Ban Rak Thai
Ban Rak Thai (บ้านรักไทย) or Mae Aw (密窝村แม่ออ) was settled to be a check point for controlling the jade trade (玉石 หินหยก). Then Mae Aw village (老密窝村แม่ออเก่า) is important for the last army camp close to Thailand in The Shan State (รัฐฉานประเทศพม่า) for controlling the jade trade along Salween River (แม่น้ำสาละวิน) or Salawin in Thai language. They took jades from northern Myanmar past Kayah state and took up river the name "Pai River (แม่น้ำปาย)" to the village named Ban Huayduer (หมู่บ้านห้วยเดื่อ) in Thailand.
Why they is there, if you see map this village close to the thai border and Kayah state (รัฐคะยาประเทศพม่า) border. From village is the valley with stream and river to join Salween river just walk half day (about 8-10 hours) and when Mae Aw have road to connect city, they don't need to pass Kayah State.
It's real after the road had ready connection to Mae Hong Son (เมืองแม่ฮ่องสอน)they transported jade from this village instead.
When they moved Mae Aw village from its Myanmar site to Thailand, it was called New Mae Aw village.(新密窝村 แม่ออใหม่). In 1983-4 the fighting ended and the Thai government renamed it Ban Rak Thai(拉泰村 หมู่บ้านรักไทย).
You can take a yellow truck (songthaew) to Ban Rak Thai. They pick up at 8am and 11:15am in front of the Mae Hong Son Food Market, near Wat Huan Wiang, on Phanich Wattana. The price is 120 baht each way. It is best to get there 15 minutes early. If you don't see a truck, wait around or ask a local vendor. The truck travels every day to BRT.
From Mae Hong Son, you can also rent a motorbike and drive up on your own. Or if you prefer a guided tour, you can hire one as well in MHS city.
The ride is beautiful, meandering through a picturesque valley, up and down steep hills on a very windy road.
The road is paved all the way.
From Mae Hong Son, head north on Rt 1095. About 10 km up, you will see signs for Ban Rak Thai. Take a left, and follow this windy road for another 35 km or so, until it ends in the village. Geocoordinates: N19 35.109, E097 56.552.
It is little village that surrounds a small lake. It is easy to walk or drive around. You can also rent a bicycle when you are there.
Also, there is a small dirt road that goes to a tiny Shan State village across the border, and the guards are friendly, and will let you enter. It is worth the trek, but you can't enter with a motorized vehicle. Inside you will find a school, a small Shan history and culture museum, and a community living on the edges as a result of the ongoing conflict with the Burma Army, in the fight for freedom, and self-determination.
Update 20 February 2021: the crossing is closed due to Covid 19 border travel restrictions
The lake, Chinese tea shops, surrounding mountains. The scenery is amazing, with the town set in a valley surrounded by hills which contain the smuggling routes to and from Myanmar.
Visit a tea plantation to learn about growing and processing tea.
Go to Myanmar. It is possible (December 2019) to visit the village on the Myanmar side of the border without a visa or passport. The Thai guard will let you pass, as long as you are on foot. No passport needed. On the Myanmar side there might be a guard, which will also let you pass on foot, no passport needed. You can just walk into the village, where you can visit the temple and a little museum on the Shan people.
Tea and dried fruit. Any number of shops sell a dizzying variety of tea, which grows well at these altitudes, and seems to be one of the primary products. There are nice quality oolong teas grown here and some of the best are here for tasting.
Yunnan-style Chinese food, which involves a lot of tea leaves, pork fat, and oil. Not as bad as it sounds, but you will probably want to supplement it with a bit of dried fruit.
Really recommend eating at Chasa Ruk Thai; a restaurant with a spectacular view of the lake. The family style Chinese food is the best food meal I have eaten in Thailand. Just on the main street when you first enter the town.
In low seasons restaurants and shops close very early so better eat as soon the sun is down at 7.30 pm you could be the only one walking around the village.
Tea. Available everywhere.
Lee wine: They're making a few different wines, sweet and dry, from fruits: pineapple, plum, peach and malaki (a kind of wild gooseberry). Very interesting and priced at 200baht x bottle. Free tasting available at the street shop. They are making a few teas as well.
There appear to be at least two guest houses in town, both near the lake (since pretty much everything in the town is near the lake). Prices Range from 200 baht to well over 1,000 baht. There are a number of guest houses operating around the lake. From basic mud huts to nice little villas. Most are rather basic and tatty. This place has become a big Thai tourist destination. It gets many tour vans each day but few stay overnight. It gets packed on the holidays. Evenings around the lake are cool and lovely.
Ping Ping guesthouse: just on the lake 400-500 baht x night. The 'reception' is located in the shop. Hot shower and sink, nice garden. On the lake.
Mon (not sure 100% of the name) Guesthouse: just before Ping Ping same reception. Very basic room by the lake no hot shower no sink. 200 baht x night.
Lee Resort: beautiful bungalows overseeing the lake from there top of the hill. 600-1000 baht x night.