Media Trip with TAT
From the 5th to the 8th October 2014 iTravel Channel was lucky enough to go on a fascinating media trip to the Northern provincial capital of Maehongson, which lies nestled among the Shan hills near the border with Burma. On this particular trip only a small team set out – Richard Barrow, Roy Cavanagh, Percy Roxas, Vilasinee Sharp from TAT and Kirby from iTravel Channel.
DAY 1: Thai Airways Boeing Flight 777-300 bound for Chiang Mai
We departed in the early morning of October 5th from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, catching Boeing flight 777-300 for a one-hour flight to the stunning Northern city of Chiang Mai.
Ob Luang National Park (Grand Canyon of Thailand)
When we reached Chiang Mai we enjoyed a delicious breakfast before catching a van to Maehongson. On the way we stopped off at some of the area’s most popular local attractions, one of which was the spectacular Ob Luang National Park. Dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of Thailand’, I was taken aback by the breath-taking beauty of the place, with its shaded forest walks, tree-shrouded vistas and rocky gorges. If you want to check it out for yourself the entry fee is a 200 THB for foreigners and 20 THB for Thais.
Boa Kaew Silvicultural Research Station
Next on our agenda was Boa Kaew Silvicultural Research Station, the perfect place to enjoy relaxing strolls among stately avenues of pine and eucalyptus trees, while birds sing from the branches and sunlight filters down through the lush foliage.
Memorial of Japanese Soldiers in Maehongson
Our final major stop for the day was the Memorial of Japanese Soldiers, located in the Khun Yuam district of Maehongson. This historical attraction features the relics of old Japanese military equipment and trucks which were once used to transfer materials and troops to Burma. Inside the Thai-Japan Friendship Memorial Hall you will also find display cases with Japanese military uniforms and weapons.
Baiyoke Chalet Hotel in Maehongson
After an enjoyable but tiring day of sightseeing and travel, we reached our accommodation in Maehongson, Baiyoke Chalet. A small but elegant boutique hotel, Baiyoke Chalet is ideally located in the heart of the city. Being a seasoned traveller who enjoys comfort and convenience during my trips, I opted for the finest room category available, a Deluxe Room, which costs 1,400 THB a night and is located on the third floor.
DAY 2: Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu
Early in the morning of our first full day in Maehongson we headed to the beautiful Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu, which stands perched on a hillside with stunning views of the surrounding area. The mist which lay over the hills and the valley below made it particularly mesmerising.
Merit Making in Maehongson
We watched monks receiving alms, a familiar morning sight in Thailand, before returning to the hotel for breakfast.
Long Neck Hill Tribe Village in Maehongson
One of the highlights of the trip came next – a visit to a Long Neck Hill Tribe in Village, a personal treat for me as I’ve always wanted to visit these fascinating people. Our journey to the village was amazing in itself – a scenic boat ride overshadowed by jungle-covered mountains. Check out my ‘velfie’ (a.k.a. video selfie!) below to see more of this colourful village, including skilled musician and singer Masi, with her distinctive rings on her neck – for which this tribe is famous – and a traditional festival with music and dance performances (there are some very adorable local kids too!).
If you want to visit the tribe, a Long Neck Village Experience costs 250 THB, plus 600 THB for the boat journey to reach the village. I would highly recommend it!
Jong Para Parade in Maehongson
Later that day, as dusk fell on Maehongson, we were privileged to watch another awe-inspiring cultural event – the Jong Para parade to mark the end of Buddhist Lent. There were beautiful local women dressed in colourful costumes, not to mention a grand procession through the city streets and performances of traditional dance and music. Truly an incredible sight; I would advise you to visit Maehongson next year to see it in the flesh.
DAY 3: Royal Forest Project in Pang Ung
On the third day of our media trip we departed from beautiful mountainous Maehongson and began our journey back south to Chiang Mai. On the way we stopped off for a night at Pai, but before we reached our destination for the night we enjoyed some more sightseeing — stopping off first at Pang Ung, the Royal Forest Project, located just 44km from Maehongson City. Here you can enjoy crisp fresh air and stunning views of the trees, the mountains and the lake. The perfect place to have a picnic, take a scenic walk or spend the night camping with friends!
Lunch at Ban Rak Thai
During the journey to Pai we also paused for lunch in Ban Rak Thai, a quaint and colourful Chinese community which lines the river shore. The shops here sell a variety of traditional goods such as dried fruits and tea, as well as vibrant articles of clothing.
Ban Kung Mai Sak
We were also lucky enough to get to explore Ban Kung Mai Sak, a picturesque village surrounded by lush rice paddies where we enjoyed the delightfully unexpected spectacle of another Jong Para procession departing from Wat Kung Mai Sak.
DAY 4: Wat Phra That Mae Yen in Pai
After a rather chilly night spent in Pai, a small Northern Thai town nestled in a lush green valley with rice fields and local hot springs, we visited the town’s Wat Phra That Mae Yen for morning alms giving, prayers and merit making. This elegant wat boasts a statuesque Giant White Buddha, a stunning sight to see against the backdrop of forested hills.
Ban Santichon in Pai
Next we headed on to visit the Chinese-themed attraction that is Ban Santichon, where you can enjoy Hunan delicacies, explore the replica of the Great Wall and visit the real village which is located just up the hill.
Coffe in Love in Pai
If you’re itching to take a selfie, don’t leave Pai without visiting ‘Coffee in Love’, a haven for caffeine-addicts as well as an iconic place to take a picture of yourself! Also be sure not to miss Pai’s very own ‘Grand Canyon’ and the old Tai-Pai bridge, another great place to take some memorable holiday photos.
After a fascinating and informative visit to the North of Thailand, we returned to Chiang Mai where we boarded the plane back to Bangkok. But don’t worry, this isn’t the last you will hear of Maehongson from iTravel as we will soon be unveiling an insightful Maehongson Destination show telling you all about this beautiful city near the Burmese border and all the interesting things you can do there.
You can also check out our recent Media Trip to Khao Lak, where Bikram Choudhury gave us an exclusive tour of his pioneering teacher training studio at the Sentido Graceland Khao Lak Resort & Spa.