NORTHWEST THAILAND, 31 January to 11 February 2013
Ban Huai Shuathao (Karen long-neck village)

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Lampang........Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang is the third largest town in northern Thailand and capital of Lampang Province. The city is still growing rapidly as a trading and transportation center. It offers much of the historic interest in its Lanna and Chiang Mai culture and architecture but without the overt commercialization. The city is situated in the valley of the Wang River in the heart of Northern Thailand. It was a major city in the Lanna kingdom throught the Ayutthaya period albeit overshadowed by Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai but declined in status during Burmese occupation. In the late 18th century an uprising freed Lampang from Burmese control and it became allied to Bangkok. Thereafter in the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) it became formally annexed to Siam. Lampang’s economy is based on rice paddy farming, pineapple, and sugarcane but it also has deposits of lignite and kaolin. Logging for teak wood is also important. Today It stands on the major 2 lane highway (1), Bangkok to Mae Sai. Its major tourist attractions are the Lanna-style temple, Wat Phra That Lampang Luang and the well-known horse-drawn carriages giving it the nickname of ‘meuang roht mah’ (Horse Carriage City). Lampang also has a wealth of other sites of religious, historic and natural importance.
Pai........Pai is a small town in northern Thailand's Mae Hong Son Province, near the Myanmar border, about 50 miles/80 km north of Chiang Mai on the northern route to Mae Hong Son. It lies along the Pai River. As of 2006, it has a population of 2,284 but tourism adds considerably to this. Pai is located on northern Route 1095, which connects Mae Hong Son with Chiang Mai and also has a functional airport.
Given its size Pai has had a remarkable history. Settlements are recorded as far back as 5,000 years but for much of this time Pai, has been independent of the city states that surround it. Early settlers were from Shan province in Burma causing conflict with Lanna peoples. With the expansion of colonialism Siam was anxious to reinforce its borders and encouraged settlement of people from other northern provinces of the former Lanna kingdom. Refugees from bordering countries have also settled in Pai. Karen immigrants arrived in the 18th century, Lisu and Lahu people from areas of southern China arrived in the early 20th century, Muslim families from Chiang Mai began arriving to establish trade businesses starting around 1950, a group of Kuomintang fleeing Mao Zedong established a community in Pai in the early 1960s, and finally a new wave of refugees from the Shan State of Burma have arrived in the last few decades, fleeing the turmoil caused by the Burmese Junta to work as laborers in Thailand.
By late 19th century a roadway between Chiang Mai and Pai had been built but was not fully reinforced until the Japanese arrived seeking a route through the mountains into Burma. After the war tourists began to arrive, mostly backpackers from Europe but the present day expansion of tourism in Pai started only recently. After major floods in 2005 the town regained its feet and tourists from other parts of Thailand began to arrive. Today Pai is a booming tourist base deep in Thailand’s northwestern rainforests.
Mae Hong Son........Mae Hong Son is a town in north west Thailand, capital of the Mae Hong Son Province. It is located in the Shan Hills, near the border with Burma along the banks of the river Pai. As of 2005, the town has some 6,023 inhabitants .The town has some tourist infrastructure, including many guesthouses and restaurants centred round a lake that originally had a pavilion. Its architecture is of Thai Yai (Shan) style with strong Burmese influence which is evident in its temples and public buildings. Due to its remote location Mae Hong Son has only in the last 150 years or so have a provincial administration. Prior to that, settlement consisted of tribal villages, principally of Shan people and Karen ethnic groups. It wasn’t until mid 19th century that the area attracted attention from Bangkok as source of wild elephants that could be corralled and trained. A base was first set up in the area leading to the first governor, Phaya Singhanatrachawas, being appointed in 1874.
During Japanese occupation an attempt was made to extend the road from Pai towards the border with Burma but in 1944 is was still incomplete, With the war turning against them the Japanese did, however, use this route for their retreat. I wasn’t until the 1990’s that the Thai government finally brought this road up to an acceptable standard. Today Mae Hong Son is small but busy provincial capital but doesn’t attract tourism in the same way as Pai does, particularly from Thai people. Despite its wealth of natural features and unique culture Its location ensures its destined to remain that way for some time to come.
Mae Sariang........Mae Sariang is a town in the south Mae Hong Son province some 230 kilometres south on Mae Hong Son. In 2005 it had a total population of 9968 people. The tambon contains 9 villages. Mae Sariang lies in the valley of the Yuam River, which runs through the village from north to south. The land rises to the east in the Thanon Thong Chai Range, with hills beside the city reaching over 800 metres (2,600 ft). Mae Sariang is connected to the rest of Thailand by two main roads: Route 108, which enters Mae Sariang from the east (from Chiang Mai) and exits to the north (to Mae Hong Son); and Route 105, which leads south out of the town through Mae Sot to Mueang Tak. While the town does not boast an extensive tourist infrastructure, affordable accommodation is available as are organized adventure holidays. Due the distance from both Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, Mae Sariang, on the Mae Hong Son loop is convenient for a stopover.
Mae Sot........Mae Sot is a town in Tak province in western Thailand that shares a border with Burma. It is notable as a trade hub and for its substantial population of Burmese migrants and refugees. The town serves as a main land gateway between Thailand and Burma. It is known notably for its trade in gems and teak, as well as black market services such as people trafficking and drugs. It is one of the only two transnational roads and cross-border points across the Tenasserim Hills to Burma, along with Three Pagodas Pass. The Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge crossing the Moei River was constructed in 1997 completing the link between the two countries. At the entrance of the bridge is the immigration office which is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Despite its notoriety, this border crossing contributes substantially to the economy of Tak province and beyond with the import of Chinese manufactured products as well as those sourced in Burma much of which passes through the border market at Rim Moei. The refugee situation is a cause for international concern with over 100,000 immigrants registered and possibly a similar number who have entered illegally.
