Sunday's activity was a hike to the summit of 5,160 ft. Doi Pui. Sounds impressive (and it was a steep trail), however, Hui Hee rests at an elevation of roughly 3,000 ft. So there wasn't an excessive amount of up and down that day.
I've heard two stories related to the wreckage. One is that the plane was a WWII American warplane that bought the farm on this remote peak over 60 years ago. Another more intriguing tale is that the craft was a "bank plane" full of gold that crashed many decades ago. The locals, finding no survivors and gold bricks scattered about....(you can guess the rest of the story). Anyhow, given that the Second World War didn't spare this region and that there's reportedly no one left in the community that remembers the crash, I personally subscribe to the WWII air crash theory.
Only a few hundred yards past the air crash site the forest suddenly transforms into an alpine meadow. As the elevation is still too low to be a real tree line, my guess is that the combination of thin soil, dry season fires and free-range cattle is what keeps the mountain top in a bald state (similar to the high elevation balds of my native southern Appalachians which become "unbald" in the 20th century following the advent of effective fire control and the ban on free-range cattle).
The 360 degree view of Mae Hong Son was indescribable. The view contained rugged mountains, remote valleys, a single thread of road and a distant, tiny community. Scattered within the vast forest were some swidden fields where Karen rice is grown. Each patch is surrounded by woodland in various stages of succession. These diverse stages of regrowth reflect the forest fallow that follows a single year of traditional Karen crop production for each swidden field.
Over the next two days we accompanied the people of Huai Hee to witness the annual planting of upland rice (yes, the rainy season has begun) and to participate in other aspects of their livelihoods.
I'm already scheming up another visit.