Four days on the Mae Hong Son loop can give you a serious case of raw-ass, but with scenery as gorgeous as what you find in Northern Thailand, raw-ass is a small price to pay.
There are a number of strange and unusual sights to behold while scooting the loop, from elephant variety roadblocks to entire villages of longneck Karen woman. I expected to see amazing views but I did not expect to find an entire animal kingdom on the road back to Chiang Mai.
The mahout’s (elephant drivers) couldn’t seem to understand my excitement at finding a parade of elephants in the middle of the road. I threw my scooter to the ground and charged towards the giant beasts. “TAKE MY PICTURE!” I shouted at the guys who were walking alongside the group.
I also tried to befriend the baby elephant hiding between her mother’s legs but the entire group refused to stop walking. I guess they must encounter many overly excited white people during their afternoon strolls.
I didn’t have the same enthusiasm for taking a pictures of the Long Neck Karen. The tribe is utterly fascinating. The women of this Burmese refugee tribe elongate their necks with metal necklaces, eventually crushing their collarbone and weakening their neck muscles to the point that they are unable to remove the jewelry for fear of asphyxiation. (According to some sources the women would be unable to hold up their head.) This practice is illegal in Myanmar.
Instead of living normal village life, these women are kept sequestered in a small section of houses where people (including me) pay to visit. The women sell handicrafts while dozens and dozens of tourists gawk, buy scarves and take photos. It’s a human zoo.
In between facing down elephants and losing a battle with my moral compass, I attempted to avoid the rain. I was not successful.