Sometimes Myung and I don’t visit the main border crossings. This one is north of Mae Hong Son. As usual, we rented a motorbike and drove to the places we wanted to go. This really is better than paying for this and that ride. Plus, you get the freedom to detour.
As I said before, things have changed a lot in Thailand (and in Laos, where I am writing this). You really notice how the roads have improved, and the rest of the infrastructure, like electricity, is improved and working better. The building boom is in full stride, the food isn’t so parochial all the time, and so on. One of the most stunning differences for the tourist is that the tourist scene which was a very big deal before is even more so. Central Chiang Mai is almost taken over by tourists. another place a few hours form Chiang Mai, Pai, used to be a stopover for people headed for Mae Hon Son. There was a trekking scene, but it wasn’t much of anything. Now it’s a full blown tourist ghetto. If you get out of those places, though, things are mostly as they were. Here is tofu being made the old way.
And elephants are still used as work animals.
“THE thing” to do when you go to Mae Hong Son is to go see the Long-Neck Karen. No self respecting blogger could post neews of his visit to Mae Hong Son without post pictures of them. For those of you who don’t know, these women’s necks aren’t stretched; their shoulders are pushed down over time. There are a lot more of them in Mae Hong Son province than last time I was here. They are evidently getting mainstreamed into Thai society, whereas before, they were refugees limited to strips of land between the Myanmar border and the border checkposts. The first picture is of one just shopping normally at the big market in Mae Hong Son.
These next pictures are of Mae Hon Son’s showpiece lake in the center of town. Like many nice tourist areas, it’s nice in the daytime and at night. Most of the guesthouses surround it, so the thing to do is stroll around and maybe eat or have a drink at oneof the places around the edge.
Myung is into hot springs, so we have been going to some of the many. It would be nice if there were nice ones like this in the US with a one dollar entry fee.
I just had to take a picture of this sign showing where the handicapped bathroom was at another hot spring. For starters, I don’t think they would have had a handicapped bathroom nine years ago, but what I really like is the politically incorrectness of it. All that kind of stuff is so relative. One of the things you learn when you travel a lot is how relative almost everything is. There are lessons to be learned.
What we did in Northern Thailand was follow the tourist route for the most part. Chiang Mai, Pai and Mae Hong Son are definitely part of that. We then headed up to Mai Sai, a main Myanmar border crossing, via Tha Ton. There are lots of nice pictures. Here are just a couple. The first is of the hillside in Tha Ton. The second is of the river forming the Thailand-Myanmar border taken from our guesthouse in Mai Sai.
From there we headed for Laos. We’re in Luang Prabang now. The sawngthow rides to Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong were uneventful, unless you are into ancient ruins of the long gone Chiang Saen empire from the 11th century. Crumbling ruins are all over the place there. I figure you’ve seen enough crumbling ruin pictures. We crossed over to Huay Xai on the Lao side, hung out for a day, then took a minibus to Luang Prabang. I’ll blog about Laos sometime soon. All I need to say here is that Laos is sure different than nine years ago. If I hadn’t seen the changes in Thailand, I’d say you wouldn’t believe it. Internet access here may speak for itself. Electricity all over the city may speak for itself, for that matter. And, there are loads of tourists. Will wonders never cease?
It looks like we’ll just hang out in Luang Prabang for a while. Maybe I’ll even blog from here. Meanwhile, as always, be well, all of you.