Monday 20 February 2012

Riding on Borders - Day Four

See Map of Day Four

We passed the famous meeting of the Ruak and Mekong rivers, dubbed the Golden Triangle by tourist agencies, and continued to skim the Thai border, this time with Myanmar (Burma) on the other side. We rode past the town of Mae Sai and ventured through the forest. It appeared that the poppy plantations had been replaced by another addictive crop ... coffee.

Ben on the bike - coffee plantation, Chiang Rai Province

Here we also explored Tham Luang, one of the many caves dotted around the Doi Tung area. The caverns were impressive, and I loved the fact that it was just a cave, with no one else about, no fixed lights to show you the way, and nothing to stop you from hurting your self. This is where our head torches came handy. A cute little black puppy dog bounded ahead of us into the cave, probably thinking that he could guide us, but I had to carry him over the steep parts, and he didn’t like it when we turned off our lights to survey the pitch blackness. The mapped section of the cave was 800m long and after that there was a sign that read "DIFFICULT". We continued past it, with puppy getting worried, and went as far as we could. However we soon found the jumbled rocks impassible, and we headed back out into the daylight, much to the relief of our furry friend.

Our seeing eye dog who can't see in the dark - caving with a puppy.

We decided to hit up the back streets and travelled along some narrow but exciting roads, right along the Thai-Myanmar border. This did mean spotting more than a few groups of armed military personnel. This worried us a little as Tia had left her passport behind with the motorcycle hire company. We made sure to slow down, keep our visors up and our smiles cheerful whenever we rode past, but it's unnerving when you turn a corner to find a bunch of men walking towards you with unholstered handguns and M16s.

Remote areas on the bike - Chiang Rai Province

Then we came across a checkpoint with the boom gate down, a signal that we had to stop. My heart leaped into my throat, although that may have been because Tia was driving and had slammed on the brakes in a panic. What are we going to do when they discover we're missing a passport? Language was a problem again, but it turned out good in a way as we tried to communicate in the worst Thai ever, and we all started to laugh about it. They asked about our travel plans, and checked our bags; I guessed it was for drugs, seeing as every medication container got opened as well. Then they asked for ID, and lucky for us they only asked for mine. After more hand gesturing and a couple of photos they let us through, warning that the upcoming road was steep and winding.

Military border crossing. Turn left Thailand, turn right Burma

We headed off the border and rode through some of the best hairpins of the trip, ...

Hairpins after Hairpins - a great road.Found Here

Hairpins after Hairpins - a great road.Found Here

... before finding a friendly homestay among the tea plantations just outside of Mae Saelong.

It was a good day of riding, but the biggest highlight was by far the news that my niece Jude had just been born. Welcome to the world Jude, it’s a big place with plenty to see and many friendly people to meet.

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