Towards the Burmese Border...

Trip Start Nov 26, 2007
Trip End Apr 17, 2008

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Unable to walk 4km with backpack to the bus station I had to get on a motorbike taxi...also interesting with Chang battering your head and a top heavy rucksack on your back.  So me Eroll and Hookie (would you believe I have 125 new Order tunes on me iPod!!) got on a nice 4 hour bus journey to Sangkhla Buri.  I have now found how they could solve the problem of all those #42's Magic Buses going down Wilmslow road with no one on don't just have a driver - the driver on a Thai bus has no time for taking money etc, he's far too busy tooting his horn every time he passes a temple, picture of the king or a moped.  So you have someone else who takes the fares and then you get another bloke who's job it is to get people on and off the bus; this means that the bus doesn't even have to stop he just grabs people and pulls them on...that would be good to watch outside Owens Park on a Monday morning!!

Sangkhla Buri is an interesting little town.  Not much here and hardly any western people at all.  Am staying in a little guest house over looking the massive lake.  The 1st room they gave me was one of the worst rooms I have ever seen but 2 rooms later I have a little cracker now for an extra 50p.  There are only 2 other couples staying in the gaff (both of them with rooms next to me where there is sound insulation...) a nice young Austrian couple who seem to like me as they have just extended their stay when they were supposed to go home today and an old Yorkshire geyser and his Thai bird (I won't go into details of their sex life since me mum is reading this!!).

The place is nice, I have spent most of it in bed so far though, sweating and shivering like hell.  To start with I thought I had food poisoning, then malaria but have since decided I was dehydrated after the walking all day with no water and then the Chang affair.  So rest order of the day.  At night there are frogs barking (actually frogs croak don't they!!).  They sort of go silent and then all work up in a crescendo and back down again.

By chance I did bump into some English volunteers (they were washing in the lake after making mud bricks all day!!) who are building a new village for Burmese refugees.  They said they would ring me but they never did.  I think there is a hidden social hierarchy which in lowest pecking order first goes tourists -travelers - volunteers...they think they are so cool and at one with the local population...yet most of what they do is probably pointless...I mean why would refugees from villages in Burma need volunteers with degrees in sociology to build them a new village?  Anyway, they never called me and were all a bit weird anyway.
The people here are innocent and nice.  Lots of Burmese and lots of babies (why do refugees always have loads of babies?).  The kids are sweet and look genuinely surprised to see a ginger jockanese fellow.  When they say hello the do this sort of bowing with their hand in prayer which is really sweet.  Compared to the hooded lay about we have in Manc one has to wonder whether it would be better not to give some kids an education and opportunities!!

To the Kings birthday.  Since I arrived steadily more of the population has been wearing yellow T-shirts as this is the kings favorite color (though they now have a run on pink ones on the go since the king was spotted coming outta hospital a few weeks ago in a pink top!! - you can imagine the confusion this causes, the news the other night had the male news caster in a pink outfit against a bright yellow background!!) in honor of the king.  I have never seen worship like it, its cannot even lick a stamp as it would be seen as defamatory towards the king!!  So he was 80- on the 5th Dec.  In Sangkhla Buri there was a parade and the school playing fields were converted into a mini festival site complete with movie screen and massive yellow stage.  They had all sorts of tat stalls selling clothes from 10p to 2 quid.  They had the Thai equivalent of burger vans as well which amounted to shitty noodles...noodles with some pork and sprinkled with loads of salt...lovely!!  I went to the party with the Austrian couple; it was good to hang out with them though she was going in a mood with the lack of German being spoken by the end of the night...typical woman!  What was strange (but perfectly OK for me as I am still on my dry phase) was that there was no booze consumed; I think because the king is teetotal.  A lot of the women did seem to be chewing this beetlenut stuff - made their teeth all bright red; apparently this is some kind of stimulant.  The other thing the women do up in this neck of the woods is to plaster their face in...well plaster...apparently its some kind of natural suncream but it catches you off guard the 1st few times you see it.  We left the party at 11ish just as the theme was switching from yellow outfit aerobics to movies...we stayed for the start of the movie but it was hard to keep a straight face as they played a chemical weapons film from the Vietnam war to celebrate the Kings birthday!
We also had the pleasure of a team of English (women) people on a 'charity trekking tour'...from what I could suss out they get folk to sponsor them and pay for their trip to an nice exotic place where they trek a day then go round markets buying tiger balm for the next 2 days and so on.  Might try something similar myself and would never have to work again...
The following day (Thursday 6th) I got up early (didn't have too much choice with that loon Thai bride next door who starts at 5am!!), said goodbye to the Austrians and hired myself a sporty 125cc moped (one soon finds out that the front brake on a moped is no match for the front brake on a GSX600...) for 2 quid 50 and set off to the Three Pagoda Pass on the Burmese border.  Not much to report; considered paying my $10 entry fee and going having a word about the way they have been hassling those monks but when I found out I didn't even get a stamp in my passport my attention waned.  So I just went for a drive round the jungle on the bike. I thought my bamboo was doing well by my pond but fuck me, the stuff over here grows 30 feet tall and must be 5 inches wide at the base!!  In the afternoon I went for a drive towards this Muslim communities they have their, all the other traveler sorts seemed really excited about it as if it was something special but the only difference from Manc was they had pink burkas rather than black, and they smiled a bit more.
I had to return the bike by 2ish as I had to go get myself some money and needed my passport.  Now here is a strange thing, this country is as poor as chips; annual income apparently $2000 or thereabouts.  I go into the bank and I have never seen so much cash in my life; one fellow comes in off the street with a 6 inch tall pile of 1000bhat (13 quid or so) notes and just hands them over to be counted.  And this happened several times in my 15 minutes in there...if any of you fancy bank robbing...Thailand may be the place...though they did have an armed guard in the bank itself.
You can see the pics at: id=593001738
Fact of the day:  After WWII the British government said the Bangkok-Burma railway was dangerous and politically incorrect and made the Thai government destroy it...However, as all the components had come from Malaysia the British then placed a reparations bill on the Thai government for the parts used in the construction.
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