The small market town of Khun Yuam lies around half way between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang and services the surrounding villages in the Yuam river valley. It can get quite bustling in the mornings, especially on market day as Hmong, Karen and even the rarely encountered Lawa people from the hills come into town to sell or buy goods. Otherwise this is a very sleepy little spot with, apart from one excellent museum, not really a lot to see.
Plenty of cheap local cafes are dotted around and there’s one rather nice place to sleep, so even if Khun Yuam isn’t exactly worth going out of your way to visit, it does make a good spot to break up a journey if you’ve had enough of local buses, you’re cycling, or you reckon the 200 kilometres between Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son is a bit too much for a Honda Dream day trip.
The area around town does hold a lot of trekking potential, with some great mountain scenery, plenty of hill tribe villages and boat and rafting trips on the Yuam river, but for now you’ll have to head for the more touristy towns of Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son for any trekking action.
It’s in this part of Mae Hong Son province that certain hills turn bright yellow in November and December as wild sunflowers
come into bloom for the Bua Tong Sunflower Festival
, which is what puts Khun Yuam on the map for domestic tourists, at least. If you’re in the area then the spectacular Mae Surin waterfall
in the nearby national park of the same name is worth a side trip if you have your own transport.
Note that a direct, sealed road (Route 1263) runs from Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem
and Doi Inthanon, which creates another option for the northern loop
you may be taking. So if you’re travelling south from Mae Hong Son, heading for Chiang Mai, you can cut off the Mae Sariang corner if you’re running out of time by taking this road directly to Mae Chaem and Chom Thong.
Alternatively, if you’re doing a shorter circuit out of Chiang Mai, you could consider Chiang Mai, Hot
and Mae Sariang with a return by Khun Yuam, Mae Chaem and Chom Thong. In any case, the Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem and Doi Inthanon road is another highly scenic mountain route but – and here’s the rub – there is no public transport on this route. As a word of warning, if you do have your own wheels, Route 1263 does have a lot of hills but very few villages for refreshment or petrol stops.
Heading south from Khun Yuan, in the direction of Mae Sariang, will bring you to Mae Lanoi
, small district town about two-thirds of the way down Route 108 to Mae Sariang (around 70 kilometres). This is a useful spot to break up your journey if you’re heading south. There are a couple of local cafes, a good coffee shop, convenience stores, petrol and even a tiny market to stretch your legs in. To the east of town, Route 1266 leads to a much signposted Lawa village and a small forest reserve, though unless you have time to waste neither are worth a detour, with the Lawa village being pretty much undistinguishable from a Thai one. You might see a few older Karen and Lawa women wandering around town in their traditional gear.
Khun Yuam is a bit of a one-street town, stretching along both sides of the main Mae Hong Son highway, Route 108. Banks with ATMs
are located along the central stretch of Route 108 as it passes through town, as is the police station
. The post office
is next door to the museum at the northern end of town while the district hospital
is found opposite the post office, one block back from the main road. Banfarang, your best accommodation option, is also at the northern end of town, just before the turn off for Mae Chaem. A couple of other hotels plus cafes are mixed in amid the telephone and hardware stores in the centre of town.
The permanent market
is just south of the police station, across the road, while a lively weekly local market sets up on the Mae Hong Son side of town every Monday morning from 05:00 to around 12:00. You’ll also see a few Shan-style wats, plus a mosque and a church, reflecting the town’s highly eclectic population.