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Songkran: Thai New Year

Each year from 13-15th April, Thailand celebrates Songkran - Thai New Year. In traditional Songkran celebrations Buddha images are cleansed with water, that water is then poured onto the shoulders of elders and family members as a blessing. Taking place at the hottest time of year in Thailand this evolved into throwing water over strangers and, eventually, a three-day countrywide water fight. There are many other elements to Songkran but the water fights are the most accessible (and fun!

Crossing into Laos

Having spent just over five weeks in Thailand I took one last bus trip 2.5 hours to Chiang Khong, a border town on the Mekong river. For years backpackers have been traveling to Chiang Khong to take the one-minute boat over to Laos. As it happens, a new bridge opened in December 2013 and as a result the boat crossing is now closed to foreigners (but open to locals). This being Asia though, they didn’t think to build the bridge between the two border towns, but 10km South.


Half way between Mae Hong Son and Pai is Soppong, a small town best known for its caves. I stayed in the village of Ban Tham about 9km from the main town and close to the main cave of Tham Lod. The owner of the lodge is an Australian expat who has lived in the region for 30 years and I’d planned to take one of his tours the following day.

Mae Hong Son

From Pai I decided to keep the scooter I had for the day for another five and head across to Mae Hong Son. I couldn’t carry too much stuff so I packed some clothes into my day bag and left my backpack and a few other bits at the hostel in Pai. As all the t-shirts in Pai point out, there are 762 curves to “survive” on the way up. By the time the highway 1095 reaches Mae Hong Son that has extended to 1864 making for a nice ride, even if the scooter was a little underpowered for a few of the steeper sections.


Pai was once a sleepy market town but it has been firmly on the Banana Pancake Trail since around 2006. Based on my experience in Chiang Mai I almost skipped Pai, but luckily not. The minibus took about four hours from Chiang Mai, a bit longer than usual as a lady with motion sickness clearly hadn’t read about the 762 curves she’d be going around. The town has a very laid-back vibe compared to a lot of other places in Thailand and that’s certinally helped by the number of hippies in town.