Kamphaeng Phet........Kamphaeng Phet is a town in northern Thailand, capital of Kamphaeng Phet Province. As of 2005 it has a population of 30,114. Kamphaeng Phet is situated on the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River. It was already a royal city in the Sukhothai kingdom in the 14th century, then known under its old name Chakangrao. During the 15th and 16th centuries the city expanded substantially forming an important part of the defense system of the Ayutthaya kingdom with strong walls and forts guarding the trade route along the Ping River. In 1991 the extensive ruins of the old city was declared a World Heritage Site in recognition of its prominence as a centre of religion, culture and commerce. Today, while the significance of the Ping River may have dwindled as has Kamphaeng Phet’s position as a border town it still boasts a location that is on the principle 2 lane highway that runs from Bangkok all the way to the Mae Sai border crossing in Chiang Rai province.
Itiniary……..For full report in click on travel log
Days 1/2, Bangkok to Lampang (2 nights stay).
Days 3/4, Pai, Mae Hong Son province (2 nights stay).
Days 5-7, Mae Hong Son, Mae Hong Son province (3 nights stay).
Day 8, Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son province (overnight stay).
Day 9, Mae Sot, Tak province (overnight stay).
Days 10-11, Kampeang Phet, Kampeang Phet province (2 nights stay).
Day 12, Kampeang Phet to Bangkok.
Lampang…..(These were by car or on foot). Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Wat Chiang Rai, Wong River.
Pai........(These were by motorbike). Wat Gong Geang, Coffee in Love, Pam Bok Waterfall, site of land-slip, Kong Lan/Pai Canyon, WW2 Memorial Bridge, Tha Pai Hot Springs, Wat Phra That Mae Yen Yunnan Village and viewpoint.
Mae Hong Son........(These were by motorbike). Fish Cave, Pa-Sau Waterfall, Phuklon Country Club Mud Spa, Wat Chong Kham, Wat Chong Klang, Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu, Wat Phra Non, Phaya Singhanatracha Memorial, Ban Huai Shuathao (Karen long-neck village), Ban Pa Bong Hot Spring, Ban Pa Bong Viewpoint.
Mae Sariang........(These were entirely on foot). Wat Jong Soong (Wat Uttayarnyom), Wat Mandalay, Wat Sri Boonruang, Wat Suwannarangsri (formerly Wat Jongkham).
Mae Sot........(These were by local transport or by foot). Thai/Myanmar Friendship Bridge, Talad Rim Moei, Wat Mani Phraison, Wat Chumphon Kiri.
Kampeang Phet........(These were by hired local transport or on foot). Wat Avasa Yai, Wat Rim Tang, Wat Chang Rob, Wat Phra Sing (Wat Singha), Wat Phra Si Iriyabot, Wat Phra Non, Wat Pa Mue Nok, Wat Pekeram, Wat Ma Khet, Wat Ma Khok, Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Phra That, Thung Setti Fortress, Wat Sumko, Fortress Ban Non Gate, City Pillar Shrine, Provincial Museum of Kampaeng Phet, Kamphaeng Phet National Museum, Ping River, Wat Nong Yai Chuai, Wat Borommathat Chetiyaram.
Lampang……In Town Home, rating....good, price 400 baht (2 nights).
Pai........Palm House, rating....good, price 600 baht (2 nights).
Mae Hong Song........JongKham Place, rating....very good, price 600 baht (3 nights).
Mae Sariang........Pangsariang Guesthouse, rating good value, price 300 baht
(1 night).
Mae Sot........First Hotel, unrated (refer to travel log), price 450 baht (1 night).
Kampaeng Phet........Ban Pho Garden, rating excellent, price 390 baht (including breakfast) (2 nights).
Dining out
Lampang.....local foodshops used only, evening food stalls opposite the station (very good value).
Pai.....International cuisine widely available plus street fare and local resaurants at every turn.
Mae Hong Song.....a few better class restaurants, local and street food.
Mae Sariang.....generally limited to local food but try Lalewadee Restuarant in the town.
Mae Sot.....mostly local food in town.
Kampaeng Phet.....Wide selection, American breakfast at Ban Poh Garden.
Transport used
Mochit 2, Bangkok northern bus terminal to Lampang, Chantour bus 562 baht.
Lampang tour private arrangement.
Express train Lampang to Chaing Mai 53 baht, songtheaw in Chaing Mai 50 baht, minivan Chiang Mai to Pai 150 baht.
Local bus to Mae Hong Son 80 baht.
Songtheaw, Jongkham Place to bus station 80 baht.
Local bus to Mae Sariang 187 baht.
Songtheaw to Mae Sot 200 baht.
Local transport to Friendship Bridge and back 120 baht.
Minivan to Tak 78 baht.
Songtheaw Tak to Kampaeng Phet 50 baht.
Local transport in Kampeang Phet 30 baht.
Hired transport for city tour 600 baht.
Viraya tour bus to Bangkok 297 baht.
Bangkok city bus. 22 baht, taxi 55 baht.
Motorbike rental
Pai……price/day 200 baht (good quality Honda automatic). fuel 80 baht.
Mae Hong Son.....price/day 150 baht (well used Honda automatic). fuel 95 baht.
Weather (temperatures are approximate)
Lampang sunny, hot 30c overnight 20-25c.
Pai mixed sunshine and cloud occasional thunderstorms 30c overnight 15-20c.
Mae Hong Son, hot 35c cool at night mist lingering in the morning 15c.
Mae Sariang hot 35c mist in the morning 15c.
Mae Sot, hot 35c, overnight 25c.
Kampaeng Phet hot 35c overnight 20-25c.