With Paula & Leo, plus a local guide with a sharp machete, we completed a wonderful 15 Km trek in the mountains. The Mai Hong Song Province is one of Thailand‘s most rugged, mountainous regions, close to the border with Burma, with many traditional ethnic villages.
Firstly, let’s bring you up to date – we spent two delightful nights chilling in Pai. We left Pai (see photos) on the main Mai Hong Son
(MHS) road and took special care that we were travelling in the right direction (see earlier blog for fun on the MHS loop). Anyway, we spent the next two nights in a quirky resort overlooking the river in Soppong (open link for photos). At best, one might call it a hamlet, pretty small but a delightful spot.
We found a charming travel agent who put together our trekking trip. The owner’s called Toy & his business is name is ‘Poodoi Namfaa Tour & Trekking’. He dropped us at the start, Ban Jabo (a Black Lahu village) and agreed to pick us up at the end in Mai Lana (a Shan village). He introduced us to our Shan guide, called ‘Po’.
The four of us are regular hikers (all members of the Phoenix Walking Club in Cyprus). But we soon realized that this trek would be very special, not just as a technical hike but in terms of scenery and in understanding the cultures in these two minority villages.
We left the village, with Alf taking photos of the pigs running freely including many piglets. We had attracted the attention of the local children and they followed us on their bikes, laughing and joking at us and saying ‘hello’ repeatedly. We left the dusty road out of the village and took a well used path into the hills. For the first hour the going was quite easy, both up and down, with spectacular views in all directions. We got quite close to a group of water buffalos but the bull was getting a bit anxious, so we took our photos and moved off quickly. Po used his machete to cut us all walking sticks from sturdy but light bamboo, a practice often used by walking guides in this area.
After a steep climb, our excellent guide left us for about twenty minutes. We were all starting to worry. We soon learned that he’d been using his machete to hack a way through the jungle – he favored short-cuts but they were virgin territory. We were all wearing hiking sandals, which were not ideal for the rough, long grass and prickles up the hill. Our sticks were essential in walking safely on this rough terrain.
Po would present us with little jungle gifts, for example, he would make a souvenir from bamboo, or pick some beans, nuts or fruit, the only problem was that his fingernails were dirty enough to grow potatoes! We all politely took a small bite and then coughed the rest out!
The scenery was truly spectacular. We’ll let you decide for yourself when we publish the best of our photos.
Despite being quite high in the mountains, as the morning wore on it was getting very hot indeed. We persevered and eventually arrived at our destination which was an amazingly beautiful Shan village. Po proudly pointed out his house as we passed it. We learned that the village was quite prosperous as a farming area, growing coffee, tea, vegetables and, of course, rice. Next we stopped for lunch at probably the only restaurant in town – we had noodles, a broth and we think chicken! Paula and Marilyn used the facilities, but we won’t detail that experience!
After lunch we met up with our travel agent, Toy, – he took us to see a few local sights, including a cave but we chose not to continue up as the going didn’t look too safe, some view points and then he kindly dropped us off at our hotel after a wonderful day experiencing the jungle.
If you’re on the Mae Hong Son loop, we recommend stopping in Soppong and if you’re fit and active, do some trekking. With thoroughly recommend Toy at Poodoi Namfaa Tour & Trekking.