northern exposure

Sukhothai: Every time I say the name of this town, I can’t help but be reminded of Sylvester the cartoon cat and his catchphrase “suffering succotash.” A whistlestop tour to tick off the ruins of this 13th century Thai kingdom – impressive, but I think we had more fun just riding our dinky bikes around the historical park.
Mae Sot: We were very glad to arrive in Mae Sot after the prayer-inducing minibus ride from Sukhothai. Caught our first glimpse of the security around the border area as two of our fellow passengers were hauled off the van at a police checkpoint for not having ID but given the maniacal driving, perhaps it was a blessing of sorts. Being Australian, we have limited experience of border towns but Mae Sot certainly seems to be a typical one – a little seedy and bustling with illegal activity. Failed to notice until after we’d checked in that our guesthouse was in fact next door to the immigration lock-up – woops! – which is probably where our friends from the bus ride ended up. Some delicious Burmese food restored us after the depressing trip to the border where we gazed across the river as hustlers touted bootleg cigarettes and Viagra from the dry riverbed.
Mae Sariang: Even if this sleepy little riverside town hadn’t otherwise enchanted us, the journey there would have been worth it alone. Apart from one other farang passenger, we were the only ones who remained aboard for the entire journey from Mae Sot and quite frankly, six hours in the back of a sawngthaew is barely enough. We jostled for bum space with an ever-evolving cast of Karen villagers and their wide-eyed babies, sacks of mangoes and chillis, boxes of who-knows-what*, a stowaway frog and a clapped-out motorbike – but it was all strangely endearing. Our fellow farang was the irrepressible Ineke, a Dutch volunteer at the surrounding refugee camps, who showed us to our delightful guesthouse and introduced us to a band of other volunteers who turned out to be excellent company, formidable drinking buddies and a wealth of information on the best bits of Mae Sariang – the lovely Joy and her Oreo shakes; laab; riverside lounging and massages.
A quick aside to pay homage to the joy that is traditional Thai massage. What’s not to like about having your limbs used like stirrups? Masseuses employ their elbows, feet and forearms liberally and greasy oils, whale music and awkward semi-nudity are all avoided. It’s a lot like involuntary yoga. Particularly hilarious to watch a flock of tiny Thai women giggle nervously and draw straws for who massages the big farang. Invariably, their strength is disproportionate to their size but watching them massage Linds is kind of like watching Lilliputians conquer Gulliver.
Lampang: Another whistlestop to indulge myself with the one cheesy tourist thing I’ve been dying to do: ride an elephant. You’ll probably be able to tell from the number of photos taken that I was beside myself with excitement for the whole day and generally revelled in all things pachyderm. Two little words have never prompted so much squealing: elephant nursery. Oh. My. God.

*Anyone who has queued at the Singapore Airlines counter at Perth airport will surely have noticed that when Asian people travel, they are usually laden with a pile of cardboard boxes. WHAT IS IN THESE BOXES? I’m dying to know. We’ll know we’ve been in Asia for too long when we throw away our backpacks and replace them with boxes.

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One Response to “northern exposure”

  1. wheaters Says:

    Parsons, I’m dying to see your baby elephant photos, but my firefox is being a hater, and they’re not loading. Boo. It’s not you, it’s me, so fret not. How was the ride? did you love it?
    big hugs
    verte xxx

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