Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Mae La’

Livin’ On The Edge

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I knew that the 6 hr sorng-taa-ou ride from Mae Sariang to Mae Sot, while hugging the border with Myanmar (Burma), would be interesting, but was happy to learn all of the reasons why.

Picture me rollin

Picture me rollin

Friday morning, I boarded the open-air bus at the station with only 2 other passengers, and began the long journey. Random pickups and dropoffs were constantly made, and we even accepted cargo, such as a motorbike and 6 banana tree trunks.

The most interesting passengers: a group of about 15 school children (roughly 10 years old) that piled onto the back, most just grasping the outside rail. While the driver slowed for their stop, one of them actually fell off. I think he was expecting the driver to stop sooner and released his grip prematurely. I just heard the noise and turned to see him face down on the gravel. He slowly got up, looked at his elbow, and dusted himself off. One of his friends paid his fare for him and went back to check his status. He was able to walk away but seemed a little confused.

The views were always stunning, as we climbed passes and dipped through valleys. We cruised through numerous small farming villages, where the driver would honk multiple times to alert all to his presence. The most fascinating section was a 3 km stretch past the largest Burmese refugee camp in Thailand, called Mae La.

Best one I could get

Best one I could get

It has an estimated population of about 60,000 who have been displaced by the ongoing civil war across the border. We were constantly going through military check points armed machine gun carrying soldiers, but I wasn’t expecting to see the thousands of huts lining the valley. A loose barbed wire fence acts as the barrier to the road, while the other side is protected by a rather steep range of cliffs. There have been threats of violence to this site made by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) as recently as this past July.

I was the only passenger who made the full trek and estimate that we had roughly 50 different passengers throughout the full run. My current city, Mae Sot, almost feels like another country. The look of the town and the people is drastically different than any other place I have visited. The local market is vibrant and diverse, due to the large number of Burmese residents. It was a shame I had just eaten.

I did not sample

I did not sample

Market

Market

And, the few Wats in town actually showed me some things I hadn’t seen before.

He seems content

I know the feeling

The city is about 57 km south of the refugee camp and is home to many NGO workers. Being only about 7 km away from the border, I am going to attempt to cross over tomorrow. Don’t worry Mom, it is an open route that many tourist take to renew their visas. I will be going to take advantage of the 1 day access they allow, just so that I can say I have been there. To be safe, I will leave my soap box at the guest house and avoid any large lively gatherings of people. ทำให้ รัก ไม่ใช่ สงคราม