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Mae Hong Son, Soppong and Pai (or not?)

Posted by magdaicez on 18/1/2011 at 17:50

I plan to spend a couple of days (4nights in northern Thailand) in February. Will arrive to Chiang Mai with an overnight train from Bangkok and wanted to get a minibus to:
Soppong , stay there for 2 nights, then go ahead for Mae Hong Son , stay for 1 night
and then go back with stopover in Pai (for 1 night as well)

Wouldn't it be same or similar if I stay 2nights Soppong, 2 nights Mae Hong son (skip Pai)?
I want to do a little trek to hilltribes, elephant riding, water rafting not necessarily as there will be 3,5 years old kid with us.
Can anybody help with itinerary? I consider a flight back with Nokmini from MHS to CM instead of minibus with stopover in Pai.

Day 1
Arrive in CM 07:40 am, then go to Arcade for minibus for Soppong. I should reach Soppong River inn around 12
Day 2 whole day in Soppong, overnight
Day3 go further to Mae Hong Son , overnight
Day4 either go back on bus to Pai and overnight there or stay another day in MHS and go back to CM by Nokair.

Anybody could help with not very exhausting itinerary for all those days, please?


#1 magdaicez has been a member since 11/1/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by dano_b on 18/1/2011 at 20:38

It will be an exhausting few days, that's for sure! The bus ride to Soppong is not a smooth one!
Soppong is more for caving & rafting than trekking, from my experience, but it was an awesome adventure - maybe not the same with a child. Didn't make it to Mae Hong Son so I can't comment on that.
My group did a trek an hour or two outside Chiang Mai that involved a kid-friendly trek, elephant riding, water rafting and camping beside a waterfall. Not a single other tour group on the trail the entire trip!

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Posted by magdaicez on 18/1/2011 at 21:14

Perhaps I should stay 1 night in Soppong and 3 in Mae Hong Son, then?
Can anybody suggest itinerary for those days? I'd like to go at least one way by minibus (with stopover on Soppong) and stay for 2 or 3 in Mae Hong Son. Then go back to Chiang Mai with Nokair.

#3 magdaicez has been a member since 11/1/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by chrisgow on 18/1/2011 at 23:29

Lovely thing about Mae Hongson (over Pai and Sopong) is that the backpackers have largely stayed away! I was there - and also in Sopong - last week, but have been visiting for 20 years. MHS still remains my favourite.

If I was you with the time you have, I wound go to just one of these places and absorb it slowly. The best guide I know is in Mae Hongson. What makes him the best is that he brings the forest to life - brilliant for kids... catching cicadas and finding species that most guides walk past.

If you like, I can help you to plan a visit. That is what I do.

#4 chrisgow has been a member since 18/1/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by johnfthompson on 19/1/2011 at 05:26

My wife and I spent 2 days in Soppong back in March 2009. We rented a car in Chiang Mai and drove up, stopping in Pai to get delicious, fresh, and cheap lunch (about $2.50 total) and see some of the town. While Pai wasa good place to get out and stretch our legs, we felt it was a bit overrun by backpackers just lazing around the town bars. If I remember correctly Soppong was about 1-1.5 hours beyond Pai. Please note that starting about 1 hour out of Chiang Mai the road becomes very hilly with lots of switch backs which may be hard on your kids' stomachs in the back of minibus, so the car might be an easier option. Driving in this part of Thailand was easy as the roads are well maintained and marked in English.
When we reached Soppong, we stayed in a nice bungalow style inn overlooking the river. We went swimming in the river with some of the hill tribe kids (make sure to bring some sort of bug spray as there are tiny, black bugs that pack a nasty bite). Getting to the Tham Lod caves and the coffin caves a little to the west of Soppong was easy, but again having our own car made the journey much easier and allowed us to do everything on our own time. Both spots were very interesting. As noted above, Soppong is a nice place to just sit and relax, there were several small restaurants, a small grocery store and several market stands. Unfortunately, I can't help with Mae Hong Son as we decided to stay in Soppong. Have a great trip.

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Posted by Krabiman on 19/1/2011 at 07:52

Pai is a village overrun with backpackers. Soppong is tiny, virtually nothing there except the large cave called Tham Lot.

