06-04-04

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

well I 've been running down the road
trying to loosen my load
seven women on my mind

 
 
 
 
 
  
Thursday afternoon, back on the bus to Mae Sot. Let me begin by clarifying that I started on this long haul road trip encouraged by the quality of the first bus from Bangkok to Petchabun. Today's mini bus is all together a very different story. The extreme play in the steering sends the bus sort of swerving down the road - bringing to mind my old 1970 Dodge Monaco, we referred to as 'the boat'. Before we leave town, the driver stops at the gas station, not to fill up the tank, rather to top off the radiator ... and we're heading for the scenic moutainroad in that? Hmm. Because the tired old engine allows only a snailspace up hill, the car overheats on the steeper asscents, the driver turns off the airco and we roll down the windows ... and in the meantime the seat of my pants is soaked in sweat from sitting in the frontseat on top of the engine. At one of the roadside stops the driver asks me to keep my foot on the brake, because apparently the parking brake is non existent. 
Of course I am just nitpicking now.
We arrive Mae Sot late afternoon. This is what the LP has to say of this quaint little border town: "Border skirmishes between Myanmar government troops and insurgent hill tribes can send thousands of refugees - and the occasional mortar rocket - across the border, adding to the area's perceived instability." That instability would have something to do with the dwindling cultivating and smuggling of opium in this region so close to the infamous 'Golden Triangle'.
 
Friday
Northbound along the Myanmar border, Mae Sot to Mae Sariang. Mode of transportation, 'songthaew', a pickup truck with two benches bolted in the back and a canvas top. The common way of transportation for the locals. From the start the truck carries a cargo of Birmese cigars, dried peas and dried fish, with small holes poked in the plastic bags. At takeoff, my only company in the back is an old man, turban around his head, chewing betelnut. He makes an attempt at conversation. Since neither of us speaks the other's language, the conversation is short - an inspiration for the man of few words column. All along the scenic mountain road we make frequent stops at the hill tribe villages to pick up and drop off riders in their colorful native garb. Just when I think we're full and not another could possibly fit in, a bunch more jump on at the next stop and we make room somehow to squeeze them in too.
At one moment I find myself in company of a man in an American Army jacket, a relic perhaps of the Vietnam war - "Howard" nametag still attached; another wearing a New York Mets baseball cap and still another sporting a T-Shirt advocating nice change after the Maoists in Nepal.
Suddenly there is a commotion that wakes me from my reverie. Two women reaching for something that must have fallen on the floor: it's a fish my lord, in a flat bed Ford...One of the women is bringing home some fresh, live fish from the market, in a plastic shopping bag, at her feet. Apparently one slippery fish got away ... but wait, what's this, another one on the loose, right here at my feet.
The songthaew does not make the lunch stop I expected - customary for Thailand's long distance bus travel - So I learn to shell sunflower seeds: 'good time pass' and quite nutritious. From now on I won't leave home without them.



06:12 Gepost door pieter | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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