A Travellerspoint blog

Boat Trip on the Salawin River

semi-overcast 32 °C
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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.

Posted by pythagnz 03:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Trains, buses and ...

Just trains and buses

overcast 28 °C
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Our train trip from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai was a beautiful thing. I was so tired I slept like a log in my cozy upper berth. Katherine loves two things about these trips - sleeping on the train and the travelator at the airport - it makes her feel as if she is flying. When it was daylight we were still travelling through the jungle and I had a happy time looking at the forest and mountains, dreaming about riding my bicycle through them one day.

Breakfast at Chiang Mai train station was kau soy, a kind of noodle curry/soup. It was a little bit spicy for the both of us so the proprietor took pity and presented us with two large glasses of water. Next stop was the bus station where we secured seats on the bus to Mae Sariang. Seats is good because if you miss out you end up sitting on a little plastic stool in the aisle of the bus.

The first couple of hours the scenery was pretty uneventful. We stopped for lunch at Hot and immediately after the scenery became stunning. The road slowly climbed through the mountains and climbed and climbed. Katherine even managed to keep her eyes open (they usually close as soon as the scenery improves).

Mae Sariang is a small frontier town (we're close to the border with Burma) that doesn't see too many tourists. Many of the houses are old wooden style, a lot more interesting than the concrete boxes found elsewhere.

It was simply a travel day today. A good way to let the soul catch up after the flight from New Zealand.

Posted by pythagnz 19:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Fleet of foot in the City of Angels

By which I mean we didn't stay there very long

sunny 36 °C
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Bangkok. It's grimy, noisy, overcrowded and polluted. I love it! At least, to a point. I love the natural world better and that's where we're headed. Bangkok is a necessary stepping stone along the way.

After an uneventful flight (Katherine watched movies and I played video games) with Emirates (so much better than Jetstar) we landed in Bangkok. At 1am in the morning it was 28 degrees. At 3am when we reached our guesthouse it was 28 degrees. Unfortunately it was also getting up time in New Zealand.

When it was getting up time in Bangkok we started our day of 'how many different ways can you travel?' It started on foot heading towards the wrong BTS (skytrain station). The fact that it was still under construction alerted us to my mistake and we backtracked to the correct BTS station. That led to a connection with the MRT (underground) which deposited us directly at Hualampong Station.

We waited on the wrong platform for our train for nearly an hour before being directed to another train. Unfortunately our rushed ticket purchase meant we were 'standees' so we had an authentic Thai experience of being bumped and shoved and squeezed past countless times on the too long journey to Ayutthaya. (It should only be 1 1/2 hours but was closer to three.)

Our purpose here was to visit our elephants from previous stays at the Elephant Camp. We stocked up on fruit from the market then watched it rapidly disappear at the Elephant Kraal when we fed the old ladies. They love their fruit!

The rest of the day was spent lounging around the UNESCO Heritage Park. We didn't go wat hunting preferring to rest under a tree. It's our first day here and although it feels like home we are jetlagged and wanted to keep it quiet. Later we are taking the overnight train to Chiang Mai.

So the answer to the question is:

  • foot
  • BTS
  • MRT
  • rapid train (so-called because you rapidly get irritated with how slow it is)
  • tuk-tuk
  • motorcycle taxi
  • overnight train

I'm afraid elephants didn't make the list today.

Posted by pythagnz 01:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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