Entering Northern Thailand through Mae Sariang
“What’s this?” I asked inquisitively. “Ki pa low maaan, holy shit, you’re so lucky to be here maaan.” Ladda was Thai-Canadian with a funky accent that always made me laugh. I’d met her and her friend Jan just a moment before she invited me for lunch, and now we were sitting around a platter of local food straight from the morning market. Ki pa low was my new favourite dish; sweet pork with whole eggs sitting in a bowl of liquid that made my taste buds jump into heaven. I was spoilt for choice; most of the dishes I’d never seen before as you can only find them in the local markets. “I know where I’ll be going from now on,” I thought, as I tucked into a hot, meaty paste with my sticky rice. They both inspired me greatly that day to explore the markets with an open mind – basically just picking something different and giving it a try – it’s a great way to discover local specialities.
Pizza, rum, pool, and a ladyboy getting hit over the head with a pool cue would sum up quite well the night out we had for Wendeth’s birthday party. Luckily Wendeth weren’t around when the fight broke out around the pool table but I’m sure she would have kicked everyone’s ass anyway.
For the first time on my travels I decided to team up with my new friends Ladda and Jan on my continuing journey north to Mae Sariang where I’ll be entering the north of Thailand for the very first time. The songthaew ride between Mae Sot and Mae Sariang was brilliant; not only for the breathtaking landscape, but because I got the chance to hang off the back of the songthaew, holding on to the roof ladder for support – I’ve always wanted to do that since seeing people hanging off the poles on the old London buses, and of course the bin men who hang off the back of rubbish trucks around my house.
Mae Sariang sits alongside a beautiful river which in the rainy season is popular for rafting. At this time of year though the river runs low, so low in fact you can lie down on the bottom with only your ears submerged giving you a wonderful sense of calm, a perfect place for meditation. The river not only attracted myself, but a herd of water buffalo, who – like me – didn’t take long in getting in to bathe in the warm flow of its current. Our guesthouse overlooked the river, from which you could see the sunset over each evening, leaving a sparkle to the water, further enhancing its magical aspect. I spent many hours sitting on the balcony, content, scribbling thoughts in my notepad. On a few occasions, I took a rented bicycle, venturing outside the town through small villages, alongside fields of rice, and up and down the winding hillside. One such venture took me seven kilometres to Salawin National Park. It wasn’t an easy ride considering it was hilly and baking hot outside. When I arrived the rangers were so surprised they let me in for free. It weren’t the highlight of my experiences in Thailand’s National Parks; the nature trail was completely covered in leaves, and they had even burnt sections of the trail – that was nice to walk through… I’ll let them off seeming it was low season, and I was the only visitor in the whole park.
I got a bit peckish on the way back so I decided to buy some bananas off some old woman in the village who was carrying two basket loads over her shoulders. When she held up five fingers to indicate the price, I mistook it as fifty baht instead of five, and gave her sixty. She looked at me confused, and started giving me huge bunches of bananas. We settled on twenty baht, and I went away with a basket load. As I loaded them into my basket I laughed to myself, “looks like I’m on bananas for the rest of the week,” I thought, as I cycled back towards town.
Ladda and Jan left early to go to Jan’s new house in Chiang Mai which I was kindly invited to. I politely declined knowing my journey lay elsewhere. I was moving further north to Mae Hong Son, well known for its trekking opportunities, and the small Chinese villages which can be reached via a high road out of town towards the Myanmar border. It was looking like my first adventure by motorbike was definitely on the cards. On the morning of my departure, I tried to get a songthaew, or a local bus, so I could enjoy the rush of the cool morning air, yet the only ticket I could buy was one for an air conditioned coach – sigh. Not long into the journey the first bag opened and the guy next to me emptied his breakfast into it. I lost my appetite, suddenly becoming the most generous person on the bus, handing out bananas to numerous strangers – I knew the opportunity to get rid of them would come sooner or later.
Catch you soon guys,
P.S – Don’t forget to check out all my new photos and videos which I update regularly. If you want to see where I am now, or see where I’ve travelled in the world, you can check my map out, courtesy of Google 🙂
Backpackers Tips and Advice
There are quite a few guesthouses alongside the river in Mae Salong. I stayed at the Riverside Guest House which was 200 baht for a fan room with a bathroom. There are bicycles to rent just down the road and a delicious Pad Thai vendor a bit further down who sets up each evening outside one of the big hotels.