Mae Hong Son – Thailand

Thailand’s “City of Mist”

After five minutes in Bangkok’s snarled, snail-paced, fume-belching traffic, you’ll be more than ready to escape to Mae Hong Son, up in the hills 595 miles to the northwest. Increased tourism has left precious few Thai towns that can claim to be unspoiled, free of Western impact, but Mae Hong Son, a lovely town on the border with Myanmar (Burma) that the Thai call the City of Mist, fits the bill better than most.

Situated in a province that’s more rugged jungle than typical rice paddy, it was founded as an elephant training camp in the 1830s and remained cut off from the world until the late 1960s, when a paved road was built from Chiang Mai, 160 miles away.

Local guides can send you rafting down the gentle Pai River, bush trekking atop your very own pachyderm, or hiking to tribal villages in the hills. The only real excitement in town is the early morning market, when the hill-tribe women come down to buy and barter with the locals.

Things have calmed down again by breakfast time, and the swirling mists that give the town its name lift by late afternoon. Motorbike to the top of Doi Kong Mu hill and the 19th-century Wat Phra That temple for a spectacular view of the Pai Valley and the surrounding mountains.

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