Wat Jong Klang and Wat Jong Kham are reflected in the serene waters of Jong Kham Lake, in the heart of town. Their striking white chedis (stupas) and dark teak viharn (assembly hall) reflect Burmese influence. Wat Jong Klang was constructed from 1867 to 1871 as an offering to Burmese monks who made the long journey here for the funeral of Wat Jong Kham's abbot. Inside are a series of folk-style glass paintings depicting the Buddha's life and a small collection of dusty Burmese wood carvings and dolls. The older Wat Jong Kham (ca. 1827) was built by King Singhanat Rajah and his queen, and is distinguished by gold-leaf columns supporting its viharn. Don't miss the colorful Burmese-style donation boxes; they're like musical arcade games with spinning discs and cups to drop your change in, only the end result is not "game over" but "make merit."
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (also known as Wat Plai Doi) dominates the western hillside above the town, particularly at night when the strings of lights rimming its two Mon pagodas are silhouetted against the dark forest. The oldest part (ca. 1860) of this compound was constructed by King Singhanat Rajah, and a 15-minute climb up its naga (snake) staircase rewards one with grand views of the mist-shrouded valley, blooming pink cassia trees, and Jong Kham Lake below. Below Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, there's a 12m-long (39-ft.) Reclining Buddha in Wat Phra Non.
For short 1-day hill-tribe treks in the region, Rose Garden Tours (86/4 Khunlumprapas Rd. in the center of town; tel./fax 05361-1681; www.rosegarden-tours.com) offers many options including stops at local Lahu, Shan, and Karen villages, and adventure activities such as elephant trekking and bamboo rafting.
There are two Padaung villages close to Mae Hong Son populated by the famed "long-neck Karen" people, so called because their women wear layers of brass rings around their necks, constantly adding to them to give the appearance of elongated necks. However, visits to these villages tend to upset sensitive souls when they see the plight of these people who have been driven out of their homeland (Myanmar) and are treated like zoo exhibits by their neighbors (Thailand). If you must go, Rose Garden Tours includes village visits in its all-day tours or can arrange special half-day trips. Nai Soi village is about 35km (22 miles) northwest of town and easily reached by car or minivan (entrance is 250B), and Nam Phiang Din village is accessible by boat for 750B (including entrance fee to the village). Unfortunately, these fees do not filter down to the villagers, who receive little more than a plate of rice for smiling at the cameras.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.