Think Amalfi Coast or the Road to Hana. If you ever been on either of these two roads, you can appreciate a twisting, turning road. (If you haven’t , what are you waiting for!) Add a lot of ups and downs, roads under construction, Asia safety features (or lack there of), scooters and minivans, a couple checkpoints by the Royal Thai Army and you have the road to Mae Hong Son. It is a one-way, 6 hour mini-van (too tight and steep for a regular bus) ride from Chiang Mai (with a stop in Pai midway). It is not for the feint of heart or those prone to motion sickness, but what a scenic route through the mountains of the Thai highlands. If you are into motorcycle expeditions, this is apparently the spot to do it. Rent yourself a 1200, and take a week of these routes.
We did not have motorcycles. We crammed ourselves in the back of a minivan with a bunch of Imodium, antibiotics and Advil, crossed our fingers and tried to recover from a bad bout of Delhi belly. It was still scenic, but we did not get a whole lot of photos.
We had 3 quick days to visit Mae Hong Son. The town is quite sleepy with not much going on, but it has some interesting Burmese style temples, and it borders a number of national parks. Because we were so close to the Burmese border, there were military helicopters circling above every day and a few checkpoints with soldiers armed with automatic weapons, mostly, to control illegal immigration we are told. We never felt threatened or uncomfortable in any way and we are happy to report that for the 75 days or so that we have been traveling, we have only experienced human kindness which seems rare these days after reading all the headlines.
We found a fantastic eco-resort set in the woods and on a working rice paddy. It was truly a beautiful spot with a back trail leading to a national park so we had a chance to get out in the jungle for some more trekking.
The Fern Resort is a basic spot with a 20-30 rooms and a small restaurant. It was set up with government funds to help generate local jobs. The ladies that work here are great – helpful and super fun; we enjoyed our couple days with them. The lobby is filled with pictures of them with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who visited last year. (We can only imagine their enthusiasm and excitement for this visit).
Hard to see from the photo above, but the women at this resort made the most amazing flowers in about 10 minutes or less out of banana leaves. Sustainable agriculture is taken to whole new level here and fascinating to see the multi-uses of things. Banana leaves are used for beautiful flowers, serving plates, cooking chicken and many other items.
We arrived back to Chiang Mai last night in time to catch up with some friends that are over here for a couple months and got some errands done before we leave Asia today. It has been a blast and an experience to spend a couple months over in Southeast Asia but are looking forward to our future adventures and travels in Europe, South Africa and India.