After 7 years, we revisit Mae Aw & Ban Ruam Thai in Mae Hong Son, Thailand
In 2005 a rented moped carried two novice travelers into Mae Aw.
Tyre tracks imprinted the earth as the village seared its existence into our memories. As our eyes darted around us, taking in the new and unfamiliar surroundings, our soft and unblemished minds filled with an unwanted yet very apparent unease.
Just 2 months into an around the world trip with no previous knowledge of the big wide world we were standing in the middle of nowhere, deep in rural Thailand. Never before had our feet stepped into what felt like such an isolated sector of the world.
Alone on a narrow dirt track, surrounded by tall grass on either side and just moments from the Burmese border.
Like two rabbits in headlights, we stood frozen with fear and didn’t stay long before we swiftly left the way we came in.
7 years later in a classic Ford Escort, those 2 souls arrived once again in Mae Aw. Eager to return to see why they were so fearful on their last visit and put the timid ghosts to bed.
Nothing much had changed in the town, but our minds were now developed. Wisened and scarred by the years that filled in the gaps between visits, we began to smile.
The memories of our previous and somewhat flippant travels to the rural village ebbed away, replaced instead by total awe – if nothing else the visit let us know we had matured in our travel minds if nowhere else!
A solitary tear snuck up on me as we crossed paths with a villager. Dressed in traditional clothing with a small child wrapped tightly in cloth clinging to her back, head resting on her shoulder. A huge smile lit up this woman’s face as we passed her by and I couldn’t stop the unexpected wave that washed over me.
There’s something about sharing a smile with somebody born into a different world. As our eyes locked in the briefest of moments it was as if we had a deep connection, one that is sometimes a struggle to get even from your closest associates. Despite the vast difference between our lives I felt like we had an understanding of each other, just from a simple smile.
Instead of being scared of something different as our younger selves had shied from, we embraced it and fully enjoyed the authentic atmosphere.
Mae Aw, or Ban Rak Thai as it is known in Thai, is a small rustic Chinese community, 40km from Mae Hong Son town. Settled by anti communist Chinese refugees right on the Burmese border.
Tightly ringed in by mountains and tea plantations there is a distinct feeling of being in another country.
Stilted bamboo and earth houses line the dusty streets as the residents continue about their daily lives, as they have for years. The simplicity of the town adds to the charm and being colonised by the Chinese, Mae Aw is one of the best places for Chinese food and tea tasting. Bags of oolong, jasmine and green tea line the wooden shops and the town proudly hosts a tea festival each February.
Unfortunately when we were there, out of season and on a drizzly, unpredictable and overcast day, most of the shops and tea tastings were closed. Which only added to our need to come back to Mae Aw once again.
10 kms from Mae Aw, back towards Mae Hong Son is Ban Ruam Thai. A Shan village known as the ‘Switzerland of Thailand’.
The stunning Pang Oung reservoir sits at the far side of the town, hemmed in by a pine tree forest, the large mass of water makes for a great day out from Mae Hong Son.
Fishermen dotted themselves around the edge of the lake and the quiet, peaceful setting is a great place for a picnic, there’s certainly no shortage of shade under all the trees!
Us in the pine forest
As usual we spent much longer here than we expected to and Eden immensely enjoyed running through the trees.
Eden at Ban Ruam Thai
Our Map to Ban Rak Thai – Mae Aw
View Mae Aw, Ban Rak Thai, Mae Hong Son Thailand in a larger map
Our Map to Ban Ruam Thai
View Ban Ruam Thai in a larger map
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