Sunday, November 24, 2013

26. Fang - Doi Mae Salong - Chiang Saen (Golden Triangle)

180 km

I "fled the scene" this morning, like the proverbial Thai truck/bus/van driver after the crash as reported in the  newspaper. Last night's Lahu-tribe operated hotel wasn't to my liking, besides the staff was relatively unfriendly, I was happy to leave. 

The view from my window after waking up was surprising: At this mountainous location we were pretty much in the clouds. Coming down the staircase and looking into the small lobby restaurant, I decided that I didn't want to touch the breakfast either. Instead, I stopped at the 7-11 in town to buy a milk and a snicker bar, not a sufficient breakfast, I guess. 

The dog takes a rest in the middle of the rice which is put out to dry.

One hour or so into the chilly ride, -for the first time on this trip I had to wear the hoody -, my stomach was running seriously on empty since the night before I didn't had dinner either. 

Herbert, the Austrian restaurant owner from Mae Hong Son texted me a while ago that on my way to the Golden Triangle I would have to stop at a little coffee shop in a village way up in the mountains, Doi Mae Salong for the excellent cakes and espresso. With the help of a motor-scooter taxi guy who was standing at the corner waiting for customers I found the place, and it was fabulous! In this remote village I had one of the best paninis ever, and also a fantastic Creme Brulee for desert. Delicious.

Happy lunch at "Sweet Mae Salong", Doi Mae Salong

Gruyere cheese, sweet basil, tomatoes, ham, pork. Delish!

Mae Salong is the most interesting little village. It rides high up in the mountains on a steep ridge, the slopes are falling left and right of the main thoroughfare down into the valleys; tea and coffee grows on the steep landscape, just like wine on the steep vine yards in the Mosel or Rhine valley. The labor to harvest the crops seems to be equally demanding. 

The village is inhabited by exile-Chinese who fought against the Mao-communist revolution, and is referred to as the Kuomintang Headquarters (KMT HQ). 

Almost every little house has a small tea growing and selling business and samples of various types of tea can be had for free at all of them.

Doi Mae salong, Chiang Rai district

Tea harvesting on steep slopes

Highland bus

Tea plantations as far the eye can see.

Some roads should carry in maps a small "H" as a designation, meaning they are capable to make one happy while riding them. "Highway" (not a highway in the original sense, but a narrow mountain road) 1234 from the Chinese town of Doi Mae Salong to where it is united with Highway 1, is definitely one of them. My excellent lunch at "Sweet Mae Salong" is also part of me feeling happy again, of course.

Water buffalo herd, next to the road. The important and beloved Thai animal.

The "clean" and cool themselves in the mud. It gets also rid of the mosquitoes.

I am pretty close to everything here, just 2 miles to Laos, 7 to Burma, and less than  70 miles to China.

I arrived safely after a very scenic, wonderful ride with very little traffic at Ian and his Thai wife Vanassa's place. He is a Brit and an avid motorcyclist, however on vintage British iron, such as old Triumphs and BSA from the 1950s.  A courageous man, he must be. The two of them just came back from a seven days historic motorcycle rally across Bhutan. 

My home for the next few days will be in this beautiful town, directly on the mighty Mekong river. Across is Laos, north is Myanmar. It is my most northern destination on the trip, and I can tell by the low temperatures also. But more about all of that tomorrow.

I also got myself a little burn on my leg. It doesn't hurt much but will be with me for a LONG time.
Sometimes the many scooters on the curb are parked so tightly that it is difficult to fit the fat BMW in between. I burned myself on the neighboring scooter's exhaust.

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