Photo: Rural scenes.


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The small market town of Khun Yuam lies around halfway between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang and services the surrounding villages in the valley of the Yuam River. It can get quite bustling in the mornings, especially on market days, 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. The surrounding hills do hold more famous attractions in the form of the spectacular Mae Surin Waterfall—reputedly the kingdom’s highest—plus the annual flowering of the wild Mexican sunflowers. The area around town also holds great trekking potential, with some excellent mountain scenery, plenty of hill-tribe villages and boat and rafting opportunities on the Yuam River, but for now it remains as potential only and you’ll have to head for the more touristy towns of Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son for any organised trekking action.

Rush hour. Photo taken in or around Khun Yuam, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Rush hour. Photo: Mark Ord

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. This is what puts Khun Yuam on the map for domestic tourists, at least. If you’re already in the area then the spectacular Mae Surin waterfall in the nearby national park of the same name is also worth a side trip if you have your own transport.

Perhaps more of interest to passing foreign tourists, for whom sunflowers may be more of a familiar sight than they are to Thais, is the town’s very good museum. Khun Yuam was an important Japanese military base during World War II and the collection of exhibits reflects both this period of history as well as the present day ethnic and cultural mix of the region.

Take a plunge? Photo taken in or around Khun Yuam, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Take a plunge? Photo: Mark Ord

Note that a direct, sealed road (Highway 1263) runs from Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem and Doi Inthanon, which creates another option for any northern loop you may be taking. 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 on to 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, Highway 1263 does have a lot of hills but very few villages for refreshment or petrol stops.

Impressive scenery. Photo taken in or around Khun Yuam, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Impressive scenery. Photo: Mark Ord

Heading south from Khun Yuan, in the direction of Mae Sariang, will bring you to Mae La Noi, a small district town about two-thirds of the way down Highway 108 to Mae Sariang (around 70 kilometres). This is a useful spot to break up your journey if you’re journeying 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, Highway 1266 leads to a much signposted Lawa village and a small forest reserve, though unless you have time to waste neither are really worth a detour, with the Lawa village being pretty much indistinguishable from any Thai one. You might see a few older Karen and Lawa women wandering around Khun Yuam market in their traditional gear though.

Several cheap, local cafes are dotted up and down the main street and there are a couple of decent places to sleep, so even if Khun Yuam isn’t exactly worth going out of your way to visit, it does make a fine spot to break up a journey if you’ve had enough of local buses, you’re on a cycling trip, or you decide the 200 kilometres between Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son is a bit too much for a Honda Dream day trip.

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Khun Yuam is a bit of a one-street town, stretching along both sides of the main Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang route, Highway 108. Banks with ATMs are located along the central stretch of the route 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. Ban Farang Guesthouse, your best accommodation option, is also at the northern end of town, just before the turnoff for Mae Chaem. A couple of other more local hotels plus cafes are mixed in amid the telephone and hardware stores in the centre of town.

Track down a temple or two. Photo taken in or around Khun Yuam, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Track down a temple or two. Photo: Mark Ord

The small 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 mix of inhabitants.

Expect to see the occasional police check-point on 108—it is close to the border—but they’re on the look-out for traffickers or ID card-less Burmese rather than foreign tourists. Flying down the Mae Hong Son highway without a helmet is asking for trouble—in every sense—but otherwise, you shouldn’t get anything but waves from the local constabulary. If you have any problems then try the town’s police station on the main street, roughly opposite the market, but don’t count on too much spoken English. The nearest tourist police are to be found in Mae Hong Son or Chiang Mai.

Khun Yuam might only be a small town but it does serve a wide surrounding administrative area so the local hospital is both larger and better than you may expect. They ought to be proficient at patching up a few minor motorbike accident injuries but if you have anything seriously wrong with you then book a ticket on the next Prempracha minibus to Chiang Mai. The hospital is located at the north end of the town on Highway 108, opposite the post office. Ma La Noi, located between Khun Yuam and Mae Sariang, also has a reasonably sized regional hospital so if you do have an accident on route check which is the closest option.

The sun comes out and oh so pretty. Photo taken in or around Khun Yuam, Thailand by Mark Ord.

The sun comes out and oh so pretty. Photo: Mark Ord

As per usual in these quiet backwaters the only realistic danger you’ll face is on the roads. Highway 108 south towards Mae Sariang and north towards the provincial capital is largely flat, straight and easy going but you’re still at the mercy of a blow-out or a wandering dog so stay alert! The steep, windy mountain road to the sunflower fields and Mae Surin National Park is another matter though and needs to be treated with respect even by experienced riders. You do have insurance right?

As you’re probably visiting Khun Yuam as part of the Mae Hong Son loop then check climate details for Mae Sariang or Mae Hong Son as the same conditions apply. This section of highway 108, at a lower altitude than adjacent stretches, is less inclined to be stuck in the clouds during the rainy season than say the Hot or Soppong routes. The area’s top site—Mae Surin Waterfall—is obviously less spectacular during the dry months.

When to go
As a part of the Mae Hong Son Loop, when to go considerations for quiet Khun Yuam are superseded by those of busier spots such as Pai. The only time of the year when the little town does get busy—and then suddenly it can get pretty hectic—is late November, early December when the famous sunflowers are in season. Lesser sites exist near both Mae Hong Son town and Mae Sariang but for local tourists, Khun Yuam is the prime spot and they flock from far and wide to grab myriad selfies amid bright yellow hillsides.

If you want to see the famous Mexican flowers then you have no choice but do try and check beforehand as flowering can vary slightly from year to year. If you don’t want to see the flowers then avoid that period at all costs as you’re unlikely to find a room unless you booked ages in advance and the mountain roads are full of vehicles whose drivers are not at all used to mountain roads.

Emergencies (hospital) T: 1669
Emergencies (police) T: 191
Khun Yuam District Hospital 455 Moo 1, Highway 108, Khun Yuam T: (053) 691 017
Khun Yuam Police Station Highway 108, opposite the market T: (054) 691 115, (081) 872 2897
Khun Yuam Post Office 429/1 Moo 1, Highway 108, close to the Museum Open Mon–Fri 08:30–16:30, closed Sat & Sun
Mae La Noi District Hospital 79 Moo 9, Highway 108, Mae La Noi. T: (053) 689 060

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Khun Yuam.
 Read up on where to eat on Khun Yuam.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Khun Yuam.
 Read up on how to get to Khun Yuam, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Khun Yuam? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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