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Archive for October 21st, 2012

Mae Hong Son Loop Day 2

Posted by TravellingStrom on October 21, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

We had a basic breakfast this morning, not the best in the world, but not the worst I have had(as part of the room price anyway). We had decided on a 9am side stand up and that is what we did, after the management unsorted the parking lot, that was a mess, all the cars blocked us in, but I think they are used to scoots not big bikes with panniers 🙂 We were going to do a small detour up towards the Myanmar border area which meant going north and a small amount of back tracking. So, after we asked some locals about fuel, then fuelling up we headed off north around 9.15 or so and it was lovely weather for it, a blue sky with a slight overnight chill but it will warm up very quickly I am sure 🙂

We found the turn off quite easily but for some reason the actual full route was not able to be done on the SatNav as it said there were no roads, but we knew there were and went anyway. This first section of road towards this small village was along the valley floor and gave us some excellent photo opportunities, the greens were magnificent 🙂

Once we got to the next small village it was not so hard to find the right road as a sign said go this way to the Kings Palace and I had seen on the paper map, this particular POI, so we headed off that way, at different speeds of course and after another 30km of nice winding roads we eventually arrived at the village by the lake called Ban Rak Thai. There was a Chinese influence here and the local grown tea crops can be tasted for free, and bought of course, they also sold dried and semi dried fruits, it was a nice place for a rest 🙂 The Myanmar border is just over those hills in the background of the lake shot.

We then followed the road down both legs of the T-junction but were foiled by the mud, it had rained heavily the day before, so we never got to the actual ‘closed’ border point, oh well, never mind.

On the way back from this failed attempt I was waved at by a couple of the local lasses(not the first by the way) so I decided to stop and take a photo, but they were too shy, what a shame they did not see the helmet cam 😉

On the way south out of the border area we took a slightly different route(bypassing the small village we went through on the way up), different road but just as nice, I loved this little ride 🙂 Just for the record, while here I entered Mae Hong Son as the next destination, the SatNav then decides to tell me to ride along this particular road and it knew there were roads there. Hmm, so that should work OK, if I ride up a road and then need to find my way back, I will be right, gotta love these Adventure Rider SatNavs eh, you get list, it’ll get you out 🙂

The next detour we had was south of Mae Hong Son, only a few kilo’s and a turn off to the right, we were off to see the Long Neck people in a place called Karen Village. This involved some wet crossings, avoiding elephants and was very narrow and quite slow due to traffic. Most of the crossings were shallow over concrete with algae and I was warned by the chap near the elephants to watch out as they were slippery. No worries, but the deep one, which had no solid bottom was deeper than I expected and I managed to fill my boots with water, that was fun 🙂


So we got to the village OK and then paid the entry fee to go and see these traditional tribal people, here is what it is all about:
The Long-neck women are one of the main reasons tourists come to Mae Hong Son. These refugees from Burma’s Karenni state, located just over the border from Mae Hong Son, are called Padaung in Burmese, but this is also an inappropriate label because the Burmese are an occupying army in the state. In their own language, this ethnic group is called Kayan.

The price for visiting these villages is 200B. Half of this money goes to the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP, the main opposition force to Burmese control in Karenni state). The remainder goes to the Thai Ministry of the Interior. The women receive 500B each month for wearing the rings as children and 1,500B when they reach adulthood. It is a level of financial security unheard of for the average refugee family.
The decision about whether or not to visit the village can be a difficult one. Many people believe that paying to see and take pictures of women physically disfigure themselves is wrong. The tradition of donning the neck rings is largely dying out in Kayan areas. If you talk to many of the Kayan people, however, you will find that despite the difficulties they face in Thailand, for now their prospects in tourist villages are better than their prospects inside Karenni state. At the same time, most of them would like to return home to Karenni state when there is peace or a cease-fire.

The refugees in these villages represent only a small handful of the 20,000 living in the refugee camp on the other side of the mountain. They are allowed a great deal of freedom compared to the non-Kayan refugees and some of the money that they earn goes to help all the refugees. Some people believe that it is the tourist money that these women attract that allows all the Karenni refugees to stay in Thailand. A lot rests on those neck-rings.

