Mae Hong Son Loop

Ban Rak Thai – Chinese Village in the North of Thailand

Continuing our trip in the North of Thailand and Mae Hong Son Loop, we started from Mae Sariang to Chinese Ban Rak Thai early in the morning. Thailand is considered to be a warm country, but mornings on bike are rather cold and uncomfortable. Moreover, during the first hour the road was quite boring, but also almost free of traffic. After the sun came out, and the first pictures were made, the trip became much more fun.

Also, the road turned into serpentine. For a while, we were racing with a track. The road was hilly, which is why we took over the truck on the way up, and preferred to let it go on the way down. We had to stop more often to stretch our backs and legs. At some point of time we stopped at the side road covered with some grass which turned out to be thorns, and it took us several days after that to get rid of them being in our trousers and socks.

Mae Hong Son.

After a while, we reached Mae Hong Son and it took a while to fix Victor’s glasses there, which was necessary for driving. Another unpleasant surprise came out when we tried to use the bank machine: the commission is 200 baht for that (all over Thailand). Make sure you bring cash to the country! The currency exchange is also possible, but sometimes, during the holidays, the bank queues are insane.
Mae Hong Son

Pang Tong Palace.

The road after Mae Hon Song was under construction, which meant a lot of dust and pitch. Then the road improved, but became twisting and narrow, all the way up the hill. On the way, we visited another royal project – Pang Tong Palace king residence. The project is one of the king’s residences with well-cut grass, agricultural grounds and animals: sheep walking around, leopards and birds in cages…
Pang Tong Palace

Pang Tong Palace

Reading about the place before, we imagined some kind of palace inside. Indeed, the entrance was impressive: military men inside, a huge billboard, neat lawns and beds.
Pang Tong Palace

One of the central places, however, was a small ground with sheep and multiple pictures of the king and the queen cutting the grass and taking care of goats. As it turned out, these are the typical Thai pictures which are spread all around the country: the king is depicted as multifunctional and hard-working: planting strawberries, digging the ground, the king, the queen, the king, the king…
Pang Tong Palace

The king was ruling the country since 1950 – one of the longest monarchial periods in the world, and, in his reign, he did not only plant a lot of strawberries, but also imprisoned many people. It was after our trip, however, that the king died and a lot of people in the country were grieving. Yet, we will allow ourselves to write that we consider the situation in Thailand to be the real cult of personality. Multiple billboards glorifying the king, for instance, do not say that in Thailand people are punished for their posts on Facebook insulting the king’s dog. Now Thailand is having a young, but also very controversial and authoritarian king.
But – from politics – back to normal life, in particular, the nature and people enjoying it. Among other tourists, Nastya was trying to make the best portrait of the lamb.
Pang Tong Palace

There are dozens of sheep here, and we had to drive carefully by bike through them to reach what we expected to be the palace.

The palace turned out to be the small summerhouse.
King residence

We were wondering, how do the king and his people reach the residence by such a twisted road in the state of renovation? The answer came when we saw the helipad. On the way from the residence we saw the dried Pha Sua Waterfall.
Pha Sua Waterfall

Ban Rak Thai.

After couple of more hours by bike we finally reached the village Ban Rak Thai, also known as Mae Aw. The village is known to have been populated by Chinese nationalist after China was overtaken by communists. Today, the population of the village is about 800 people, many of whom speak only Chinese. The older generation still remembers drag dealing from which the local economy started, and the military camp established to control the jade smuggling.
Ban Rak Thai.

We found a guesthouse owned by an elderly Chinese who did not speak a lot of English, but managed to ask for 1000 baht per night. After some negotiations he agreed to be paid 400 baht a night. Yet, he did not have a change, and we left to change money, but instead found even better place at the very shore of the lake for 300 baht. It did not have hot water, but had its own terrace just on the lake.
Ban Rak Thai.

We tried to find the restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet, but its prices and the attitude of the personnel were unpleasant, although the view of the lake was nice from it. We decided to eat at the tea selling café at the entrance to the village, which has good and cheap food. The salad made from tea was especially interesting. There, we met the enthusiastic traveler Alexey from Russia and his newly acquired co-travelers from Riga Kostya and Diana. They were doing the same loop as us, but in the reverse direction. Thus we had a lot of experience to exchange.
Ban Rak Thai

We walked together in the market, where you may try all kinds of things for free.
market in Ban Rak Thai

When it got dark, we sat at the lake drinking Chinese tea. By the way, it is quite chilly at the lake in the evening.
Ban Rak Thai

In the morning the lake came out different to us: the fog and the sun.
Ban Rak Thai lake

Ban Rak Thai lake

Before the breakfast we went up the village hill, because there was a sign showing some tourist attraction. There we discovered a closed building which must be a sort of museum.
Ban Rak Thai

Pang Oung.

Then we had some breakfast, said goodbye to our new friends, and started towards Pai. The road now went down and we were happy to have fixed the breaks in Mae Sariang . We also planned to see another royal project on our way, Pang Oung, or Reservoir. This is another small village which became a popular tourist spot for the locals putting up hundreds of their tents here. There are also hundreds of local cars coming here, especially in the holiday season. In addition to camping site, the village has a pond: you may take a boat or just walk along it.
Pang Oung

Pang Oung

The main street of the village has many souvenir and tea shops and some places to eat.
Pang Oung

We spent less than one hour in Pang Oung and went further. There were many things to see on the way to Pai, and we also wanted to reach Pai before dark.