Yesterday night I arrived in Khun Yuam around 7PM. After dealing with some business (including some very surprised hotel management), about an hour later I went off to find myself dinner. The town was very dead—I had to walk for about ten minutes or so until I managed to find an open restaurant (and its prices were a little high). That said, I was pleased to get some food. Khun Yuam at night is about as lively as my previous trip to Mae Sai , where the nightlife was nonexistent. In fact, from the looks of it I have seen livelier cemeteries. Even the “guard dogs” in Khun Yuam got bored of looking for nearly nonexistent traffic.
That said, when the sun comes out Khun Yuam is a slightly less dull place. Slightly. Khun Yuam is a sleepy market town along the road from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son along the green mountain country along the Thai border with Burma. It’s not a massive city by any means; its population is a little over 6000 according to the Lonely Planet traveling guide. Khun Yuam is definitely a place for business, though it does boast some very beautiful mountain views (the hotel I am staying is built on the side of a mountain valley, making for some tricky and uneven stair climbing between my very quiet and remote room and the place where internet is).
As far as that business is concerned, it would appear from my own rather unsystematic wandering that Khun Yuam is largely (like all of the other towns I’ve seen in Thailand so far, including Mae Rim) built alongside the road (Highway 108) that runs through it. It is fairly long and not very deep as a town. There aren’t a lot of side roads either. Khun Yuam is mostly built of wood construction (two stories buildings mainly) though there is a little brick and some concrete block as well. The place is definitely more of an old-fashioned town—there does not appear to be any of the garish or slapdash modern construction that one sees, but rather pretty teakwood buildings with mostly aluminum roofing (some of it rusted).
There appear to be some fruit markets here in Khun Yuam, but not as many as one would expect in a largely agricultural area. In fact, what impresses me is how much in the way of automotive shops, hardware, and similar items is to be found here. There is a nice drugstore, a few restaurants (in daytime), a very lively internet shop (which was the only lively building I saw last night, full of noisy and apparently happy children), and a lot of stores that sell the belts to cars (or motorbikes—like any sizable town in Thailand that I have seen so far there is a motorcycle dealer), as well as some stores that sell umbrellas and Wellington boots, a lot of camouflage clothing and backpacks (and even purses) and even a store that had an alarmingly large supply of machetes.
Again, the people coming here to Khun Yuam can find a fair amount of natural beauty easily, even if the town is sufficiently large that it would be difficult to find unimpeded views of the valley, except (so far from what I’ve seen) from the lovely terrace outside of my hotel room, where last night I saw a beautiful moon, and this morning saw a foggy morning slowly burn off into a beautiful view of a valley. Suffice it to say, it is a very pleasant sight, even if the hillside is somewhat steep to climb. In short, there is enough to make this city a peaceful and pleasant place to spend a week and a half to honor God, but it is sleepy enough to make even Jekyll Island seem like a late-night teeming metropolis. I am unsure whether the other visitors here will see the charms of a small town in a beautiful valley or see the boredom of a place that closes after dark (which runs about 6PM right now). That remains to be seen.
Update: In a later wandering through Khun Yuam I passed what looked like a Muslim woman wearing a burka selling some very fancy-looking and deadly-loooking automatic weapons at the edge of town. It has led me to wonder if Khun Yuam, as sleepy as it is, has an active arms trade going on. That would make it a considerably more dangerous and yet intriguing place. In my future wanderings I hope to reach the airfield where the Japanese helped supply their Burmese possessions, as well as the (small) museum that is currently under construction here also.