Wednesday, November 13, 2013

15. Myanmar-Thailand border post, Royal Thai Army

Border region, some 25 km southwest of Mae Hong Son.

I like Mae Hong Son very much. 

Partly due to the fact that there are very few Western tourists, -I saw a bunch of motorcycle off-road riders yesterday night, and a few back-packers today-, partly to the small size of the town, the very scenic mountain setting, and due to the friendliness of the people, most of them Karen, from Burma.

I will stay for a few days here. 

This morning I had to look for a different little compound, since my place will be booked with Thai tourists for the rest of the week. So tomorrow morning I will move, even further into the forest, away from the friendly little town. It is just a short motorcycle ride, though.

This morning Herbert, originally from Austria, and the owner of a small restaurant in town, and myself took the motorcycles on a serpentine road until it dead-ends at the edge of the forest, near the jungle-blanketed, porous border to Mynamar. We left the bikes there and crossed the river Pai via a fragile, tensile, hanging bridge on foot, hiking a few kilometers on a narrow footpath until we saw the first barbed, razor-wire. My attention was taken also by some red ants which fell onto my neck, I don't know where they came from. But you want to get them off your skin quickly. They first bite into the skin to grab a hold, and then inject a liquid which causes the burning sensation which gave them their name: Fire ants. People sensitive to the venom may die. I didn't feel anything, even now writing the blog, some hours after. Maybe they just wanted to check me out whether it is worth it to bite me.

This is a remote outpost of the Royal Thai Army, directly on the river. After the razor-wire comes a band of land, maybe 6 meters wide, dotted with knife-sharp bamboo sticks which are stuck into the ground. They look as if they would work just fine. The bamboo gate is secured by a low-tech alarm system; when opened, a skillfully assembled collection of empty cans starts making noise. This will be heard, I am sure, since besides the sounds of the jungle, the nights are entirely quiet around here.

The soldiers have three medium machine guns installed at three sand-bagged posts overlooking the river. They look to me like American produced M2's, such as used by NATO, but I am not an expert. In front of the machine gun post is a deep trench, parallel to the river, and in front of the trench the sharpened bamboo spears.

There is no sign of activity, no people, roads, cars and so on, across the river in Myanmar.

The most prominent building at the military post is the kitchen and mess hall. The soldiers have pots and pans, their provisions, and a drying rack made of bamboo for the dishes.

The young commanding officer was so surprised by our visit that he brought his camera to take pictures.

There are also a bitch (dog, not a derogatory term when used for dogs)  who seems to be pretty protective of her young puppies; one soldier told us that she even bit one when this soldier reached for one of her pups a few days ago. But now they are four weeks old, and I was able to pick one up of these super-cute fur balls. I wonder what my cat would think if I brought home a pup from a Thai Army jungle outpost on the Myanmar border.

Dogs with pups everywhere.
Since the traffic on these rural roads is so light, the pups sleep in the middle of the road (Center).

Many, many curves, mountainous terrain.

Cable-stay bridge over the river Pai.

At the bridge the road ends. Soldiers have to bring in their provisions on foot.

The end of the road, the edge of Thailand.

The mom checks me out and considers me not a threat.

Alarm system: Empty cans.

Looks pretty effective: The bamboo spears surrounding the post.

The blue board on the right has markings in meters for water level of the river. This is how high the flood can reach.

The post kitchen and open-air dining hall.

Kitchen duty.

Herbert from Austria, who lives in Mae Hong Son with his wife and kids.

Machine gun post, the river is below.

The commanding officer got his camera and took pictures of us.

What would I do with a little jungle puppy on my ride through Asia?
And more pressing: How would my cat feel about the new member of the household upon my return?
Well, it's not going to happen. You have to stay here in the jungle, you sweety.

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