I would either drive and do a stop at soppong on the way to mhs or do a tour that does soppong and mhs. Travelling by local bus is slow and then organising extra stuff you wont have time.

#6 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223

Posted by Captain_Bob on 19/1/2011 at 15:19

I would take the little traveller to Cave Lodge near Soppong close to the huge Lod Cave There's loads of running around and exploring elbow room there with a small stream down the hill for a splash. Maybe a night or two there and a couple more in MHS. I would skip Pai as it's just become too touristy. Ok maybe one night at Pai so you can see for yourself. Here are minibuses to get you out to Soppong (aka Pang Mapha) initially They depart from platform 13 at Chiang Mai Arcade bus station.

#7 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,947

Posted by MADMAC on 19/1/2011 at 16:57

I wonder why it is people who want to see "culture" keep congregating in the same locations? Strange. If I wanted to sample culture, I would go where I am the only tourist.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by magdaicez on 19/1/2011 at 20:18

I think renting a car would be more convenient and not really expensive if I compare all the costs of minibus to and from MHS. Specially if we share it with two more people.
I read plenty posts that the route is easy to do if you know how to drive in the mountains.

To be honest, you made not my trip easier to plan :) for my family and friends.
Actually I could act more spontaneous and just let it all go but ... First I wouldn't like to miss something cool and second I got kids (3,5 and 11 fit enough to walk and explore but still young enough to spoil it effectively if too exhausting). This is the reason I'd rather know at least some draft of what to expect in advance. I wish not to book a big trip with tour company that will arrange everything for me although I don't mind using a local guide that could show us things/places we cannot see by ourselves.
But still I don't know what those places are...
As I booked 2 nights in Soppong already I wonder what else can I do by myself except for Tham Lod cave. Bamboo rafting seems also interesting, elephant ride. I could just stay there and enjoy exploring area with some not very demanding trek about 3 hours. Are those the things that could be done in MHS as well? Will it be possible to see the local hill tribe villages once in Soppong? The best option would be to leave some time during the day for the rest.
Could you help me to fill below plan?:
Day 1
Arrive to Soppon around 1pm ( Is this possible?, I need to have breakfast and arrange a car in CM after I get off the night train- about 8am).
It means we have- half a day for small tour. Can we do a Tham Lod? Do we need to book a guide or just explore by ourselves? - How long approximately?
Day 2
Whole day in Soppong - what to do? Trekking possible or better to do in MHS?
Day 3
AM breakfast and drive further to MHS. Arrive after about 3 hours? Let's say at 12.
Accommodate and half a day city exploring - preferably on foot.
- Lake
Night in MHS ( Any nice guest house that you could recommend?)
Day 4
Full day exploring ( Hill tribes preferably) Are there are there any villages accessible without booking a tour? Something more I can do with "kid on my shoulder"? Which hill tribes? How to get there?
Night in MHS
Day 5
Go back to CM.
Of course I can rearrange and stay 1 night in Soppong on the way to and the other on the way back from MHS.

Can you help a bit more with this?

Thanks in advance for all those kind tips.

#9 magdaicez has been a member since 11/1/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by MADMAC on 20/1/2011 at 00:00

I would not be going all over the place with the kids myself - but if you are going to do that, definitely do not take the bus. Don't do it. Not with small kids. That has ugly potential. If I had three kids in tow, I'd be heading down to Phuket and do a beach holiday.

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Posted by magdaicez on 20/1/2011 at 02:57

I got two kids. 3 and half and 11. I might have made myself not clear. Finally I got to conclusion that we'll say no to local bus and hire a car but definately won't give up on MHS:) Is this something particular you have on your mind that I shouldn't do with kids? Is it dangerous or not attractive for kids in you opinion?
I had already booked 6nights in Phangan but spending two weeks on the beach is not what we're after. I've been to Chiang Mai, north Vietnam and Khao Lak two years ago with my son (9 at that time) and it was just perfect.

#11 magdaicez has been a member since 11/1/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by Krabiman on 20/1/2011 at 05:18

driving to soppong is easy. take the car. northern wheels in cm is good to hire one.

Lod Cave takes about 3 hours to explore. You can hire a guide there.

if you dont want to go to mhs you can do a sidetrip to chiang dao cave on your way to soppong. a little out of your way but you can do an elephant camp as well.

#12 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223

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