This is a continuation of our road trip around the north-western part of Thailand. To read from the start, click HERE.
The cell phone alarm chimed at the crack of dawn (which in Mae Chaem is 5.30am). Shortly after that the roosters started and they set off the birds. Somewhere a dog barked. We were on the bike out of the town by 6am, somehow instinctively knowing that it would be a long day.
Highway 1108 sped underneath as we headed east towards the rising sun. However, reaching our destination as quickly as possible was never the intention – wats are always an interesting diversion in Thailand, and we visited three before 9am. The first contained pheasants, which filled Caroline with glee as she ran off to photograph their fat little bodies. After several pictures too many, a black dog spotted us and took a special interest in Caroline. Then another black dog bounded over. Then another one. Then a fourth. They all slobbered on Caroline, jumping on her, playfully nipping at her sleeves. One of them sniffed my hand, but that was the only attention I got.
The next wat was facing due east. As the sun rose it shone all the way into the back of the temple illuminating the Buddha and casting long, impressive shadows. There were also some happy dogs lingering in the carpark. They too took a liking to Caroline.
The third wat was situated at the top of a hundred stairs. We walked up to the sound of monks chanting (turns out it was a CD on repeat hooked up to a practice amp) and stuck around to photograph some of the little critters that had come out in the early morning to forage.
20km to Hot Coffee.
10km to Hot Coffee.
8km to Hot Coffee.
5km to Hot Coffee.
2km to Hot Coffee.
1km to Hot Coffee.
What did we find when we got to Hot Coffee??
Another dog in love with Caroline.
After Hot Coffee (where we drank tea), we took to the highway – destination Khun Yuam. As we raced along we passed a small turn off with a sign and arrow written only in Thai. We ignored it, and carried on. You see where this is going? Correct. We took the wrong road, which soon became potholed, which soon became incredibly dangerous 45 degree hairpin corners, which soon became gravel, which eventually became sand, and was finally just dirt. Despite the horror of the road, the scenery was breathtaking and we drove through a couple of Karen (local tribe) villages on our journey. The people in the villages stared at us strangely as we rode through. We had no idea at the time, but this wasn’t the usual place that a couple of backpackers would be driving. We smiled and waved and kept driving. The villagers smiled and waved back.
It was around the time that we reached a little rickety bridge (pictured above) that we decided we may not be on a main highway anymore. So we doubled back and asked at one of the Karen villages.
“Khun Yuam,” a man we spoke to said, pointing back the way we came. “100 kilometres.”
“Kop khun kaa,” replied Caroline. But the man wasn’t finished.
“Eat!” he demanded happily, then yelled at a bunch of people at a house who were watching us, something that sounded like, “Get tea, get tea!”
So we were ushered to a table and food was laid out before us. Sticky rice, pork stew, vegetables, and spicy minced pork. A man named Tanongsak Mondok, who spoke English reasonably well, took us on a little tour of the food preparation area. We saw several enormous pots of stew on the boil, and inside one of the shacks people were hard at work chopping. This included a circle of men hacking meat into mince using single-handed machetes.
“For marry,” said Tangonsak. There had just been a wedding, and now the bride and groom had just left the village and gone to Chiang Mai.
As we rode away from the village (which we had learned was named ‘Mae Sa’, and wasn’t Buddhist, but Christian), a grinning man held up a large roll of something which he had been smoking. “No, thanks!” we said as we hastened away, imagining driving up those sandy hairpin corners after smoking whatever it was.
Eventually, of course, we made it to Khun Yuam, and stayed in the Good View guest house. We were the only guests and arrived to find the place completely deserted. The proprietor, a giggling woman, was surprised to find us on her driveway when she returned from wherever it was that she had been.
To continue, click HERE