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January 10th – 17th 2011

When Chris came back from his elephant camp, we started our road trip on Monday morning: A tour around the high north of Thailand from Chiang Mai over Mae Hong Son in the west, Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle in the north all the way to Phu Chi Fa right on the border to Laos. Of course we didn’t take the highways but rather took the small roads which follow the Mekong river and the borders as they seemed to be much more exciting :o). In the end we were supposed to give back our rental car in Chiang Rai and take the plane down to Bangkok from there.

the above picture’s ‚making of‘ …There was this tree Chris didn’t want to have in the picture

lunch in a café

Driving here in Thailand turned out to be an exciting adventure since overtaking other cars seems to be done totally without using the brain (no matter how close to oncoming traffic is, the bigger the car, the greater the right to use the other lane as well). We started wondering if anyone ever had to pass a driving liscence test here and decided not to think about it any more. Okay, no problem. We were driving slowly, tried to keep left as best we could (remember: it’s left-hand traffic here) and honk before driving in a curve.
At the beginning, the weather was a little misty but in the mountains the mist soon became fog. Despite my excellent skills in reading maps (*cough*) we ended up at a totally different place than we intended… somewhere we must have missed the right road, but we only noticed  that when we saw the sign „welcome to Doi Inthanon, you have reached the highest point in Thailand“. I have not the slightest idea how we could have missed that on the exceptionally steep, windy and narrow road up to the top over 32 km though. Well, because of the clouds up here the sight was very poor so we accidentally drove into a military blocked zone but the soldiers in uniforms and with machine guns ready to shoot smiled at us, showed us the way out and signalised us it would be better to turn around now. The fog / clouds got thicker and thicker, rain started and twilight came… besides we didn’t have a place to stay for the night yet. Well, life can’t always be well organised I guess ;o). First, we tried to get down from Doi Inthanon safely. At around 5.30 pm in a left-curve downhill with oil on the surface of the road, unwillingly, we met Gun, a very nice primary school teacher from Mae Chaem: She cut the corner, demolished most of the right side of our car and even achieved that the front tyre would pop. The police from Mae Chaem, which was approx. 9 km from where we had the accident, took full 3.5 hours to get to us. The insurance guy from our rental car company took 6 hours from Chiang Mai (approx.90 km) despite his sports car. Meanwhile, an acquaintance of Gun’s and a few of his friends stopped by and helped us to lead the traffic around our cars which blocked the road and simply wait with us for hours. They even drove us to the police station in Mae Chaem later on after the police officer as well as the insurance guy just left us there. At the police station we got an accident report in Thai which we had to sign even though we still don’t know what is written there… well we will know soon enough when we give the car back in Chiang Rai on Monday :o) The rental car company Avis brought us a new car on Tuesday morning  (even though we were not able to answer the question where they might have brought the damaged car).
For the moment, we had enough of adventures… so we spent the next few days cruising around slowly and enjoying the landscape.

rice fields

somewhere along the road

beware sudden appearance of hindrances on the road

some roads might need some construction works

winding roads

sunset in Mae Taeng, near Chiang Dao

monks on their daily walk at dawn, collecting food from habitants along the way

shop in one of the uncountable mountain villages we passed by

Mae Salong high up in the mountains

women working on a tea plantation near Mae Salong

woman working on a tea plantation near Mae Salong

woman working on a tea plantation near Mae Salong

On Thursday we ended up on the most northern point of Thailand: Mai Sai. Right after the North Gate there is the border to Myanmar, which – of course – has major influence on the town picture in general. We were sitting on the side of the road at the gate in front of the immigration office for hours, enjoying ourselves by watching the colourful spectacle of the transit traffic from Thailand to Myanmar (Annotation: For this one should know that Thailand, especially in the regions of the borders, employs a lot of people from Myanmar as they are cheap workers for them and which have to return home in the evening. When they go home, they import all sorts of stuff, no matter how small their vehicle in comparison to the load).

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

in front of the immigration office

kids at the market along the road to the gate

woman at the road market, wearing the traditional make up of the Myanmar people (Tanaka paste)

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

boy wearing the traditional make up of the Myanmar people (Tanaka paste)

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

overloaded trailer needs start-up help

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

road market Mae Sai

road market Mae Sai

road market Mae Sai

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

road market Mae Sai

waiting for permission to cross the border to Myanmar

We were still in the region of the Golden Triangle – the border triangle of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos – which used to be ( or is?) the main cultivation place for the opium poppy flowers due to the climatic (not too hot) and geographical (trade) circumstances. Therefore, we spent most of our time on Friday visiting the „Halls of Opium“, an excellent museum about the opium wars, the dangers, benefits, fascination and kult of opium.

As a last destination of our road trip we chose Phu Chi Fa, a coastline at the border to Laos with a spectacular view on a valley and supposedly wonderful sunrises. And the best part: this place is still quite unknown to foreigners, so mostly there are only Thai tourists. English signs were scarce which made our trip here all the more exciting :o) But people were exceptionally helpful and friendly here even more than we already knew from the rest of Thailand we had seen. Luckily, we already had a look at the valley on Saturday even though the light wasn’t perfect for photos. But the sunrise was not to be seen at all because the fog was way to thick. Never mind, after we got over our „oh my god it’s so early“-mood, we had a great time anyway and laughed a lot :o)
Since yesterday afternoon we are in Chiang Rai where we have to give back the rental car. We are busy doing our laundry, packing and getting ready for leaving the North for Bangkok on Tuesday.

man beating plants which are used to produce brooms

view of Laos from Phu Chi Fa

Kids playing at Phu Chi Fa

kids playing at Phu Chi Fa

sunset from our hostel terrace near Phu Chi Fa

sunrise in total fog on one of the coldest days of the year, Phu Chi Fa

6 Kommentare auf “on and off the beaten tracks”

  1. wie immer, geniale Bilder… genialer Bericht…


  2. Teena sagt:

    Das Making-of gefaellt mir ganz besonders, meine Chaoskinder! Geniesst eure letzten Tage in BKK, hab Kathi n Link zu Tu geschickt…falls ihr ihn trefft, sagt ihm nen schoenen Gruss, falls er sich noch erinnert. ;)

  3. Conny sagt:

    Wie immer wunderschön *_* Ich bin jedesmal total hingerissen und gerührt und freu mich schon auf die nächsten berichte^^ Die Fotos sind mal wieder der absolute Wahnsinn! Ich bin so neidisch xD Muss wunderschön sein dort. Fühlt euch gedrückt und passt auch weiterhin auf euch auf.^^

  4. Benni sagt:

    Nein, ich bin nicht neidisch…Nein, ich bin nicht neidisch…Nein, ich bin nicht neidisch… *mantra*

    Wir mussten leider unsere Reise absagen. Werden uns also nicht am anderen Ende der Welt treffen können. :(

    Und alter Schwede, machst du schöne Bilder. Wenn du nur so gut coden könntest… ;)

  5. Chris sagt:

    schoen das euch die Photos gefallen! Dauert noch nen bisschen und dann koennen wir hoffentlich wieder Photographieren, sind jetzt gerde in Neuseeland angekommen :-)

    @Benni: Schoen hier von dir zu lesen! Wieso musstet ihr denn die Reise absagen? Und das mit dem Coden merke ich mir! :-P :-)

    • Benni sagt:

      Ist ne traurige Geschichte. Erzähl ich dir ein andermal..

      Wilkommen in Neuseeland! Habt exakt die gleichen Bilder vom Alpine Crossing gemacht wie wir. Müsste man nur die Gesichter austauschen. :D