We were determined to make the most of our last morning in me and ma before heading back to “modern“ Thailand. A visit was arranged to another ethnic village. This time it was the Akha people. Unlike the day before, this was an arranged visit and the villages were prepared for meetings with tourists and a chance to sell their handicrafts.
We rendezvoused in a village on the main road and went up the mountain by 4x4. The Toyota Hilux dominates SEAsia and in this case was being used to carry 14 people up a very steep and very bumpy track. There is no way that our cars could have made it up there, but the capabilities of these pick up trucks in various guides seem boundless.
The village was like turning the clock back. They cook on open fire stoves inside their simple wooden houses and keep large stacks of firewood under the stilt-raised floors. The ladies had hats with old coins attached to them: old Indian Rupees and French colonial coins. We bought some small decorated bags from them.
We returned to the main road and had a coffee. As usual for Myanmar it was in a sachet that includes everything with boiling water poured over it. We are getting quite used to it now.
The formalities on the Burmese side of the border were super efficient- once we had done a circuit of the congested border town of Tachileik to get into the queue. We did not even get out of our cars. Thailand was connected by a very short bridge and in a somewhat chaotic arrangement we switched side of the road back to driving on the left in mid flow. Once through the Thai customs and immigration the drive to Chiang Rai was straightforward- apart from those interminable traffic lights!
In Chiang Rai we decided to go out to the night market for something to eat, with Charles and Neil. We ate with the locals in an area with stalls all around a square, livened up by the occasional dance group or musicians. As the night was young we followed this by coffee at a cafe next to the golden clock tier - only for it to burst into music and light as 8 o'clock struck.
Enthused by our success at the tourist sights, it was decided to visit the Ompholus and nearby Wat. We walked up through small unlit streets with barking dogs to get there and the distance of 1.2km estimated by Maps.me was a big underestimate. There was a nearly full moon, so we could see the monument and there was some atmospheric lighting still on at the Wat. However by this time we were a long way from the hotel and with little prospect of finding a taxi nearby.
Our plight was solved by hearing music from a bar where we found no clientele, but a very friendly band practising. On our arrival they greeted us enthusiastically and produced a book of Western pop songs from the 1970’s which they insisted we joined in with. A great time was had by all in a very spontaneous evening and the guitar player was also a taxi driver, so we were able to return to the Méridien hotel with ease.