Photo of the week
This part of our trip we decided to do with as a tour with All Thai Experience, here is their website: http://www.all-thailand-exp.com/. It turned out that the tour was a private one for just Katie and myself. It was excellent because this meant it would progress more or less at our pace. We felt very well taken care of, and we would both highly recommend their services. The following photographs and experiences could not have been possible without the expert help of Chai and Phya among others.
Phya was our driver and part time guide, although it was a bit difficult because he only spoke very limited English and we only spoke very limited Thai. We made it work though, here he was fastening the rain fly on the pick up where we rode in the back with our luggage. Actually a really good way to travel and to see the country roll by.
In the next photograph is our main guide, Chai, who was indispensable. He spoke very good English, partially owing to his work with NGOs that operate in the Mae Sot region. He was very knowledgeable about not only the work the NGOs were doing, but he was very knowledgeable about the jungle as well.
The Moei River separates Myawaddy and Mae Sot, the former being in Burma (Myanmar) and the latter in Thailand. On the banks of the river there is a very large market which recently was hit with shells after the Burmese election results were announced. Fortunately nobody was killed. Luckily our visit there was several months prior to that unfortunate event.
We did not expect to go to Wat Chumphon Khiri but Phya and Chai took us there and we were so glad that they did. We had a chance to see this giant reclining Buddha whose size can be seen by the relative size of Chai, Phya and Katie. The amazing thing was that there was nobody there, so we had virtually the entire Wat to ourselves.
The only other people we saw in Wat Chumphon Khiri were these men playing sepak takraw. Sepak takraw is a game that is played around most of southeast asia and is known by several names depending on the country. It is played with a wicker ball about the size of two fists which is kicked over a net similar to volleyball. The game is played by using your feet, chest and head to get the ball on the other side of the net, including spiking the ball with your foot. I was fascinated by the height these guys were reaching. Their dexterity and flexibility was quite impressive. I watched them play for a while and was happy to get a few photographs of them. I think they saw that I was taking photos and started showing off a little bit.
Inside one of the buildings there was a diorama that was set up with lights and moving figures. Donations could be made by throwing coins into moving cups or in the water, similar to arcade games. It reminded us of the Disneyland ride It’s a Small World After All.
As we left Mae Sot we drove south towards Umphang to a resort there from which we would head out into the jungle via rafts. Our first stop on our drive south was at Namtok (waterfall) Pha Charoen. This waterfall had several tiers with cascading water. My favorite part though was at the very top where the small waterfall in the photograph below was located. I really liked the quietness and solitude provided by the fairly difficult climb up, and the lush bamboo surrounding the stream. I also really liked how the light spotlighted the little waterfall at the time. Most tourist photographs show the main cascades of the falls which are beautiful too, but this spoke to me a bit more.
On the way to Umphang we had to travel through some very scenic mountain areas where the weather changed from sunny to foggy and overcast. It made the colours very vibrant though and the fog/clouds hung very nicely on the mountain tops. The photograph shows what we saw out of the back of the truck we were riding in.
The next three photographs show Umpiem Mai refugee camp. This camp is approximately 87 kms south of Mae Sot in a hilly country. More information regarding this camp and others around the Mae Sot region can be found at www.tbbc.org/camps/mst.htm. The people in these camps are mostly Karen with a small percentage of Burmese as well. Umpiem Mai is the highest of the camps at 1,100 metres which was very evident with the cool weather. The camp was relocated here because the previous location was attacked by the Burmese Army. This new location isn’t ideal because the steepness of the terrain has caused problems with mud slides and other erosion issues, but at least it’s fairly safe. This village was meant to be temporary, but as is often the case it has become semi-permanent. Unfortunately we were not allowed into the village so we had to observe from the outside.
This next photograph shows the barbed wire fencing all the way around the camp/village, including the soccer field. There were several young boys playing soccer when we drove by and to me it was a bittersweet experience. The kids seem to be enjoying themselves though.
The last photograph from Umpiem Mai shows a little girl walking through the field with a parasol.
After the camp we drove on to Umphang and along the way we saw several youths going home from what looked like school. Their freedom contrasted sharply with the restrictions placed on the Burmese and Karen refugees not far away. They appeared to be amused by a couple of white people hanging out the back of a truck though.
As we went along the road most people looked at us, as we looked out of place. We got quite a few smiles and even waves which we were very happy to return. It was interesting to see people working in the fields and the type of equipment they used. The very curvy nature of the road through the mountains meant that only small trucks could be used with no trailers. Most the farmers used these interesting, what looked like a two stroke lawn mower engine steered by long handle bars like in the photograph below. People had different attachments that would be hooked behind the engines, and seemed to substitute for tractors.
When we finally arrived at the accommodation we were surprised to find that we were the only ones staying there that night besides the people that worked there. The cabins that we stayed in were not large but were sufficient with a comfortable bed. The entire resort was surrounded by the Klong River on three sides, and we had to cross a very unstable looking bamboo bridge to get there. Of course it only seemed unstable to us because people were riding mopeds over it with no hesitation. After dinner we had a bit of a wander around the property when I spotted this vibrantly purple flower which Katie highlighted with our torch and I photographed without a tripod.
That wraps up this part of our trip, but there is more to come.