Saturday, November 16, 2013

19. Ban Rak Thai, literally translated: The Thai-loving Village.

45 km

While my excursions from beautiful, tranquil Mae Hong Son towards the border to Myanmar were so far mainly to the West, this trip today reaches the border going North until the road ends. Riding on these rural roads is like usual very nice, relaxed, and scenic until you reach a spot where the road is partly missing.

On its way up North the road also crosses a few shallow riverbeds, a road sign announces these passages early enough. Since the water crossings require a riders attention, mainly because of the slippery conditions due to the fallen leaves on the outbound bank I don;t have pictures.

The dense lush green of the forest to the left and the right of the road is amazing. Where the tall trees of the rain forest shade the road completely, the temperature reading on my trip computer falls by up to 10 degrees. Many other scenic spots could be mentioned, from the signs not to use a horn because of elephants, to the little villages. Here only one more, a suspension bridge, not for the faint-hearted. Boys dive in the river below for something, maybe sweet-water crustaceans (Last photos in this sequence.)

On the way up North you pass majestic water falls, and National Parks, which are all worthwhile for at least a stop, or even a hike.

Monkey-food sales person in national forest. Unfortunately, there were not monkeys.

Nam (Water) Tok  Pha Suea (Pretty) water fall, on Rural Road 1095. The ater originates in Myanmar.

The road winds its way through the rice paddies.

A little resort near Ban Ruam Thai Lake, the village is a place to try locally grown coffee.

Altitude, as seen on GPS, is 1200 meters.

I have a new sticker: The 1,864 curves reaching Mae Hong Son.

Today's destination on the Burmese border is a small town, beautifully located on a big lake, where settlers from the Yunnan state in the south of China established a small tea and coffee growing community. It is said that the ancestors where Kuo-Min Tang fighters who fled after the Mao-communist takeover of China. The friendliness of the descendants of these Chinese is amazing; some 800 people live in the village, they speak a heavily accented Mandarin Chinese. 

A girl invited me to her little shop and served me several, locally produced and imported Chinese teas, such as Ginseng, green tea, the typical Chinese sun-dried Oolong tea, and others I couldn't remember. She served them together with sweet, dried fruits; her way of presenting the teas and little sweet delights was so calm, not rushed, "non-businesslike", and entirely pleasant. I sat in her open-air shop quiet a long time and she seemed to possess all the time in the world.

Very few tourists seem to find their way to this remote village. Except for me, there were only two Chinese girls with their Thai guide.

The architectural specialty of the Chinese houses in this village is the way they are constructed using mud over bamboo lattice work. The roofs are not unlike typical Burmese or rural Thai huts thatched, banana-leaf covered. Unlike adobe-brick or rammed-earth mud walls of the U.S. desert South-West, these walls are relatively thin. The corners are rounded, potentially to avoid cracking, or octagonal, avoiding 90-degree corners.

Some window shapes are not simply rounded, but heart-shaped. I asked the tea-girl, who spoke minimal English, what this means, and she only giggled and said: "cannot speak (meaning: "say".)." Whatever that means.

Fride noodle shop, Ban Rak Thai

Ban Rak Thai

Tea Tasting Shop

The Chinese tea shop girl.
In her hand she holds the small drinking cup with the tea-filled porcelain cylinder, upside-down.

Dried fruit

The tea is first poured from the small pot in the background into the white, porcelain cylinder (right).
 The cylinder then is placed upside down into the little tea cup, emptied and removed, and used to smell the tea.
The empty, hot cylinder is then placed over an eye at the time, which gives a strangely relaxing, warm sensation.

Mud walls, seen from inside the hut.

Thatched roof, gable open for ventilation.
The meatiest cat I have seen in Thailand so far; it is the Chinese food in Ban Rak Thai, I guess.

ban Rak Thai lake

It is sometimes sad that, on a motorcycle journey such as this, I cannot buy any souvenirs; here, I would have bought some local tea and one of those very nice, and very inexpensive, tall Chinese tea cups.

A rewarding trip.

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