Noticed our fans are dirty from dust/humidity and smog/smoky air – oh well a job for next rest day. Said farewell to our farming neighbour, aiming for Mae Sariang turnoff to Chiangmai Mai and perhaps Salawin National Park. Through a police post, getting serious with semi-automatic weapons. Suddenly came across the refugee camp, amazing 3kms of jam packed humanity, in timber/ bamboo/rattan platform houses with broad leaf thatching as far up mountainside as possible. Industrious people everywhere, markets, raking forest leaves (extreme fire danger). Most inside compounds (barb wire) some getting into overcrowded jeepneys or walking (to work?) Military outposts spread along camp on road. Final checkpoint at end, waved us on after we came to full stop (don’t think they know what to do with us sometimes…) The camp is an amazing sight, apparently been here 20 yrs - will they ever be repatriated?
Drove on closest point to Burma, over river, then through Tha Song Yang. Many of platforms/ shacks in non-productive corn fields or once terraced rice paddies are abandoned (insufficient water? soil not productive/ being rested/ rotated?) Water buffalo grazing. Why no goats? they’d thrive here. Men chopping thick bamboo canes; kids sitting on side of road selling edible flowers with bulbs that grow in streams -Friday's a no-school day whether you are primarily a Muslim district or not.
Pretty drive, plenty of burnt patches of country. Ate our morning tea apple in temple in Ban Tha Song Yam next to a gilt standing Buddha "taming evil forces". Moved away from river and Burma towards Sop Moei. Climbing and descending the ranges - real forest of falling leaves of gold and brown from broad leafed trees. Listening to poignant lyrics of KD Lang "I love the best in you, you love the best in me... It's not always easy, but we'll walk in good company"... followed by her beautiful and uplifting "Alleluia". We had only just finished saying we’ll miss these good Thailand roads, when we hit some very ordinary mountain roads. Lunch at visitor centre of Mopi National Park, didn't dally as smoke getting thicker and sky pink/yellow in direction we are travelling. If it wasn’t bad enough getting itchy eyes in the smoke – we came up behind garlic truck. Peeoow (smell stayed in truck for awhile).
We stopped in Mai Sariang; hot blustery day, hats being blown off motorcyclists (most don’t wear helmets). We were headed towards one coffee shop, a shop-owner pointed to another one "coffee, coffee". She was right, good coffee PLUS air conditioning and clean toilets. All the more confronting though to come back out into heat and smoke. Unanimous decision to not to continue north to Salawin Nat Pk, but to head east towards Chiang Mai to try to escape the smoke. Cabbages planted on hills in rice-like terraces, picturesque. Landed up at an arboretum, in the hills, on upper levels, where cooler. BoyRob made friends with the sentry and was rewarded with a look at his rifle (they take their arboretums seriously over here!) Red sun going down, and red moon coming up, thanks to smoke in air. Rob cooked steaks (had no Good Friday fish) and we sat and talked Easter and camping stories to Guy and Cheryl. No mossies, but cockroaches surprisingly.