I’ve lived in Bangkok nearly 10 years now…and I only came here for a vacation. I loved it so much, though, that I had to find something that would allow me to stay long term. That something was teaching English.
The pay is great, the kids are respectful, hard-working and fun, and there are so many jobs to choose from. But what I really love about my job and my life here, is the vacation time…you get three months off—paid—every year.
And this isn’t like vacation time back home when you might be able to save up enough to go somewhere interesting for maybe a week or two every other year. I’m smack bang in the middle of one of the world’s most fascinating countries…and there’s no end to the treasures I can explore with all my time off.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in Thailand over this past decade, but one of the best places I’ve seen was somewhere most people haven’t heard of…
Mae Hon Son is in the north of Thailand. I had just spent a few days in the northern city of Chiang Mai with my girlfriend, but every local we met kept asking if we had visited Mae Hong Son yet. We’d never heard of the place, but it was starting to sound like a must-see.
To get there, we started with a quick two-hour trip by air conditioned mini-bus to Pai; a town that when we arrived, looked to be popular with backpackers. There were western hippies and Thai rastas everywhere, and it gave the town a unique vibe.
We stopped for traditional Thai lunch at a roadside eatery and to ask the woman who served us if she could give us any advice on how to get to Mae Hong Son.
“Moto,” she said with a smile. We could rent a Yamaha 135cc for a full day for just $8 with insurance included. It seemed like a fun idea, so we went for it.
The journey to Mae Hong Son was over steep mountains, but the road was excellent. There were plenty of steep hills and switchback turns, but the views were out of this world. The sun was shining and the breeze was cool. We really enjoyed the journey.
We knew the trip would take about 2 hours so we decided to stop at one of the many scenic spots for a cup of coffee. There we met a Dutch doctor who was taking a break with his Thai wife. He had been to Mae Hong Son numerous times and he gave us the name of a friend of his who owned a guest house there. That’s one of the things that’s so special about traveling by motorcycle in Thailand—no matter where you stop, there always seems to be a friendly stranger happy to help you on your way.
I fell in love with Mae Hong Son the moment I set eyes on it. The town is situated in the center of a deep valley completely surrounded by sheer mountains. It’s difficult to explain in words just how beautiful the place actually is.
The town is built around a large, glistening lake with a few small guest houses dotted around it. We booked into a room that had a view of the lake…for $15 dollars per night.
Looking up at one of the mountains, my girlfriend noticed a temple. We decided to grab the bike and go and investigate. The temple was called Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu…and it had spectacular views of the entire valley in which Mae Hong Son nestled.
The temple itself had two large, white chedis (or stupas, as they’re sometimes called). They’re a hallmark of the architecture of the Shan people who live here. A group of novice monks living at the temple were happy to take photos with us and practice their broken English.
Thailand is a popular place for tourists—but places like Mae Hon Son are still off the radar. But when you’re an English teacher with the time and money to explore, these gems are yours to enjoy.
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