Thailand | Mae Sot - Myawaddy - Tha Song Yang - Mae Sariang | 2nd July '15 to 8th July '15 | 10342km
Mae Sot isn’t huge but we still spent two hours going around in circles trying to find Nikki, easily a tour record. Nikki has been travelling the world for more than ten years but has settled here to teach at a school for Burmese refugees. She has some pretty outlandish travel experiences, but all of them were topped by the time she ended up watching Inception with the Dalai Lama. Seriously. In the morning we pedalled accross the Friendship Bridge, linking the heavily armed Thai border with the pretty chilled out Burmese one. By leaving our passports with Burmese Immigration, we could re-enter Thailand later the same day with a fresh 30 day visa. We mooched around the market in Myawaddy and ate big deep fried things, dipped in condensed milk coffee, before pedalling back to Mae Sot, easy peasy. Burma is defiantly calling for a future adventure.
One of Nikki's pupils was celebrating an 18th birthday so we rode across town, feeling old and carrying five tubs of ice cream. We sat on the floor and listened to them play guitar and sing Burmese songs with the odd Taylor Swift and Boyzone hits. Unable to offer anything on the guitar, Luke gave it the big licks for the Boyzone chorus. They were all extremely interested in what we were doing but we felt a bit embarrassed saying that we’d been across to their country that morning, when they weren’t even allowed in themselves. They were quite a humbling group, just extremely happy and hugely grateful that they had the chance to get a good education and a chance to go to university. Riding along the border the next day we passed some of the sprawling refugee camps that hold 100’s of thousands of displaced Burmese.
Weaving through the mountains, Burma to our left, the riding was the best in ages - cooler, quieter and much more alluring. We were staying that night with a doctor in Tha Song Yang who we’d found on couchsurfing. Having worked in the quiet little town for 14 years, the doctor had a bit of pad, and we settled down in the room with his temperature controlled camera fridge. Along with his daughter, and self assigned guide ‘Coke’ we took a long tail boat back in to Burma, no border control or passport needed - renegades. Coke was from the village over the river and took us around his family members wooden houses, the school, empty on Sunday, and to the recently built temple where, surreally, we sat and had coffee with the youngest of the three resident monks. Developed Thailand was literally a stones throw away, but the village felt remote and from a different time. That afternoon we went for a legit medical thai massage on the recommendation of the doc. The ladies in charge took great pleasure in channeling there significant strength, mostly via elbows and knees, into every part of our tightest muscles, finding several we didn’t know we had. It was quite harrowing at times but we were assured it would be worth it. Spent the night feeling limber and playing Uno. Luke is bad at Uno.
We left again, reinvigorated by the scenery and recent good company. Even larger peaks loomed in the distance, but we had a friend of the docs, working at a remote medical centre 100km up the road, to aim for. Instructions and names scribbled in Thai on a piece of paper in our map case and a bag of star fruit to get through, we rode through police checkpoints and past more refugee camps. As the rain came and we climbed higher, the smooth road turned unexpectedly to dirt, carved up by channels of water and badly patched pot holes. We’d reached the highest point, even managing to feel slightly cold (felt good!) and began the to descend, brakes choked with grit making an awful grinding sound. With less weight on it than Luke’s, Flo’s front wheel washed out as we inched down a very steep stretch. Hearing her yelp, it took another 25m for Luke to come to a stop and scramble back up to the shaking pile of girl, bike, blood and mud. The first aid kit! As yet unused, had found itself right at the bottom of the least used pannier. Normally refusing to open a pannier in any form of precipitation things were unpacked left, right and centre, anything circular rolling away down the hill. After a water bottle squirt into the wound to clear out most of the grit a rather tidy bandage was applied (thanks Penrith Air cadets). Having broken the first aid kit duck Luke was keen to get going with the eye patches and finger bandages but settled for wrapping Flo in the end of marathon style space blanket which pattered in the rain. It felt longer but after about 5 mins, a car came creeping down the hill and crunched to a halt. Flo was putting on a brave face but the shock was setting in and she was feeling a bit faint, aware that she’d recently caught a glimpse of her own knee cap. Having explained that we knew there was a medical centre (what are the chances?) 15km down the road we managed to pile both bikes into open backed car and force feed Flora some biscuits. Offered the bemused, and rather squashed, only passenger a biccie and she pocketed the whole pack! The journey didn’t get any smoother, it took 45 bumpy minutes.
The health centre ran on solar power and catered for a large catchment of rural villages. We found the doc’s friend ‘Wat’ and helped Flo limp up the hill, stopping to be sick on the way, that’s my girl! A very calming nurse administered 4 rustic stitches before I could get a gorey photo and Flora was perking up, happy it wasn’t any worse. No cycling for at least a week was the consensus.
We spent a night, Flo is quite a bit if pain for most of it, in a building just off the hospital under a big mozzy net and had breakfast with the nurse and ‘Wat’ in their big warm wooden house. It was a very peaceful place, one of the best views from a hospital going, but we decided to get Flo somewhere with a bed and packed up again for another bumpy ride to Mae Sariang, 50km away.