Around the World in 80 Emotions !!! travel blog

Temples Mae Hong Son

LED Buddha

Mae Hong Son

Friends House Hostel

Writing Postcards

Waterfall

Rice Fields

Chinese Shop

Long Neck Kayan Girl

View around Mae Hong Son

Ready for Action

Negotiating the Track

Road to Mae Hong Son

The Local Drunk

Burmese Style Temple

View towards Mae Hong Son

Temple Mae Hong Son

Bearded Buddha

Fish Cave ?

Kayan Village

At the top !

Sawngthaws under Mt Doi Suthep


Well after a pleasant stay in Mae Sariang, I decided to head further north along the Burmese border to the town of Mae Hong Son. The bus trip was quite adventurous as we spent the entire 4 hour trip going up and down various mountains and therefore continually around curves, usually on the wrong side of the road !! Sitting at the back of the bus didn't help and I was relieved therefore when half way through the trip, some people got off and I was able to move more towards the front of the bus. This made the trip a bit more comfortable although it did give the local drunk the opportunity to befriend me in fluent Thai.

Fortunately, the trip was worth the discomfort and Mae Hong Son turned out to be a pleasant town, beautifully located in river valley amongst some impressive mountains. I checked into Friends House, a simple hostel close to a small lake in the centre of town. It was a relaxed place and it was nice to just sit on the balcony outside my room and read a book or write some postcards. My first full day in town was a lazy day, starting with a late breakfast / newspaper and then a walk around town to look at some of the impressive Wat's or temples around the town. These were quite pretty as they were built in Burmese style and therefore quite different to what I had seen around the rest of the country. Wat Phra Thai Doi Kong Mu was particularly impressive as it was located on a hill overlooking the town giving excellent 360 degree views of the surrounding mountainous valleys in the bright sunshine.

Wednesday saw me hire another scooter to allow me to head into the mountains to see some of the local attractions. First up was the so-called Fish Cave, a local shrine where hundreds of carp were found living in an underground cave. It turned out to be just a grotto in the side of a cliff, rather than something that could be described as a cave. Fortunately, the nearby Pha Sua Waterfall turned out to be more interesting and more worth the trip. From there, it was up some very steep hills to the village of Mae Sa. This village was set up by Yunnan Chinese people who had made there way over from China in the 19th century. On arrival, they started growing tea and the village with its Chinese mud buildings made an interesting stop for a tasty spicy pork lunch, washed down with some of the excellent local tea. As I still had some time on my hands, I decided to take a 50km detour to Ban Noi Soi, one of the long neck Kayan villages in the neighbourhood. I have to admit that I wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea of paying to visit a village to see the unusual local tribe and actually doing so didn't change my initial reservations. The locals didn't seem to like it much more, although they at least earned 250 baht for the privledge of looking at me. That evening, I was back in Mae Hong Son where I had a good meal in one of the local restaurants followed by a relaxing massage.

Thursday saw me literally back on my bike as I decided to hire a mountain bike and go for a spin on some of the hilly local sealed roads. Although the bike was too small, I managed to adjust it so it was reasonably comfortable and headed 15km south to another local waterfall. Arriving there soaking wet from a rain shower, I was at least feeling reasonably fit so I decided to challenge myself a bit more. Remembering from my bus trip that there was a 2km long very steep hill (1:10) nearby, I decided to see if I could get up it which I am glad to say I did, impressing both the local drivers and the restaurant owner at the top of the hill ! So all in all it turned out a quite enjoyable day.

Reading in my guidebooks, it became clear that I would need to start heading east soon to ensure I has sufficient time in Laos before returning to Thailand to meet my friend Brian at the end of this month. It also meant I would need to return to Chiang Mai for the third time. So Friday, saw me spending 5.5 hours in a mini-bus going around the 1864 turns between the two cities and over some spectacular mountain passes. Dizzy and relieved I arrived and within an hour had checked into my old home, Walai House for my final stay there. One advantage of having to return to CM however was that I would be able to catch up with my ITM classmates again. And so I spent Friday back in Cosmo's with Ingrid, Adriana, Matt, Vasilius and Takeshi, where we had an enjoyable evening saying a final goodbye to Ingrid who was returning to Holland the following day.

It also gave me the opportunity to Mountain Bike down Doi Suthep mountain, something I had continually postponed when I was living in the city.

So on Saturday morning, I was up early for my 09.30 pick up, by the local MTB firm that organises about 15 different tours up and down the side of mountain. Based on my previous nights phonecall, I had been persuaded to sign up for the "Downhill" descent of the 1250m mountain, rather than the more moderate "Cross-Country" route. It was therefore with some concern that at the top of the mountain, I was supplied with a full set of MTB body armour, as well as my downhill bike. My tension was relieved somewhat when I saw that the cyclists on more moderate routes were also receiving elbow and knee pads but I was still interested what to expect. The first half an hour was quite moderate as my guide and I headed over some asphalt and dirt tracks to a local Hmong village were they grow and brew some excellent local coffee. There we split off from the rest of the group and headed down a single track down through the forest. Although I say 'track', what we drove down could best be described as a muddy, rutted path, criss-crossed with tree roots and gullies that had more in common with a badly broken set of stairs than anything resembling a track. Urgently, trying to recall as much as I could of the technical training I had had last year, I managed to negotiate my way down the first 300m of so of 'track' before skidding the back wheel and ending up on my arse. Fortunately, I didn't feel anything with the body armour so I got back on and continued, all the while stuggling to maintain an adequate flow down the hill. Basically, the track was so rutted that I was unable to maintain sufficient speed to stay both in control and upright, being too focused on the terrain directly in front of my bike, to keep enough of an overview as to what was happening 10/20m away. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to get down the next 2km, only coming off once more but I was definitely not enjoying it. Fortunately, we had now reached a junction which gave me the option of switching to a slightly easier route where I could at least build up more momentum down the hill. Also by switching to single finger breaking, I was able to get a more secure grip on the handlebars whilst simultaneously loosening my breaking and all of a sudden I had started to get the hang of it. The rest of the day involved some adventurous riding on some very rutted tracks but I finally had the feeling of being in control which meant that I was able to negotiate my way down the rest of the route with one or two stops but at least no more crashes. I was also pleased to learn that the 'easier' route that I had switched to was still the 3rd most difficult route down the mountain, so I ended the day on a positive note.

The rest of my day was spend stocking up on some items needed for my trip to Laos, skyping with Agnes to catch up on all the news from home, before wrapping up my stay in Chiang Mai, by spending an enjoyable evening with Adriana, one of my best friends from the ITM class. Then it was back to my room, to pack for my early morning, 7 hour bus trip to the border. More news on my first days in Lao in my next blog !



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