Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Thailand : Northern Thailand : Mae Hong Son Province : Pangmapha
Pangmapha (ปางมะผ้า) is an amphur (district) located in Mae Hong Son Province. Located within Pangmapha District is Tambon (sub-district) Soppong (สบป่อง), a small village with a predominantly ethnic Shan and hill tribe population. Pangmapha district and Soppong subdistrict (Tambon) and village are located between Pai and Mae Hong Son town - 45 km from Pai and 75 km from Mae Hong Son town. Compared to Pai, Pangmapha is less touristy and has a more traditional feel, as Pai has undergone a significant transformation due to the major expansion of tourism there.
Pangmapha is a district (amphur) in northwestern Mae Hong Son province, along the border with Burma. Better known is Soppong, a sub-district and small village located in a river valley in Pangmapha District. Pangmapha and Soppong are not the same, as Pangmapha is the name of the district in which the sub-district and village of Soppong is located. Soppong is on the main road, between Pai and Mae Hong Son on the Mae Hong Son loop. Soppong is a trading and market centre for the many hill tribe villages that populate the area. There is a total of about 350 homes in the whole village area. The population is about 40% hill tribe (mostly Karen, Lisu and Lahu), 40% Burmese Shan, 20% Thai, as well as few Haw Chinese Muslim families.
Pangmapha does not presently attract many tourists, in contrast to Pai, located 45 kilometres away, which has become crowded with tourists and now contains more than 300 guest houses and hotels. There are several guest houses, resorts and restaurants in Pangmapha, but very few tourist-oriented businesses and shops, thus lending a genuine traditional feel to the area. The area offers outstanding trekking in the surrounding mountains, caves, rivers, and jungle.
Minibuses depart from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station throughout the day. The rate is 250 baht, they are air-conditioned, and the journey takes 4-5 hours. To take the minibus to Pangmapha district, purchase a ticket to Mae Hong Son and tell the driver you wish to get off in Soppong. Tickets can be booked and purchased in advance by phone or website (see below). The minibus will make a comfort and eating stop about an ninety minute on the way after leaving Chiang Mai.
The schedule for the two options is as follows:
Operator: Prempracha Transport
Motorbike rentals for 250 baht per day are available at the Castrol Bike Point Shop. There is a fleet of motorbike taxi drivers located right in front of the market, and they have established, set fares to most locations. There is a noticeboard with prices for each journey.The same fares apply to locals and visitors.
As of 2014, the fare to Tham Lot cave, a trip of 10 km, is 70 baht, one-way.
If you rent a motorcycle in Soppong/ Pangmapha the Mae Lanna loop is kinda fun. Drive towards Mae Hong Son about 10 km and turn right on the road to Mae Lanna. After 4 km, take the right fork to the village of Mae Lanna. Here there is a nice Guest House, the Mae Lanna GH, set in large gardens. Driving on, you turn left, initially on a paved road that turns to dirt after a few km. The road climbs and after 3-4 km then look for a right hand turn that follows along the ridge.This road is a bit hairy, not for the novice driver. After 6-8 km you arrive back turning right onto a decent paved road. This descends through rolling hills and farmland to the village of Tham Lod (the caves).
There is an ultrarunning event, the Thailand Ultramarathon (TU50 and TU100)  held in Ban Tham, 8kms from Soppong in October or November each year. Runners and walkers can choose to complete a beautiful, but very challenging 50 or 100km off road mountain trail.
The hill tribe people set up in most public areas, and are eager to sell their crafts. Tuesday is market day, and one can find a colourful display of hill tribe people selling their wares up and down the main road and near the market.
Most of the accommodations in Soppong have a restaurant that includes bar service, such as at LIttle Eden Guesthouse and Soppong River Inn. You can also buy beer and whiskey in any of Soppong's restaurants. There are several small stands along the main street that serve drinks cheaply, by the glass or bottle.