Driving the Mae Hong Son Loop
Renting a car and driving the Mae Hong Son Loop, sounds like a fun road trip. Be careful, this should be attempted only by drivers experienced on mountain roads because the Mae Hong Son loop is very windy mountain road (over 1,000+ curves), with some very steep turns.
If you do opt for self-drive, make sure you're well prepared for your journey, filling up for petrol in all the major towns as you don't want to get stuck in between. The condition of the roads are very good (asphalt covered). A manual car rather than automatic is recommended for the uphills and downhills.
Doing the loop by motorbike is even more dangerous, and there are many accidents involving foreigners who aren't familiar with riding a bike on mountain roads or Thai driving style.
To hire a driver in addition to the car, doesn't cost a lot extra (400-500bt/day), plus maybe his/her food+accommodation. Check with the car rental company to see if they offer drivers too.
Alternatively you can travel the loop by public transport. There are local buses and mini-vans departing daily, connecting each leg of the loop (Chiang Mai - Pai - Mae Hong Son - Mae Sariang). For more information on this visit the blog below
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- Road Trip
BE CAREFUL CAVING
Mae Homg Song province offers opportunities for caving especially at Wilderness Lodge and Cave Lodge areas. John, who used to run Cave Lodge and probably still does offers caving trips which are safe, but do not try to explore on your own as it can be very dangerous. We went to a huge cave south of the road near Wilderness Lodge, and it had a river running through it, but an hour or so inside we were able to climb a hill, believe me it was huge. We then explored the side of the cave, and my friend nearly slipped down a sandy hole and probably i would be unable to rescue him.
On another occasion i just arrived at the lodge, met a German who said he would show me a cave. We entered the cave through some rockfall, explored for an hour or so, passing by some junctions inside the cave, but we got lost trying to find our way out. As he had been in the cave before i thought he knew the way and i was tired from my trip i was just following him without paying too much attention. After panicking for half an hour and crawling in different direction we finally saw some sunlight by the cave entrance. We considered ourselves very lucky.
1 always inform someone where you are going
2 always go in groups of 3, because if someone gets injured, one can get help while the other stays with the injured fellow
3 bring spare torch and spare batteries, headlamp is good as it allows you freedom with both hands
4 bring candles and matches/ lighter
5 bring coloured paper or similar to mark your way at junctions.
6 if traversing across sand be careful as there may be a tunnel or hole underneath
After several years of enjoyable caving in Thailand i no longer do it after the last incident, but enjoy your caving and good luck
Stay warm and free of mosquito
It could be very cold at night, so you should bring, besides sleeping bag, blanket and thick cloth. It's also wise to put on long pants, long sleeve shirt, and long sock to stay warm and protect yourself from bedbug. Plus, don't forget to put on a lotion that can protect you from mosquito, you sure don't want to catch dengue fever during the trip.
Troubles on the Border
Right across the border from Mae Hong Son, lies the rebels of Myanmar/Burma. Especially near the Pai area, these rebel groups are constantly fighting the Myanmese military. It in not rare to see Thai military helicopters overlooking the border. If you go rafting you may have to present your passport to the militayr, just incase you end up in Myanmar. When I was there in June of 2002 right on the local news there were reports or rockets going off right across the border. I stared out my guesthouse window at Myanmar (it's that close), I coulden't see anything, but here was rebel fighting literally that close, but no problems in Thailand. I took a trip to the border, which is strictly closed (OK, I coulden't pay off the guard to let me cross, he wanted over 50USD)! Nevertheless there were still some illegal donkey treks over the border, just remember to duck of you see rebels or their rockets. Stay away from the border, you don't want to get caught up in Burmese rebel fighting!!
International drug trafficking
Again, this will be of no consequence to most travellers in the province, but be aware of this. MHS province is probalby the most popular point of entry for illegal drugs into Thailand. There are a number of 'manufacturers' located just over the Burmese border. They are producing mainly methamphetamine and heroin, and then transporting it over the border into Thailand by pack horse. From Thailand it makes its way easily into the Thai market (methamphetamine is the #1 illegal drug used in Thailand) and to international markets. Free trade is great, isn't it?
The US has 36 drug enforcement officers stationed in Thailand (Canada has 2) that work together with Thai military and police to stem this problem.
There are many checkpoints and border patrol police stationed along the border that you may pass thru as you near the border, but there is a lot of palm greasing that goes on to allow the drug flow to continue.
Really, i am not trying to scare you. Chances are you will never see any hint of these activities (but if you see a village with horses, be suspect). The threat of danger is minimal - this information is only to make you aware.
Thailand shares a long and forested border with Burma in the province of Mae Hong Son. From time to time there are skirmishes along the border - Thai military and Burmese troops or Burmese troops and Shan/Karen people fighting turf wars that spill over into Thailand. The road that heads south from MHS town to Mae Sot in Tak province runs very close to the border. While these scuffles are not a danger to most MHS tourists, people planning on heading down that route should keep an eye on the local press (there are 2 Eng language newpapers in Thailand that are quite good) to see if there has been trouble along this border.
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