|It has been a big challenge downloading photos and trying to write notes at the same time. It seems the systems do not want to work too hard. On three separate occassions I have lost 3 and 4 days of info but I have just walked 10km and need some sit down time, so I will try again.
Dec 7: ChiangMai and MaeSariang: Our first bus breakdown in Thailand. Only 1/2hr behind schedual, we hopped on the next fully packed bus but somehow I got a seat. Sometimes there are benefits to being a little old lady. Thai people are very gracious. Our only nervous moment came after a very slow climb up a long hill and then a very quick race down the other side. For the first two minutes, the driver breaked continuously and then the fun began. The brakes started smelling VERY HOT, and he stopped using the brakes and we passed everything on the road for next 3to5 minutes, taking corners at a noticable list. Needles to say, we almost made up our lost 1/2hr. We had no room in the backpacks for shopping, so we are bypassing ChiangMai. The trip from Lampang to MaeSariang just got more beautiful, with the mountains, tropical rain forest and multitude of blooming flowers. At the moment, the red poinsetta bushes and brilliant yellow lotus sunflowers are scattered all over the hills.
Dec 8 & 9: MaeSariang: A quaint and friendly town with a few Burmese Temples, lovely surrounding country and good food. Our accomodation at See View (yes, I did spell see correctly)was in need of a good painting but comfortable, clean, and basic. Aekkasan, the owner is quite a personality and provides tours, as well as motorcycle and bicycle rentals. We skipped the tour and rented motorcycle to cruise the countryside at our own pace. We visited a couple of Karen villages, a few temples and with the assistance of 3 Thai girls finally found a refreshing waterfall. We were invited to a staff birthday party by Aekkasan and met WahKu Shee, a 24yr. old Burmeses girl who had lived in a Karen Refugee camp for over 8 years. Currently, she is working for the Karen Womens Organization, trying to provide assistance, education, training, community relief, aid in income generation thru the sales of traditional items for women inside and out of the camps. There are over 140,000 Karen living in Camps in Thailand. Our chat was very informative.
Dec. 10, 11, & 12: MaeHong Son: New meaning to shake, rattle and roll!! 5 hrs. of rain forest mountain scenery, 30+C temperatures and 1864 curves. You can even get a certificate for completing the challenge. Wonderful ambiance in MaeHong Son!!!!! There is something for everyone here: tours, temples, rafting, caves, waterfalls, hot springs, accessable hill tribes, great food and friendly people. Our home was Friends Guest House and it stood by its name. Once again, we rented motorcycles for a day of adventure, education, and lots of laughs. We visited the Ban Nai Soi Village. The home of the Long Neck and Big Ear Karen Hill tribe who fled from the persecution in Burma over 10 years ago. It is a real working village as well as a commercial enterprise that provides income to help the community be self sufficient. There is an entry fee and at least a dozen market stalls where you can spend your money BUT WELL WORTH EVERY PENNY! You see their homes, gardens, schools, weaving, maintenance projects and get the opportunity to chat and learn. The older generation is very gracious and friendly even tho they do not speak English, the young people often speak 7 or more different languages and encourage interaction with the tourists. It cannot be easy living everyday in front of the tourist camera. Some consider it their job but there are really no options at this time. They cannot return to Myanmar without persecution and they are not considered Thai citizens...travelling is not an option. As we travel around the north, military police stop the bus regularly to check papers of locals. Despite these realities we left the village feeling we had the opportunity to meet some very special people. Cruising on our 125cc Honda's up and down, back and forth thru the hills, we visited the beautiful Nam Pha Sua waterfalls and then had a visit to the Mineral Hot Springs for a FULL BODY MUD BATH, TAMARINE SCRUB, SOAK IN THE HOT TUBS AND LITTLE RELAXATION IN THE LOUNG CHAIRS BY THE POOL. I do not know who had more fun, the girls doing our mud bath or Laurie and I. It would be easy to stay here but accomodation maybe more than our usual
$7.00 - $10.00 a night. We have occasionally stayed in places for $4.00 but usually regret it. In three days we have visited 4 Wats in MaeHong Son city. They were all different and all interesting. We will come back here, still more for us to explore but it is time to get on the road.
Dec. 13: Pai: Back & forth, up and down over the Range we go, 108km and 4 1/2hrs ... the scenery is spectacular but so are the hairpin turns!!! There were times on this journey, I felt the combined effort of the passengers could have moved us up the hills a little faster. We lucked out with the most meticulously clean, freshly painted, guest house with a new spring coiled mattress, lovely doona, soft pillows and roses in the garden. Pai is very busy. There seem to be more tourists than locals in town. A wonderful party town and there appears lots to do but not what we were looking for.
Dec. 14: Chiang Dao: Caught the 7:00am bus out of Pai. Another journey with unbelievable hairpin turns and awesome scenery (5Hrs). The early morning mists in the valley gave it a special ambiance. The Chiang Dao Caves are worth a stop, we even paid a little extra for a guide to take us thru the unlit portion of the tunnels. There is a lot of moisture and silt in the cave, so you do not see the sparkling staligmite and staligtites but the formations and the large caverns are impressive.