05.05.2009 - 05.05.2009 32 °C
A bright yellow songthaew picked us up after breakfast. At first the only passengers were Katherine and I, a French Canadian chap and our guide for the day, Un. But slowly the songthaew filled up. More and more sacks of rice were thrown on the floor and we squeezed along the seats. After driving through the town and surrounding valley area we began the windy climb through the mountains to Mae Sam Lop, a border town known for a bit of illegal smuggling (since when has smuggling been legal?). Some of our passengers had got off along the way, usually in the middle of nowhere and our guide explained that they may have a 3-4 hour walk to their village. Strong people lugging their sacks of rice everywhere.
At Mae Sam Lop we hopped into a long-tail boat for a one hour trip down the Salawin River. As it is still the hot season the river level is quite low and many rocks and sandbanks are visible making for interesting scenery. The river forms the border between Thailand and Burma and at one point we came within a metre of Burma soil (sand actually) when one of our passengers got off on the Burma side.
We arrived at a Karen village where we first bought snacks from the local store to give to the children as we walked about the village. Usually the tour includes a visit to the school but as it is the hot season it is summer holidays (too difficult to concentrate when it is hot). Everything in the village has come by boat, or from the local area. So, the concrete for the road and roofing tiles for a flash new building have come by boat. But the traditionally constructed buildings are made from local ingredients - teak and bamboo and palm for the roofing thatch.
We observed some daily life, like one family cutting tobacco leaves and drying it in the sun. Mostly the people live a subsistence lifestyle, growing food for their own consumption. But if they have excess they sell it for a little bit of money. The tobacco leaves were the same, mostly for own consumption and in one house we saw a young boy smoking a pipe.
After our wander through the village, it was lunchtime. Fried rice for all. The second meal of fried rice for Katherine who had already eaten fried rice for breakfast. The rest of the day was spent backtracking - back up the river to Mae Sam Lop and over the hill to Mae Sariang. The scenery was excellent though so we agreed it was a nice, light sightseeing day.