back. I felt sad to slow down the group, but I really couldn’t help it. I was doing my best.
The vegetation changed again, became less dense and finally we found another river. Fortunately, this time we didn’t have to get wet, since it was possible to cross it jumping over the stones.
When we arrived at the village where we had started, I had pain everywhere. We had been walking for 9 hours (apparently the average was 7-8 hours, we had been slow… my fault!). It was a loop of 18km with a lot of slope, not easy for someone who usually walks a lot but does not do any other sport.
Anyway, the most important thing is that I had challenged my limits, and I had succeeded.
Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits
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GOOD TO KNOW
- We booked the jungle trekking tour at Sunflower café (in front of the lake).
- Price: 800 – 1000 bhat, depending on the number of people
- We booked the jungle trekking with Mr Pordee. The day of the tour he transferred us to another guide (Nope, who can also be found at Sunflower café) without previous notice. We didn’t appreciate the change but were finally very happy with Nope, who I recommend as a guide.
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