The Ute of Destiny in the Namtok Mae Surin National Park
The sunrise in the mountains is a glorious sight to wake up to. On the shorelines of the lake in the Baan Rak Thai village, we opened our doors to the chilly morning air, fog wafting over the surface of the still water. A true hidden beauty nestled in the mountainside of the Namtok Mae Surin National Park, Mae Hong Son.
One word to describe a cool morning by the lake is alive. Though the water was still and the sky slowly brightening, the plants living and growing by the lakeside were alive with six or more legged creatures. Dragonflies, water skimmers, bees! Spiders spinning webs and meeting other bugs in a dance of life and death. Here’s a wonderful photograph I took of a bee collecting pollen from a pretty little purple plant.
Being in the mountains and having no regular form of local public transport, the best way for us to get around was by motorcycle. But neither, P’Nara or myself had ever ridden a motorocycle in our lives! We managed to get a ute and driver for the day, at the steep price of 1500 baht (total).
The driver laid out a mat in the tray of the ute, P’Nara and I traveled in the back, open air and the rays of sun kissing our skin. That was the beginning of our journey in the ute of destiny.
Pang Oung, Military-Run Camping Grounds in the National Park
Yesterday, we were supposed to camp with the military in Pang Oung, but our motorcycle drivers instead took us to Baan Rak Thai. So the first stop of the day was at the picturesque forest by the water. To be honest, I am not sure if it was a lake or a river – but the water was fairly still, small ripples to indicate a gentle tide.
Here the forest changes completely, the trees are pine and reach endlessly in the sky. The ground cover is a carpet of pine needles and could have been anywhere in Europe. The peaceful regard and tranquility of this park is simply beautiful. I could spend days here and forget about the passage of time.
There are even wonderful gardens – who knew the Thai military had a green thumb! I found a native creature lurking in the bushes, here’s a shot I managed to get of the elusive beauty! 😛
Next stop was the Phasua Waterfall. Halfway down the winding mountainside road, we pulled into a small carpark. There was a military officer sitting behind a small desk with a book. The book was open and showed rows of names and nationalities – P’Nara wanted to live out her Game of Thrones fantasy and write her name down as Sansa Stark. Its free to enter, so don’t hand over any money if you’re asked.
The path down to the viewing platform is mud and is fairly slippery – be careful! You could pass hours just sitting in the greenery, observing the rushing power of the waterfalls – but when there’s so much to see and do, we headed off pretty quickly.
Thampla, the Fishy Fish Cave
Remember Jolly Yai, she was telling us about this beautiful Fish Cave. Well, truth be told, we were hanging out the whole day to see this. For Thai nationals the ticket is 10 baht, for foreigners its 100 baht.
Its a wonderful experience, feeding the fish (we opted for the vegetarian feed bag, 20 baht). It is quite literally a cave with deep holes through which you can see hundreds of fish swimming all over each other. Its like a weird seafood orgy and everyone wants a bit of action but ain’t getting none! Out in the open part of the water, the fish have more room to swim about, but they do get a bit aggressive and bunch up when food is thrown at them.
Baan Ka-Riang, Long-neck Karen Village
For the second time in my life (first time here) I was able to meet and talk to a woman who practices the tradition of neck-lengthening. This time her English was enough for us to communicate, somewhat, with the little Thai that I knew. She weaved the scarves all herself, she tended the shop all herself and she looked after herself all by herself.
I didn’t quite get her name, but she allowed me to take her portrait. When this photo was taken, November 2015, she was wearing 35 rings. Likely no more rings will be added, but what a neck all that brass must support!
And at another little shop, I bought myself a ring that resembles the one worn on the neck. Such a pretty little thing – making my fingers blue from the copper. The lady tending to the shop invited us to wear the neck ring props. On the right, P’Nara is wearing the ‘costume’ version of the neck rings, made of hollow metal tubes. On the left, I am wearing the full-weighted brass rings. Although I’m only wearing half (the back half is removed) the weight is enough to apply an uncomfortable pressure on my collarbones. Imagine the weight of 35 heavy brass rings!
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