Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Umphang & the Mae's

Weird...i had this blog entry almost written, went back to finish it off and the blog had put '%20' everywhere i had a space and converted my photos into codes that ment nothing so had to re-do the whole thing! How annoying...ahhhh computers!!

From Ayutthaya i travelled up to the north along the Burmese border.

It was an awful journey to Mae Sot. I caught the overnight bus from Ayutthaya. My seat was at the very back beside the window. I saw that everyone who had been on the bus since Bangkok lying back with the seats reclined almost to horizontal...ohh this was going to be so cosy!! BUUUT when i tried to put my seat back it just wouldnt go very far at all!! There was a big, empty plastic bucket behind it and the bucket was pretty well stuck in there! It made some very load squeeking noises against the back of the seat everytime i moved it an inch. Everyone was grumbling and waking from their cosy reclined sleep thinking what the hell is that squeeking noise down the back and me in the back of the bus standing on my seat trying to pull the bucket out just laughing at what a silly situation this is!

Eventually i got the damn bucket out and flung it across the floor so the driver could see in the morning it was not appreciated where it was! I went to recline the seat and GOD DAMN there was a fire extinguisher attached to the wall behind the seat so i couldnt put my seat back further than an inch or so and i find it very hard to sleep at night sitting upright!

Anyway could be worse i thought at least im not sitting at the back of the bus on an indian road!! Well then some poor girl started violently vomiting for the rest of the journey. Oh the smell of vomit was so rancid, as it was an airconditioned bus you couldn't open the windows, it was airtight, im sure you could almost see the green-yellow haze in the air. We were stopped in the middle of the night by the army who where checking if there where any Burmese refugees on the bus and the poor officer nearly fell off the step from the smell of the vomit! His facial expression was so funny we kind of exchanged 'yeah its bad isnt it!' looks.

Arrived before down, had a little wander about waiting for things to open. The monks wander about in the morning collecthing offerings from people who stop what they are doing and put a bit of rice or some food into the monks bag and thats their good deed for the day. I just chilled out that day i was very tired after the journey and sure everything smelt of vomit!

I did next to nothing in Mae Sot, its a nice little town where you can get anything you need, nice markets and friendly folks, had my teeth cleaned at the dentist for E6! I decided to rent a bike (with basket just like my one at home i spent many many hours on!) and cycle to Burma! It wasn't far i have to say just a few km, after i got to the friendship bridge to Burma instead of crossing i took a left and just kept cycling and cycling for hours through the thai countryside and unlike cycling in india here was like a magic road, so straight and smooth and seemed to always be sloping down slightly!

I've never experienced so many insects in my room before this guesthouse. On one hand i'm thinking why are people in general so scared of these little fellows they cant exactly do much harm...but on the otherhand i don't like them in my bed harmless or not! It seemed like they where coming out of thin air just dropping from the ceiling. One day i was lying on my stomach and i felt something about the size of a cigarette lighter drop on my back...it was a big cockroach! Harmless but ahhh i dont like it!

There where hundreds of flies wriggling about on the floor in this guesthouse just above the stairs, i dont know if they where breeding or dying or wha! Their wings had come off and were all over the place and very tiny little fellows wriggling about around them, i guess this is where they had thier babies then thier wings came off! Anyway there was a container of insect spray in the bathroom so i sprayed it all over this swarm of dying/breeding insects...they're going to look for revenge now arent they!!

I really wanted to get off the 'tourist trail' so i headed to Umphang a nice little village in the mountains 6 hours or so south of Mae Sot in one of these trucks! Called Sawnthaws they are used for the little mountain roads. Its amazing how many people you can fit in one of these, with the men allowed to sit of the roof, including a chain-smoking, redbull drinking monk! Lots of vomiting again on this journey but at least no windows to keep in the smell!

No tourists here and so little english, i havent had a conversation since i was in Bangkok and loving it!

Little shops, the roof made from leaves

I wasnt sure exactly where to go here, i spent the first day just walking for hours down endless country roads, when i decided to rent a bicycle i ended up renting a motorbike! I had learnt to ride a motorbike in India so it was a piece of cake here! The only thing was that i'd only driven an automatic in India they only had the one with gears here, it was a bit of a struggle getting used to the gears at first, the bike was making some shocking noises, i wasnt sure if it would last the day, but i got the hang of it after a little while.


I was trying to find the nice waterfall i had heard about but i guess you had to go more off the beaten track to find it and the locals got very shy when a 'falang'- foreigner, approached them saying 'nam'- water, then doing 'swishhhh' noise, and actions of water falling. They just kind of giggled and ran away.

Big rain filled clouds following me!

At one stage the road turned into a dirt track and i was struggling a bit with the bike. There was a tractor up ahead, a little girl hopped out and started running towards me, she was about 12 and hopped on the bike, put it into 1st gear and off we went up the hill no problem! I decided if the little girl cold do it so can i! Anyway i was stuck now up the top of the hill and had no choice! I drove on for another few miles along this dirt-track looking for some turn off for the waterfall but when i heard a few claps of thunder i decided better start heading back!

Look at this heavy rain just in the one spot!

Many many insects again at this place. The sound from the frogs, geckos, crickets, flies at night where so load! There is one in particular that sounds exactly like the dentists drill....a warning to wash and floss or else!! I have never been so surrounded by insects! There was one really stupid massive beetle that was flapping about on his back. I helped him up and a few moments later i heard a noise like a little plane flying past...it was him! He did about 3 laps of the room each time crashing into the light and on the 3rd lap he crashed a bit too hard and fell on his back again. At this stage i had to flick him out the door, along with an absolutely massive millipede!

