Im 5 km from the Burma border. A ride in 2 mini buses full of locals, up and down and round a windy mountain road. It’s misty and raining on the mountain top. Down the other side in the town it’s hot, sunny, the bus station is not full of the usual tuk tuk drivers and taxis and nobody is in the least bit interested in me, which is good and bad, as I am immediately lost and walk up and down in many wrong ways. Some schoolboys point me in the wrong way, probably not understanding what I want. Map reading in another language. Is impossible. Eventually a woman at an upmarket jade store helps me. I’m warned it is quite far,but actually it isn’t so far to locate the place in my guidebook. On a whim I decide to take a look at a neighbouring guest house.the room is big, airy, sturdy teak furniture and a bargain at 200 baht, plus renting a bike is 20. I. Take it, unwind, then cycle into town. The guesthouse is opposite a building site where manual labour is quite intense…I watched lines of young guys passing buckets of cement along a human chain. Later I saw them leaving the site getting paid cash in hand then boarding a pickup sponsored by man iunited’s Asian partner…
I searched for the Burmese restaurant I had read about but it had closed down. There are 2 main drags more or less parallel, I cycle up and down and criss- cross them too, looking for some vege food options. Nothing that seems open. Everything in Thai. There are brooding clouds over the school playing field where kids are gathered to watch some football game…the rain begins lightly then chucks it down for 15 minutes flooding some of the potholed roads. This is the province that experienced devastating flash floods only 1 month ago. . I try a new experience: cycling with an umbrella! I spend a while watching scooters and bikes laden with numerous passengers, holding umbrellas, shrouded in oversize brightly coloured ponchos. It all rapidly dries up, but obviously the bigger puddles are going to last a while
I look some more at the town, an begin to wander through the market. It’s not quite Thai. There are men. And women with white streaks of ash rubbed on their faces, apparently this is a Burmese habit. There are men in longyis, a kind of Burmese skirt type affair. It’s a scruffy town, there are poor looking people. A Burmese man hunched in the doorway smoking a cheroot, a dirty boy dropping a banana skin as he trudges the street. A man on a scooter in a pith helmet.women in head scarfs, Muslim. Chinese temples, Burmese temples; to be checked out later. A big police station which is prominent in the town centre, perhaps not surprising as this place is famed for smuggling of every kind. There is a one way system, and amazingly for a town that seems so wayward, everybody obeys it..unlike elsewhere I’ve been in Thailand. I do not, and feel very self conscious!
I ride round and round looking for the Canadian bar. God knows I must have passed it several times already. Once there I take a pavement seat and order a masaman curry and mango shake. The curry is not really the best I’ve had, the shake is great. This is a faring bar with low prices, and the guys here I think are all working for NGOs here.