The way to Mae Hong Son – it was a really hard way
Mae Hong Son is a province located the most northwestern part of Thailand. On the east of this province is Chiang Mai, Tak is to the south, Myanmar to the west and north. Most people go to Mea Hong Son from Chiang Mai, and if it doesn’t change since I’ve been there last, there are three ways to go there; by airplane, by the northern route bus (via Pai), and the southern route bus (via Mae Sariang). Needless to say, the airplane is the most convenient. It is also not so expensive. When I went to Mae Hong Son for the first time, it cost only 330B (Now, it costs about 2,000B, and it’s operated by only Kan Air). However, I wanted to go there by bus because the bus route, especially the northern route, has something related to the Japanese.
At the end of World War 2, the Japanese army went through this route after they lost the Battle of Imphal. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough English skills to explain this battle, but let me write just one thing. A large number of Japanese soldiers died in this battle. It’s said to be more than 20 or 30 thousand. I’m not sure exactly how many, but it can be said that it was an extremely large number of people. The route that they took to fly from Imphal via Myanmar to Northern Thailand is called The Skeleton Road. On my first visited to Mae Hong Son, I thought that I should take that route to commemorate their death. So, I took a local bus that was not air-conditioned to go there. That was the southern route bus, though.
Apart from this tragic event in history, the mountain scenery of this route is breathtaking. Actually, I looked forward to seeing that scenery. However, I couldn’t enjoy it. It was the end of the Songkran festival (I wrote about Songkran in an old post), and it was also the hottest season in Thailand. In addition to that, the old, small bus was full of people. I could get a seat, but it was very small, a cramped window seat. Even though the direct sunlight was beating down on me, I couldn’t move because of the big crowd. Furthermore, I couldn’t even open the window because the people who were enjoying Songkran would throw the water at us from outside. These circumstances made the bus extremely hot. My misfortunes didn’t end there. The route was a winding mountain road, so the bus often stopped in the middle of the steep slope because it wasn’t powerful enough with full of people packed inside of it. Every time the bus stopped, I was scared that I would fall off the cliff.
I ended up taking that bus for about 5 hours, but I decided to get off at Mae Sariang because it was too hot and crowded. It was my fault that I went there during Songkran. Even by bus, it was a really hard way to go that route. I can’t imagine how rough it was for the Japanese army who travelled this route 70 years ago. Anyway, I’m going to show some aerial photographs that I took from the flight between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. I want to go there by bus again someday.