Our pick of the crop
As the capital, Mae Hong Son is the province’s largest town, but it lacks the volume of visitors that Pai gets meaning you won’t see the range of quality choices of the more popular smaller town—nevertheless there are some solid options to choose from.
The tourist information map we picked up listed an impressive 50 or so hotels and guesthouses, yet by the time you’ve eliminated motel-like, short-time blocks, fancy Thai country resorts with only Thai-script signs and backpacker spots built 25 years ago that lack the word “maintenance” in their vocabularies, not a lot remains.
Tourism has been slow in Mae Hong Son of late so several addresses in the budget category have closed down altogether and there’s little to be seen in the way of new blood. Far more Western tourists these days are heading east after Pai and Chiang Mai and travelling to Laos, rather than heading west, while even for Thai tourists this region has lost its flavour of the month status as equally remote (and cold in winter) Loei Province seems to have become the new Mae Hong Son.
Perhaps these lower tourist numbers is all the more reason to visit the quiet yet picturesque town, and while hardly spoilt for choice, we have managed to dig up what in our opinion is a reasonable selection of places to stay in Mae Hong Son.
If you wish to stay in town, there are decent flashpacker choices, a selection of the Jong Kham Lake budget options, and a couple of excellent garden-style establishments off Makasanti Road which runs up the hill behind the town centre. Location-wise, bear in mind that all of the budget addresses close to the lake are actually separated from it by a public park and a road on all sides—the closest you’ll get to the water is Piya Guesthouse, just across the road, or just settle for the excellent view from Like View Guesthouse’s cafe.
Slightly further afield, on the outskirts of town, a bunch of guesthouses and chalet resorts sprawl up a wooded hill overlooking town and while they already come with a rural feel they’re not more than a kilometre or two from the centre of town. We are though in two minds about this area—some of the accommodation is very good but it means an uphill walk home fighting off stray dogs or being reduced to hiring motorbikes just to go and drink a beer or have a meal. If you merely want to chill out in a pleasant garden, then this area could be ideal, but if you want to make the most of what the town has to offer then you would ideally need your own transport.
Further still, you’ll find a collection of Thai, country-style resorts stretching south of town along the Pai River as well as dotted around villages both to the north and south of Mae Hong Son proper. We’re reluctant to consider those that don’t see fit to even add an English language name sign, while others of these often substantial sized resorts come with an aesthetic and service that appeals to local rather than overseas travellers. The much more mixed clientele at Fern Resort, a few kilometres south of town, makes it our clear favourite in this out of town category.
Mae Hong Son’s prime tourist season is during the cool, dry months of November to January. At this time, the best of its accommodation options will fill up and booking in advance can be prudent. The weather begins to warm in February and while dust and smoke issues increase, the haze doesn’t become a real issue until March through to May when Mae Hong Son won’t be looking its best. June brings the start of the monsoon and you’ll find solid low season discounts for accommodation, but you should expect some rain right through until the rains tail off in October.
Overall, for cheaper rates, fewer tourists and lusher nature, if you’re willing to deal with occasionally reduced services and perhaps more limited opening hours, we’d suggest June and July as being our personal favourite Mae Hong Son time of year.
Our two stand-out Mae Hong Son favourites both fit into the flashpacker bracket and with a paucity of good backpacker options and some uninspiring mid-range ones we’d say Mae Hong Son is perhaps a good spot to either up your budget or lower your aspirations for the duration of your stay.
As long as you have at least a scooter to get around on then the well-designed Sang Tong Huts, set in a delightful sprawling garden just up the hill away from the town centre, is a top choice. If you don’t have your own wheels or you prefer to be in town anyway, then the cute Piya Guesthouse right opposite the lake provides great value chalets and a perfect location. Despite the “hut” and “guesthouse” appellations, both these choices are firmly flashpacker priced but equally firm value for your baht.
Another very good option in the same category is one of the beautiful wooden chalets at Jongkham Place, again well-situated and an excellent deal, but with a grand total of only four chalets, booking well in advance is a very good idea.
If your budget doesn’t leave any room for manoeuvre then amid a rather poor choice of cheap digs the friendly, family-run Baan Mai Guest House or adjacent Like View stand out, though both these small spots also have limited numbers of rooms so, in season, make the effort to book a room in advance.
Moving upwards a little, the more hotel-style Baiyoke Chalet offers reasonable quality rooms though their high season rates do edge into mid-range. Mae Hong Son Mountain Inn and Resort has perhaps a slightly classier set-up with roughly comparable rates but a less convenient location so rather a swings and roundabouts situation in this category.
If you’re looking for more a countryside retreat, where getting into town is less of a priority, the excellent and long-running Fern Resort should be at the absolute top of your list.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
Browse hotels on Agoda
Provided by Travelfish partner Agoda.
Our top 10 places to stay in and around Mae Hong Son