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Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Thailand : Northern Thailand : Mae Hong Son Province : Pangmapha
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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.

Information on what to do and where to go is offered at "Border Bar" (see Drink) in the centre of the village, across from the market and bus stop.

Get in

Buses and mini-buses depart from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station throughout the day. The buses cost 95 baht, are fairly cramped, fan only, and take about 6-7 hours. The mini-buses, in contrast, cost 250 baht, have much more comfortable seats, are air-conditioned, and take 4-5 hours. To take the mini-bus 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. The mini-bus 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:

Mini-bus: 06:30/07:30/08:30/09:30/10:30/11:30/12:30/13:30/14:30

Bus: 07:00/09:30/12:30

Get around

Motorbike rentals for 200 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 no two-tiered system of fares, one for Thais and one for foreigners.

As of 2012, the fare to Tham Lot cave, a trip of 10 km, is 70 baht, one-way.


Tham Lot cave features the largest cave opening in SE Asia with a river passing through the cave that can be explored with local guides (1-3 persons, 150 baht) on bamboo rafts (1-3 persons 300 baht). At the exit you can walk back (12 minutes), or you can book the return trip for 400 baht. When you get to the exit at sunset (18:00) you can see hundred thousands of swifts returning to the cave, followed by equal numbers of bats exiting for the night, a spectacular view! You don't have to pay for that (yet), just walk outside to the exit (12 minutes). Bring a flashlight for the walk back! Also, Phi Man cave contains many stone age coffins inside the cave.

The area also features some of the best tropical forests in northern Thailand with many day walks possible to explore the jungle, do some birdwatching, and see dozens of varieties of wild orchids.

Many hill tribe villages are located in the area, including ethnic Lisu, Red and Black Lahu, Karen, and Hmong. Many can be reached on foot from the main village of Soppong.

A travelling market is set up every Tuesday morning along the road in the main market area, with hill tribe people coming down from the mountains to sell their produce and wares.

File:Viewpoint Soppong.jpg
Viewpoint in Soppong


  • Flying Turtle Cooking School, Soppong-Tham Lot Rd (1.5 km towards Tham Lot. Driveway is just before the Chinese temple on the right.), +66 89 4857596, [1]. 09:00-15:30. Thai cooking classes with an organic garden on a lovely hillside just outside Soppong.


There is an ultrarunning event [6] held in Ban Tham, 8kms from Soppong in October each year. Runners and walkers can choose to complete a 50 or 100km off road trail course.


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.


  • Seven Elephants Café, 358 Moo 1, Soppong (500 m from the market, on the right in the direction of Mae Hong Son), +66 53 617107, [2]. 07:00-20:00. Located at Soppong River Inn, the Seven Elephants Café includes an espresso bar, special cocktails, and a wine list. The menu features Western, SE Asian, and local Shan specialties. Dining is available inside the café or outside in the tropical gardens.
  • Jungle House, (300 m north of the bus station on the left side of the road). Restaurant attached to the Jungle Guest House providing home-cooked Thai meals and bread baked by Da on the premises. Shakes and hot tea available to sip on the deck while overlooking the garden.


  • Border Bar, (next to Lemon Hill guest house, opposite the day market). Bar/coffee shop. Offers free backpacker-oriented travel information, also scooter tours and 4x4 treks in a 1957 army Jeep.


  • Cave Lodge, (located in Tham Lot village, approximately 10 km from the Soppong bus stop, with transportation available via motorcycle taxi. In the middle of the forest, close to Tham Lot cave.), [3]. In addition to rooms, offers numerous caving tours to surrounding caves, at a variety of skill levels. Their most popular tour costs 600 baht/person and visits 3 remote caves. In addition, Cave Lodge offers kayaking through Tham Lot and through the following rapids for 600 or 850 baht depending if it is dry or wet season. Kayaking can be combined with cave tours in Tham Lot. Basic dorms start at 100 baht a night, with private bungalows also available..
  • Soppong River Inn, +66 53 617 107, [4]. Offering unique, natural accommodations in tropical gardens along the Lang River with a multi-level teak deck overhanging the river. Rooms and cottages range from standard to luxury with air conditioning at 700-2,450 baht per night..
  • Pencave Homestay (Tham Lod village), 143 Moo 1, +66(0)87-1754384, [5]. Pen, the owner, is a local from Ban Tham Lod who has a few bungalows in lovely and picturesque grounds. Her bungalows are very close to Tham Lod cave. She grows veggies and beans in her garden. She's knowledgeable about the area and can recommend several caves, treks, and villages to explore on your own. You can also hire her as a guide to the less accessible and less well-known caves in the area. 400-600 baht per night.

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