Mae Hong Son

Stressed-out residents of Bangkok and other cities have transformed this remote, mountain-ringed market town into one of northern Thailand's major resort areas. Some handsome hotels now grace the landscape here. Overseas travelers love the town because of its easy access to beautiful countryside.

For a small town, Mae Hong Son has a surprising number of noteworthy temples, many erected by the Burmese. Two of the temples, Wat Chong Kham and Wat Kham Klang, sit on the shore of a placid lake in the center of town, forming a breathtaking ensemble of golden spires. Within a short drive are dozens of villages inhabited by the Karen, the so-called "longneck" people. Fine handicrafts are produced in these hamlets, whose inhabitants trek daily to Mae Hong Son to sell their wares at the lively morning market and along the lakeside promenade.

Although Mae Hong Son offers a welcome cool retreat during the sometimes unbearably hot months of March and April, the mountains can be obscured during that part of the year by the fires farmers set to clear their fields. One of the local names for Mae Hong Son translates as "City of the Three Mists." The other two are the clouds that creep through the valleys in the depths of winter and the gray monsoons of the rainy season.

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