The Mae Hong Son Loop

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Mae Hong Son Loop

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

I traveled solo. Itís not the first time, but itís been 8 years since I've journeyed alone in Thailand. My independent wandering forces me to be more out going and meet people, which is exciting. One couple I met on the bus had lived in India for the last ten years. When I commented that riding on this bus was torturous they responded by saying it was first class compared to India!

My first destination was Pai, a four hour winding mountainous road trip to meet my friend Dale Knight.

This bus was packed. The only thing missing was livestock!

After buying my ticket I was instructed to take the number 13 bus. That should have been a clue. I am not sure if they forgot to put leaf springs in the bus or if the springs were simply shot, but in any case I was thrown from side to side with each curve and I felt every bump throughout the journey.

How I missed notices for this festival is beyond me.

I was relived to arrive, sort of.

Along the way I overheard another foreigner say that there was a reggae save the world music festival for the next two nights in Pai, a slight oversight for Dale not alerting me.

Upon arrival I found that each of the five Guesthouses I checked were fully booked and the thought occurred that I may be sleeping in the Lisu Hilltribe village that Dale finances. Normally I wouldnít even check at a boutique hotel running 100 Dollars per night, but room availability was not looking good. They, too, were full.

Children dressed in their velvet finery at the Lisu Village were all smiles.

I found the place where Paul Terhorst and I stayed the last time I was here, and although full, the owner said she would help me find something. It  was a 200 Baht 'closet'. Being desperate, I said ďIíll take it.Ē  Expecting to find chocolates on my pillow was out of the question.

Lunch at the Village: Rice and Pork pieces were all that I recognized!

There was no ensuite bath or shower but nonetheless it was a place I could stow my gear and regroup. Perfect.

I grabbed a quick bite, a standby of fried mixed vegetables with chicken and rice, and then set out to find Daleís village. The last email I received from him explained that the villagers had just killed their pig and were having a party. He encouraged me to make it. His sketchy directions were to take the road past the hospital to the second fork and his house is at the fork. Easy enough. I started walking but soon realized this may be further out of town than I thought. I flagged down a girl on a motorbike and persuaded her, through a small donation of course, to take me to a village she had never heard of.

The Lisu Ladies in tribal finery enjoying their lunch

We clocked a few kilometers and I could tell she was getting nervous having this crazy foreigner on the back of her bike. Still she pressed on. By now we had crossed a couple of dirt roads and I was wondering if these were the forks that Dale described. But there was no sign of a house or village anywhere. I decided we had better return to town so that this young girl could go ahead with her planned business for the afternoon.


I was in town just long enough to sip on a beer when Dale spotted me from his motorbike. Telling me he has some errands to run, we planed to meet up in a couple of hours.

The town was jamminí.

There was music and food everywhere with people blocking the streets making it impossible for anything but a motorbike to pass. This was either Paiís finest hour or worst, I had not yet decided. Dale and I slipped off from the main drag to a place where we could chat and order dinner.

Four on a motorbike with no helmets, good luck! I am glad the driver didn't face the camera!

The blaring music carried on long into the night and, from what I heard from my humble suite, there was more rock than reggae, but the folks seemed to enjoy it.

The minivan was a much more comfortable ride.

Meeting Dale in town the next day, he invited me to lunch with the Lisu tribe. This experience is an event in which few people will ever have the chance of participating, something right out of a National Geographic magazine. I quickly jumped at the opportunity. However, this time I hired a motorbike taxi costing 40 Baht and we followed Dale 5 kilometers out to the village. The Lisu girls were just placing the food onto the small tables when we arrived and we were immediately told where to sit.

The scenery was awesome!

Large glasses of beer were handed to us as the food was being presented. The only thing on the table that I recognized was rice and some pork in a broth with noodles with a few vegetables. As to the other dishes neither Dale nor I had a clue as to what they were. Some were very spicy hot while others, only a little. Hill tribe villages do not have Western standards for cleanliness as running water is fairly new to them. For sure, it is not in each house, so I was careful as to what I ate. Traveling solo and being sick is not a good combination.

Eating sticky rice at one of the many bus stations. Delicious!

The elder men ate at one table while the women at another. Dale and I ate with the boys. As is typical of the Hill tribes, everyone sits on the floor at mealtime. We, however, were given small 12 inch tall stools to sit on. I never saw where the girls were eating as they kept checking on everyone. We were finishing up when one young girl gives us a glass of a warm red liquid. She was one of the few that could speak a little English. When I asked what the red drink was, she replied, ďItís medicine, make you strong. Drink it, it not kill you.Ē With her assurance it was bottoms up.


Not wanting to wear out my welcome and with no pressing schedule, I decided it was time to head back to Pai. I needed to make arrangements for traveling to Mae Hong Son the next day.

Aaaahhh... Quiet comfort, air-con room with a view!

Dale doesnít trust himself taking passengers on his motorbike, and I definitely respect that. "No accidents" is an important travelerís creed. So, he made arrangements for the same Lisu girl that served us the medicinal red liquid to bring me back into town. While we were quickly making tracks I asked if she was a good driver. Her response was "no!Ē

My room was across from the Pai bus station. Seeing that the same type of bus which brought me here was also going to Mae Hong Son, I was determined to find something more comfortable. So this time I booked a minivan for 150 Baht to make the 3 hour trip and was glad I did.

Relaxing on the deck overlooking the Mae Yuam River

The mountainous road was still very winding, but the views were spectacular.

A couple of years ago, Akaisha and I flew here and saw many of the local sites. This time Mae Hong Son was just a stopover town for me. My original destination is a village 45 kilometers outside of Mae Sariang, about four hours due south.

Viewing the awesome scenery from the air conditioned bus the next day was superb until the air-con quit about halfway out. My mood started to sour. Arriving in Mae Sariang late I booked the nicest place I could find for 900 Baht to reward myself for this trouble. After settling in I started feeling guilty that I was staying here, in such a nice place, without Akaisha. With it being just two days before Valentine's Day I decided that I would head back to Chiang Mai in the morning, completing the Mae Hong Son loop.

I never made it to my original destination, so that village will have to wait for another trip. But that doesnít concern me in the least. Once again I am reminded that itís better to travel than to arrive.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person Ė the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesnít want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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