When I got off the minivan in Mae Hong Son I still felt a bit dizzy after all the curves you have to cope with when coming from Chiang Mai. But bursting into the small night market with the astonishing view onto the temples, the lights sparkling in the lake right in front of it made the hardship of the bus ride a distant memory.
During my six week stay this became my favorite place. The sunsets, lights, and delicious Spicy Papaya Salad with grilled chicken always drew me closer. From there you can also see the temple that watches over the city, just on top of the mountain. And actually this temple turned out to be my place of living for my time in Mae Hong Son.
Thanks to Travel-to-Teach I got the possibility to live in a small room inside the temple area and meet all the friendly Thais that live and work up there. Around noon I would walk down the 213 steps to go to school, where all the novice monks were happy to catch any English phrase they could. After school I would walk around town to explore the market, the shops or simply the countryside. But the 213 steps always waited for me at the end of the day! I usually walked them up in a good mood, because I knew yummy and traditional Thai-Yai food was waiting for me. As were the Thais that liked to talk, learn English, or show me some of their way of life. And the monks as well! Of course both sides always struggled during the conversation, but I found it the best way to pick up the Thai language and make everyone learn some English.
A win-win situation for all of us! In the end the people from the temple and I went on weekend trips, celebrated birthdays and Buddhist Holidays. I joined the monks on their morning rounds to collect the offered food and watched the beautiful sunsets and sunrises (with a lot of fog!).
The town itself had a special charm for me. It was the right place to escape the busy and touristy atmosphere of Chiang Mai and learn about Thai culture and language. It also turned out to be a good starting point for weekend activities, such as visiting hot springs, local villages, hiking or making a trip to Pai.
At the same time the teaching was very rewarding. I discovered how fun it can be to teach and learn English, when the students get interested and involved. Thanks to the great support by the English teacher everyone was having a good time.
After all the happy moments I was able to experience, after all the close bonds I formed with the locals I found it very sad to leave this little paradise after the six weeks were over. And there was still a curvy bus ride waiting for me, which might be the only uncomfortable fact I can mention about my stay in Mae Hong Son. Come and find out on your own!