Another action-packed day for the AnafunaRichsta intrepid duo! Despite a night of tossing and turning, no thanks to funny-shaped pillows, we were up just past 6am to catch the Morning Market of Mae Hong Son. Our guidebook said it’s a good place to spot hilltribe peoples and although everyone looked fairly ordinary to me, we poked through friendly stands of produce and crafts and had a fabulous local breakfast of noodles, savoury custard and about a dozen spoonfuls of various spices and sauces all mixed together and eaten in Thai style: using a fork, or in this case chopsticks, to place the food on a spoon – which is the only cutlery sanctioned to enter the mouth.
Next we rented a motorbike for the unbeatable price of $5 for 24 hours and set off for the hills. Our first destination was in fact the end of the line of a mountain highway that snakes up and north from Mae Hong Son. Its final reach is to the village of Ban Rak Thai, settled by refugees from the Yunnan province of China. Nowadays they peacefully grow 40 kinds of tea around a small lake and that’s just where we passed a breezy rest stop, sipping on oolong, dew and ginseng teas from tiny china cups decorated with cartoon elephants and cats.
Winding our way back down the mountain, Rich impulsively turned into the Maehongson Bamboo Complex, which was a green sanctuary of lush plants, bridges of bamboo lashed with rope and meandering paths leading nowhere fast. A flock of colourful chickens and roosters led us to a tiny museum visually praising the many uses of bamboo such as furniture, hats, baskets and the like.
Lunch stop at Pha Seau falls. We've been looking for waterfalls for days and this one was gorgeous! Three chutes of water toppling over an 8-storey precipice of black rock. As if to emphasize the power of the water element, the skies opened up in a short mid-day burst. Back on our motor steed, glimpses of mist rising from rain-kissed mountains dazzled us through the trees.
Just as we were packing away our ponchos, the rain snuck up again. We donned the cheap plastic covers and in minutes were whizzing through a true “shower”, raindrops stinging our faces as we sped on in search of the Fish Cave. Taking a wrong turn, we played charades through sheets of water with a Thai family safely dry in their house, trying to act out “fish cave” for directions. They finally lit up at my Winona Ryder’s impression of aquarium dwellers from “Reality Bites.” We sped and parked just as the last drops faded away.
The Fish Cave is another tranquil spot where a few sub-species of carp grow to impressively large size thanks to tourists feeding them bags of stale veggies sold by smart local entrepreneurs and the fact that these fish are considered incarnations of gods and so entirely off-limit to being caught or [gasp] eaten.
Home past emerald green rice paddies, stopping for photos. With all the rain to feed them, no wonder they’re such a brilliant green!
Our plan for a sunset view from a hilltop temple was washed down the drains with the wildest torrential downpour we’ve seen yet! Luckily we were indoors gobbling down a spicy Thai soup specialty when the rains returned. It was kinda exhilarating watching all that wetness descend from the sky! The best part is even when we get wet here, it’s still quite warm and hardly uncomfortable, giving us all the more reason to play with Miss Nature herself.
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