Saturday, March 19, 2011

The end of Thailand (for now...)

Well I've left the town of Mae Sot, and I was sad to see it go, especially the kids I grew so much to like in the past two weeks. I will miss that town. But I feel I left it in good hands because a new batch of teachers came in that will be staying for 2 months. I spent the last  couple of days wrapping things up and saying good bye to friends that I had met and spent time with in Mae Sot. 
Another reason for me leaving is that my Visa is up March 20th for I've got to boogy out of the country. And even though you may put the dots together and ask 'Why do you have to leave if you are on a border town with Burma?' Good question...well because of recent issues with the Thai and Burmese at this particular border town, as well as the elections in Burma, this border has been closed since July. 
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mae Sot, and it reminds me to keep my ears open for more volunteer positions. I have found them to be the most rewarding memories and connections you make while traveling. Whether it is with the foreigners you meet doing similar things, or with the local people you interact with while trying to complete something.  
Me with one of my classes. :-)

So I head north on the twisty and windy roads toward Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son ( I know pronunciation is tough, but you get it while you are here) I went by sungtao, the name for a pickup truck with a fancy bench set-up in the bed of the truck. least they are good for some fresh air...and some rain to the face. 

On my way out of Mae Sot on an absolutely beautiful ride through the northern jungle and mountains of started to rain. I didn't know at the time that this would be the beginning of 4 days straight of rain...had I known, I would of, well I wouldn't of done anything...maybe bought a scarf!! BBrrrr....Cold for the first time in Thailand. I stopped after an awesome sungtao ride in Mae Sariang and stayed the night there. I was treated in luxury with delicious green curry with chicken, yummy coffee, the sounds of rain, red silk sheets (:-O gasp!) as well as a TV!!!!!!  
Out of all those things, let whichever you want amaze you or catch your interest...whether some yummy curry sounds good to you, or the red silky sheets sound sultry, or perhaps you are interested in what I watched on TV. If not, i'm going to tell you anyways, so get over it and read on !!
When flipping through the channels of Thai TV we were confronted with the following choices...
  • News about the unfortunate Japan earthquake (in Thai, so not as informative as you think)
  • Thai 'MTV' with the newest and greatest Thai-pop
  • Ten Things I Hate about you II  (yes there is a second one!)
  • Raising woodstock (questionable)
  • Australian hippie shows
  • A live video cam of random coffee shops (no acting no sound, just the video camera recording customers, and the occasional water spill or security gaurd)
  • And just when you thought there wasn't any more, the winner! A 24 hour LIVE video cam of a zoo PANDA!!!!! Yes the station shows 24/7 a video camera of a Panda. FYI since we watched some, Pandas don't do much at all but sleep sleep and walk around. Boring, but there is a TV channel showing it 24/7- only in Asia!!
From Mae Sariang, I headed to Mae Hong Son. I had run into one of my students from Mae Sot school at the bus station and we made the trip together. And yes, it was still raining. Mae Hong Son was a nice mountain town surrounding a small lake/pond with Burmese/Shan influence showing in their Wats (remember a Wat is a temple) I couldn't see much because it was torrentially downpouring all day, but Brad sent me some handy information about that particular town, sweet that he is. There are many hillside tribal communities around there, including the Longneck tribes. They are famous for their necks being abnormally long, it is because they were the coils on the neck and each year they add a coil, extending their neck even further. I had a girl in my school at Mae Sot who did this for part of her childhood and did have a longer than normal neck. I only spent a day there and moved on, in hopes of escaping the rain. 

Mae Hong Song and the lake. In the back Burmese Shan tribe temples

I moved onto Pai, the hippy village of the North. The town name is pronounced Pie or Pi and it is pretty hippy-ed out. By that I mean there are places to get dreadlocks done all around, people with dreads all around, hippy people, laid back atmosphere and full of things for foreigners to do when they cross long distances to be with other foreigners. An interesting place to walk around. But the real beauty was surrounding.I met a friend and we rented motorbikes (100 Baht for 24 hours (approx. 3 dollars- then add in gas)). First stop of the day was at  Mor Paeng waterfall a couple of kilometers outside of town.  A pleasant little waterfall that looked strickingly similar to Three Sisters in the San Diego county area near Julian. From there, after a strong (and possibly spiked) jug of coffee at this local hippy Thai place... we headed to a hillside Wat (temple) that overlooked the beautiful valley of Pai. An interesting thing that struck me is how brown the landscape is. Because it is March, and this month along with April and May are the Hot and dry seasons in most of SE Asia. There isn't the lush tropical forest you think of when you think of least no this time of year. After the hillside temple, we headed to the Pai Hotsprings, but were met with a pleasant roadside surprise...ELEPHANTS!!! 
There was an elephant training camp or elephant refugee place on the road and right there were two amazing elephants, Mai and Po. I was able to touch the elephants and everything. They are amazing creatures when you get up close. Videos and seeing them from afar at the Zoo doesn't do these animals justice. Just remarkable really! Their skin so rough yet soft and their huge trunks you can hug. And they love to get their ears rubbed. I can't really describe it much better than I was jaw-dropped and lost track of time just looking and touching these animals. The day's (and possibly a trip) top so far! We continued on to the Pai Hot springs and enjoyed a soak in the pools for a $2.50 (i know you are jealous) . Finishing off the day riding around at sunset through the hills and valleys and rivers of the countryside and headed to Pai Canyon. A cool little scene for a beautiful sunset. 
I was QUITE the day indeed!!! 

Can you say Classy Red Scooter!?!

A pretty roadside cafe
Waxing never seemed so enticing

As of now, I'm on a break from the bus headed to Laos. By tomorrow morning (my time) I'll be in Laos, my second country of SouthEast Asia. Until then, life is definitely good.  

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