Sunday, February 24, 2008

Makha Bucha Long Weekend in Mae Hong Son

Among the many blessings 2008 has bestowed upon us so far, is the 4-day weekend we enjoyed in the quiet, remote town of Mae Hong Son. The Makha Bucha holiday is an important Buddhist celebration that occurs on the full moon of the 3rd lunar month to commemorate the day on which Lord Buddha recited the Fundamental Teaching to his disciples.
We took a short 30 minute flight north over the mountains to arrive in Mae Hong Son, a little town tucked away in a valley, surrounded by forested mountains.
We stayed in a nice, somewhat rustic guest house just outside of town that was run by some Germans. Mary got to dust off her Deutch that had layed dormant for close to funfsen yahren (15 years).
Our first night, we wandered into town to do some exploring and eat dinner at a recommended restaurant. The directions we were given by a dear friend included the landmark of a dog lying in the middle of the road, directly in front of the restaurant. We chuckled at thought of using such a common sight in Thailand as a landmark, and tried to make note of the more conventional directions. The conventional directions, however, led us to many parts around the town other than the area of the restaurant. Then at long last, strangely enough, it was the dog lying in the middle of the road that led us to the restaurant. We will never doubt again.
After dinner we visited the little night market. It was simply a small street cut off from traffic with various tables or mats layed out with local handycrafts. It was not crowded and very pleasant. At the end of the night market street was a small lake and two wats, Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang. They were all lit up and filled with monks and other worshippers walking solemnly around the wats, praying and placing offerings at their chosen religious icons. We joined in too and payed our respects to Lord Buddha with an offering and a little prayer from Maeve.
The following day, we teamed up with some other guests, a Danish family who actually live near us in Mae Rim, and a Chinese/Aussie couple. We hired a guide with a truck to take us around to some of the nearby sights. It took a fair bit of time to get on the road, however, because they were working on the wheels of the truck, butting in brake pads or something else important.
We first visited the "fish cave" which was a nice park where there were indeed fish swimming in and out of a cave. Next, we went to a waterfall that was rather short on water during the present dry season. We hiked down anyway to the river bed and took in the beautiful rock formations, imagining the roar of a powerful that was currently a calm trickle over the cliff. We then visited some hot springs with mineral-rich volcanic mud. The site was converted into a spa and we enjoyed getting mud facials. We all felt
invigorated and younger than before after the treatment!

Our last stop was at Wat Phai Doi that sits atop Doi Kung Mu overlooking Mae Hong Son. We arrived in time to enjoy the sunset and witness the monks preparing for the evening's chants and prayers.
We arrived back at our guesthouse in time for supper and to find the place invaded by many French guests. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner with lively conversation in French. Mary welcomed the opportunity to use "big people" French instead of communicating in simple words and sentences as she is accustomed to in her French classes.
During our final day, we made a short trip to the nearby "long-necked' Padaung village of Nai Soi. We're not huge fans of "people zoos", but wanted a quick trip to somewhere to pass the day before we flew out that afternoon. The village is home to about 160 people and 35 families, many of whom are refugees from Burma. We walked around, took a few photos, and stopped to visit with the locals and a few of their farm animals. Maeve particularly liked the baby chicks and piglets. Before too long, we were on a plane flying over the mountains back to Chiang Mai.

All in all, it was a very nice, easy get-away, and we'd be happy to return there again.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

It's wonderful to experience your travels, especially since ours are over for a while. I think I must have missed the Sukhothai entry and the one with Maeve's Thai pictures. Beautiful, btw!

Take care!