The first part of the village was a tourist trap, these were normal Thai people with normal Thai things to sell, you have to cross the little bridge at the end before you are amongst the Kayan people who are working on their own items to sell to the tourists. It is normal for these people to pose for photos and they don not mind, but it is best if you ask first, the ones I spoke to were happy to comply and I did buy a small gift for someone, but I do not have much space at all to carry stuff around too long.

We spent about 1/2 an hour there and just for the record, those copper rings are heavy, the first girl had about 3kg and the older women about 5kg hanging on their shoulders. And that is what happens with time, the neck only gets longer because the weight of the copper pushes the shoulder bones down into the chest area and away from the head, thus making the long neck.

It was now around 1pm and we had not covered any distance south and it was very hot, we needed to get moving now and this may have led to the next error on my part, I rolled the bike through one of the wet crossings but needed power to get out and up the other side and well, the pictures say it all for me 🙂

Oh well, not the first nor the last to have that happen, when you have a very greasy bottom, any deviation from the main path can cause this, the chap near my bike was walking in the water so I had to change lines. The video showing this will be seen tomorrow on the day 3 post of this loop amongst a few other ooops moments 🙂 So we headed off to the next town south, it was a pleasure to be back on the main road, after finishing with all the rest of the uneventful water crossings and passing some elephants on the road and also them bloody silver mini vans/buses who never get out of your way. We stopped around 2.30 for a late lunch at a small cafe that Gary had been told about and the info was correct, the food was nice and also cheap, a nice little place and very welcome as I was starved. (Toby, one of these shots is similar to what you posted on Facebook one day, not the same but just as much fun)

We had a great run south to our next stopping point of Mae Sariang, but there was a bad section of road about 10km long filled with potholes and then some nice sweepers to make up for it. It was during this time I nearly had an off moment. I had just waved at some oncoming adventure riders and following Gary, I went around the 2nd of two left hand corners when the bash plate or centre stand dug in and kicked the bike over a bit, so by the time I got around the corner I was a bit out of shape and although I waved at the two HD riders just coming up to the corner, I am sure they were wandering what I was doing 😳 This was oops #2 for the day and the video will be posted tomorrow 😉

We rode around for a bit trying to find these guest houses but in the end it was easy, find the river, ride along the street and they are there. The one we chose was called The Good View and it had a brilliant view, it was a new place, around 12 months old and cheap, 500B for the night including brekky 🙂 We were soon booked in and showered and after a few sunset photos, ready for some beer 🙂

We met up with Ben and Fern(they live in this area) up at the Cowboy Night bar and grabbed some beer and food while the late rain storm passed over us. They had chosen some food dishes for us to try(non ring burning for me please), the first one was different. Catfish steamed, defleshed and minced then bread crumbed and deep fried, it was very nice and probably all you can do with catfish 😉 The second one was also seafood, a fish whole fried and covered with a mixture of veggies, also very nice 🙂

I am going to have to admit to a shameful secret here. While drinking beer in a hot climate, it does not take long before the glass and the beer bottle gets warm, or hot, so what they do here is add ice to the glass. Now, sacrilege is what I was thinking for the past week or so, but tonight I bowed under pressure, no stubby cooler, no glass cooler, yep I had ice in my beer 🙂 It was not so bad and I guess when in Thai, do as Thais do eh 🙂 We had a few beers here until the rain stopped then said goodbye to Ben and Fern, nice to have met you both. We then went up to a pub I had seen on the way in called the Drunks Place, it turned out to be a dive and empty with the bar across the street having loud music, so we grabbed a few beers and had them on the balcony that looks out over the river and chilled out for a while. Tomorrow we were heading back to Chiang Mai, via a detour up the highest mountain in Thailand but we did not have far to go. Even so, it was an early night for both of us as we were quite tired, it had been a long hot day but fun.

Cheers from Mae Sariang

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