Northern Thailand is loosely comprised of several northern provinces, including Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Nan. Within this region there is significant ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have a predominant Thai population, along with Chinese and Tai Yai (Shan). Tere are also ethnic minority hill tribes such as Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Yao. Portions of some districts have many Hmong farmers, others have a high percentage of Karen people.
Most small towns in Mae Hong Son province have Buddhist temples, Moslem mosques and Christian churches. All groups have worshiped freely for centuries and commerce easily encompasses different religions and cultures. Unlike many other places in the world, people have a sense of community that bridges differences. This diversity is celebrated in various festivals and events across northern Thailand.
One of the delightful aspects of cultural diversity is that restaurant menus are equally diverse. Yunnanese noodles in the form of Kao Soi, Chinese pork dumplings, Shan curries and spicy Thai salads offer sensational regional cuisine experiences, even in humble eating establishments.
Mae Sariang is the southern-most District of Mae Hong Son Province – which is one of the most rugged and mountainous areas in Thailand. The town of Mae Sariang has a population of approximately 5,000 people, and serves as the commercial hub of the district and surrounding mountain villages. It is 190 kms from Chiang Mai International Airport, and is reached via provincial Highway 108, a pleasant drive across the mountain ranges.
Mae Sariang lies less than 50kms (30 miles) from the border with Myanmar. In this province, the Salween River is the physical boundary between Thailand and Myanmar. The Salween River can be reached via district route 1194, by driving to the small river trading village of Ban Mae Sam Laeb. The village has a mixed Karen and Moslem population.
The Salween Rivers runs 2,800 kms from the Himalayan Plateau, down through China, Myanmar and Thailand to the Indian Ocean.