Today was quite an adventure! We packed-up our trucks and checked-out of our hotel in Mae Sariang around 10:00am. We all took dramamine, as we were warned about the winding roads. After about an hour we stopped at an overlook of the Salawin (Sal-a-WEEN) River where we could view Burma in the distance on the other side. Then we continued our journey which soon switced from paved road to dirt. The entire drive lasted about five to six hours with various stops for photos and leg stretches. We saw some BEAUTIFUL sceanery as the road curved up and down the mountains and through the streams.
We arrived in the refugee camp around 3:00pm, and meandered through the bamboo houses on the rocky road to reach our destination. The pastor had arranged for our team to stay in his special bamboo 'guest house'. To reach it, we had to park our trucks on one side of a stream, and carry our packs accross a wooden bridge to the other side. We greeted the pastor, and then climbed the ladder steps to the upper level of the guest house to setup our mosquito nets and bedding before dark. Then we enjoyed a delicious Karen-style meal in the dining area of the guest house.
After dinner, we walked about a mile in the dark (by flashlight) with a guide to the festival area, to enjoy the beginning of their 'Thanksgiving' celebration. A large concrete stage with stairs had been erected, surrounded by a bamboo decorated sides and backdrop. A huge area in front of the stage was spread with straw on the ground and shaded with bamboo supported tarps for shade for the audience. On this night we enjoyed several musician and Karen choir performances. We were seated on the ground of straw in the midst of the audience, and experienced many stares of the people. The children slowly scooted toward us, and soon were on our laps and leaning against us as we snapped photos. When we returned to the guesthouse, a few of us enjoyed a Karen-style shower (dipping water over us from a trough while wearing a sarong) before bed time. The water was cold at first, but soon felt very good. We were all snuggled in our sleeping bags under our nets by 9:30pm, and were soon fast asleep from a long day of travel and adventure.