This is for scale....and i have big hands!

One insect i love is the firefly! So amazing how they light up as they fly, and once i saw one i realised they are all over the place.

Next day it was back on the sawngthaw for a long twisty journey back to Mae Sot then another one onto Mae Sariang. Im very behind in writing this soooo memories of Mae Sariang was that nothing major stood out about the place but it was nice and very friendly.

I rented a bike again as i heard there was a waterfall. Sooo hot i kept stopping at every 7-eleven store i passed to get some air-conditioning! I ended up in the middle of nowhere, cycling around little country roads, there was even a guy lying on a bamboo table getting his dental work done in a little hut in the forest!!

The Sariang River

Anyway after a few hours of cycling in the heat i was just about to head home disappointed i couldnt find the waterfall, when....i saw a big golden buddha statue far away in the hills. It was my mission to go there!! Oh it took ages and a very steep climb with the bike to get up to the top but so worth it!! It started lashing rain then so i called it a day and headed home.

The stairs up to the big fella, the dragons are to keep the bad spirits out

On the opposite side of the scale a tiny tiny little puppy, resident in my guesthouse

Next stop is Mae Hong Song. I got up extra early to catch the 1st bus. After a few hours we stopped, everyone got off and i saw this sign 'Welcome to Mae Hong Song'. I checked with the driver by asking 'mae hong song?' and pointing to the ground he was like oh ya ya. So off i headed with my back pack.


I realised after about half an hour walking that something was up! This definately wasnt Mae Hong Song, again i tried to check this with some locals but they where just so shy they giggled and ran away! Nothing was in english so i thought i better head back to the bus station! I found out i was in a little village in the middle o' nowhere and would have to wait another 4 hours for the next bus. Ah dear, got up early for nothing!

The bus came and off we went. About an hour later it broke down though and we had to stop for an hour or two but go Mr bus driver, stripping off, pulling up tiles from the floor and yanking out various parts of the engine. Off we went and at last i got to Mae Hong Song just before dark!

The lake opposite my guesthouse

I had another struggle trying to find this lake where there were guesthouses. I couldnt find anyone who spoke english and i was sooo hungry! This time i said the word for water 'nam' and made a big circle with my hands....surely you would know that means a lake?? I eventually found a hotel who gave me a map, found a nice guesthouse, shower then much needed food! I was thinking my god what bad luck so far getting to Mae hong song it can only get better!

And so it did. I took a motorbike and had the best day of exploring! I was told there were some 'fish caves' so i went the rough direction. I passed some buddha statues in a forest so i hopped off there and went to explore. Behind the statues was a trail which lead to a cave ah this must be fish caves! The cave went down very deep, it was a very damp cold inside and very dark the further in i went.

This was obviously a very sacred place with statues of buddha and pals inside and fresh offerings of red fanta laid out for them. The caves went quite deep in and it was so dark, i tried to make myself go further into the caves but i just couldnt! I was thinking what a chicken i am not to be able to muster up the courage to go into the fish caves that everyone was talking about!

After i left these caves sure 2 minutes down the road didnt i see a big sign for fish caves!! and they werent scary at all.

Behind this sacred Buddhist cave was jungle so i went for a little unexpected trek in my flipflops! Oh it was really cool! The sounds and the smells where just like i imagined a proper jungle to be! I was all by myself here so i went a bit mad swinging from big vines yes like tarzan so cool!

There where huge big bamboo branches that had fallen down and are totally hollow, i noticed that there where many many red beetles but they ran away soon has they heard the leaves moving, i was trying to guess what animals the sounds were coming from, birds? frogs? insects? impossible to tell. I eventually got to a part that i couldnt find an easy way up with flipflops on so decided better to start making my way back down.

Confused whether to keep trying to go on in flip-flips or not

Sawadeekaaaaaa!- Hello!

Delighted with myself and my little jungle trek, sweaty work!

When i came back out of the jungle part, and past the sacred (not fish caves!) there was a monk sitting there, i tried to catch his eye to say hallo but he was avoiding me, there was also another monk carrying some water who made a huge detour to avoid me also. Mmmm i think i definately shouldnt have been in those caves but delighted i was!

The sun was almost setting so i headed back to Mae hong song town to climb the temple there on the hill to catch the sunset.

View of M.H.S from the temple

It was a really unusual 'toothpaste' white temple with statues of white lions around it. The reflection of the clouds on the temple was really gorgeous.

You couldnt see the sunset but nice clouds.

I was just about to head to Pai when i got chatting to a nice polish girl over breakfast. It was a good thing i did as we decided to rent a motorbike again and find the waterfall! 3rd time lucky for me and i was well worth having another look for it! We ventured a little away from the path along the waterfall and found huge geckos and vicious red ants that you felt the biting and had to actually pull them off i literally had ants in my pants! not pleasant!!

So beautiful here though, i dont think i've been to a waterfall before. We found a pool, stripped down to underwear and went to a refreshing swim, soooo GOOD! I was in heaven. The water was just a little warm and crystal clear.

Next stop Pai, quite a touristy place but very chilled out and friendly vibe, a little like some parts of Goa. The minute i arrived i saw my friend Gerry from India go past on a motorbike small world! My first night i also met some lovely Irish girls who i spent my time in Pai with.
After Pai it was a quick hop to Chiang Mai, kind of the capital of north thailand. Just as in Bangkok great street food and lots going on. We had a lot of fun there and if anyone is in Chiang Mai the sunday market is amazing! Im in Chiang Khong now which is a small town on the border with Laos which im going to in the morning. So for now goodbye Thailand...i really dont know what to expect in Laos but im looking forward to it!

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