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Two nights and three days: doing the Mae Hong Song loop from Chiang Mai

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And have done much research. Decided to hire a driver. And heard about Cave Lodge (5 Moo 1, Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son). cavelodge.com

And of course the glowing reviews of Fern Resort.

So if you had two nights and three days to drive the Mae Hong Song loop from Chiang Mai and back, can anyone who has done this drive, suggest the two places to spend the night?

One idea I had: two nights at the Cave Lodge, and just enjoy the drive to Cave Lodge and the return to Chiang Mai with stops along the way. With the focus on the area where Cave Lodge is. From what I've read there of course is the cave, but they have treks to villages also.

Seems like driving and stopping for a look in Pai is just enough and Mae Hong Song the town isn't much I hear unless you are staying at Fern Resort. I had planned to stay at Fern Resort as I heard it was peaceful and in a lovely area. Now I'm not so sure. What are your thoughts? Trying to figure out a plan for this famous drive. I know I'm not giving much time... but hope I use what I have the best way.

Do you think hiring a driver and car makes sense after what I've just shared?

So confused. Thanks for the suggestions.

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    Two nights is not enough to do this route justice. You really need to spend a minimum of three nights to avoid spending most of your time driving.

    MHS is a nice little town with lots to see and do and a great selection of restaurants - not sure where you got the idea that it is "not much". Whether you stay at the Fern Resort or not is up to you . It is IMO one of the best places to stay but there are others. I would certainly spend one night there but that will not leave much time for trekking. You really need to spend two consecutive nights somewhere if you are set on that.

    Soppong River Inn is close to the caves and some decent hikes as well as an "authentic" local market where the minority people come to trade. Very little, if any tourist stuff to be seen. It would be high on my list of places to stay for those reasons and teh fact that the food is excellent there and the staff will help you out with treks etc.

    If you are intent on doing the loop then it is a very long drive back to CM via Mai Sariang ( a great place to spend the extra night) and Doi Inthanon is another - some great waterfalls and scenery in the vicinity.


    If you have a look at http://www.budget.co.th/images/world/worldclass_mae_eng.pdf this will provide some idea of driving distances etc. As well as some alternative routes which are s"shortcuts" but do require 4WD.

    If you can, I would strongly suggest adding another night to this section of your trip even at the expense of cutting back elsewhere. If you can't, then maybe consider a couple of nights at Chiang Dao nest . Some good treks and caves there.

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    The Budget map that I posted on another thread and the one crellston has kindly reposted it here for your viewing is a bit out of date in terms of accommodations especially around fast developing places as Pai. It does offer good information on Wats and national parks but does not give the driving time.

    You should factor in the driving time when you plan this drive.

    Chiang Mai to Pai: A leisurely drive from Chiang Mai to Pai will take around 4 hours or more of mountain roads with lots of sharp bends. The driver should have a few hours rest in Pai before continuing on IMO. That is why Pai is a popular stop and I would say the majority of the tourist to Pai nowadays are local Thai tourists whereas in the past they were gunja smoking Western hippies. This is probably the last place on this route where you will find luxurious accommodation and a good choice of restaurant quality food. The surrounding area of Pai has lots to offer in terms of Wats (Thai and Burmese style), wilderness (national parks), hot springs etc. This is why I consider Pai a good place to stop for a night.

    Pai to Mae Hong Son: This is part of the loop is less "bendy" and offer a lot of places to stop for viewing the scenery and roadside stalls where locals sell goods. Normally take around 3 hours of leisurely driving and IMO not as strenuous as the Chiang Mai to Pai drive. Mae Hong Son is a quite town with a few restaurants and both modern accommodations as well as rustic ones like the Fern Resort. The Fern Resort is located outside of town and is built on a paddy field which gives it charm. If you stay in town then you will be able to wander around the night market as well as having more dining choices but the food at the Fern Resort is quite good.

    There are some nice attractions around MHS and one which I find fascinating is the village name "Ban Rak Thai". http://wikitravel.org/en/Ban_Rak_Thai

    After MHS the driving is less scenic IMO and the drive to Mae Sariang will take you around 3 hours and from Mae Sariang back to Chiang Mai around another 3 hours. Again IMO the drive is not as scenic as the other parts of this loop.

    To sum up, if you only can spare 3 days or 2 nights for this drive then consider a stop in Pai for food at least, and you should spend the night around there or Cave Lodge if you like that kind of thing. Then the next stop should be MHS and spend another night there.

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    I had planned on two days in Chiang Mai, another day at elephant camp, and then three days doing the drive. Finally back to Chiang Mai with flight to the south of Thailand. I could shorten the two days in Chiang Mai to one possibly.

    Note that I will be in Burma where I will be trekking for three days to hill villages.

    So this is interesting info. I thought the entire loop was scenic. And from your post only part of the loop is. And didn't realized it was 6 hours driving each way! And NO I just don't want to spend all my time driving. I will go nuts! That's not how I thought this would be. Thought it would be scenic and stop here and stop there along the way. Take pictures, etc have lunch. And then spend a night at either one place or two different places to break up the trip.

    And now if I'm understanding correctly that it's getting to certain towns is what the drive is about. So it's about the destination and what that particular destination can offer.

    I def can consider a stop in Pai for food, and the Cave Lodge. Not quite sure what Hanuman meant by "cave lodge if you like that kind of thing"? Please explain. So spending the two nights at one location might mean alot of driving for a long time?

    OH btw: what is IMO?

    I had planned on two days in Chiang Mai, another day at elephant camp, and then three days doing the drive. Finally back to Chiang Mai with flight to the south of Thailand. I could shorten the two days in Chiang Mai to one possibly.

    Note that I will be in Burma where I will be trekking for three days to hill villages.

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    thanks for the map and links!

    Would it be better to Head one way and drive back the same way? Would this be better use of my time?

    Certainly this suggestion, might be best: and reverse backwards and lunch again at Pai and continue the drive back to Chiang Mai.

    Hanuman suggestion: To sum up, if you only can spare 3 days or 2 nights for this drive then consider a stop in Pai for food at least, and you should spend the night around there or Cave Lodge if you like that kind of thing. Then the next stop should be MHS and spend another night there.

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    I didn't do the MHS to Mae Saraing part of the drive so cant addres that portion of your trip. I thought the drive from CM to Pai and Pai to MHS both quite nice. There was nice scenery and there are lots of places where you migth want to take photos. We enjoyed the entire drive. We did the reverse to return to CM. Originally we had planned to drive all the way from MHS back to CM, but changed our mind since it did seem like it would be too much dirving for one day. On our second trip up that way we did take an afternoon to drive from Pai almost to MHS and back. It was easy driving.

    I don't think it's all about the destination-the drive was the reason we did this trip the first time and we were quite happy we did it.

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    Thank you for your thoughts, much appreciated. What I may of not mentioned that I since I'm not a good driver, I thought of hiring a driver.

    Now that I have an idea of how many hours to get from here to there, can anyone suggest a way to break up the three days of driving? To recap: three days and two night journey.

    DAY 1: drive to Pai for lunch and then on to Cave Lodge (Soppong) that looks to be 4 hours.

    Day 2: three hours to MHS.

    Day 3 Then 7 hours back to Chiang Mai. I def don't want to do a 7 hour drive. And don't have an extra night to break that drive.

    Anyone suggest an alternative for avoiding the 7 hours drive? Maybe skip the drive to MHS? Either spend two nights in Soppong? Or drive another way back to Chiang Mai and stay somewhere else the second night to break up the drive. Any suggestions?

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