Monday, November 11, 2013

13. One more day in Mae Sot.

Yesterday I met Michael, a retired teacher from Berlin, who makes Mae Sot his home. He teaches English here. Riding his little motor scooter with a big Harley Davidson sticker on the fairing, he took me on a tour of the more remote areas along the river Moei, the natural border between Thailand and Myanmar. Here many Burmese refugees live, engage in a lively trade of goods between the two countries; narcotics trafficking is also a major source of income for many along the river. On our long walk along the river, which shows still signs of the heavy floods in August this year, killing hundreds of people on both sides, in some areas Michael advise me not to take pictures. Some activities like to remain undocumented. Burmese exiles also work in the many sweat-shops of the area, in the teak trade, and in the black market.

On the way to the river I also got stuck in sand with the motorcycle, sand the one riding surface I genuinely dislike, and had to park the bike under a tree for the duration of our hike; the tree seems to be a favored hangout of the "sniffers", youngsters who inhale toxic substances. There isn't much else to do for them here, and most don't go to school, it seems. The tall tree isn't particular popular with the locals since many corpses were washed up to here after the flood, a height difference of probably more than six meters above today's river water level.

The German teacher, with a young Burmese guide on his scooter.

Yesterday I mentioned the trade of used batteries between Myanmar and Thailand, and we could see many boats transporting them across the river.

These big truck batteries are quiet heavy.

People cross easily, and undocumented, between Myanmar and Thailand. But they are better advised to stay close to the border. If caught at an inland checkpoint, and there are many, they will send back to Myanmar.

Disaster Art, remnants from the big flood.

The friendly Burmese boy, who even speaks a little English. He lives across the river.

If resources are scarce one needs to be creative to make a living. Here is a one-man river-drenching operation. The sand is collected on shore and sold to the construction businesses.

This large corrugated metal shed is home to many refugee families whose houses were destroyed by the flood.

Each one of the plywood boxes is home to a family. The day and evening hours are spent on the wooden platform in front of the wooden cubicle.

Of course the Burmese boys had a field day with my motorcycle, they haven't seen anything close to it yet. The one on the driver's seat who wears my gloves, seemed to have been the most courageous of the crowd. A welcome break in the glue sniffing.

On the Thailand shore: Large trucks transporting palm cooking oil. The yellow cans are then loaded on the boats and transported to Burma. On the container it reads: "Made in Malaysia via Thailand via Myanmar".
It is too bad that the picture cannot convey the strong smell of engine oil at this place; the truck drivers seem to do their oil changes right there, the motor oil being drained into the sand.

Refugees living in a band of "No-man's-land" along the river bank. 

Vertical axis wind turbine made of corrugated metal siding, combined with photovoltaic panels at this little farm.

Burmese women apply Thanaka cream, made from the bark of one, or more types of trees to their faces. It is a thousand of year's old custom. The paste has a smell similar to sandal wood, can be applied in an artictic pattern, or just smeared across the cheeks.

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