It’s just a few days left before we’re about to leave Thailand and start our Myanmar adventure. Looking forward to some chilly days we take a bus to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. We just passed this town the last time we’ve been here. Now we want to stay for some days to enjoy the atmosphere and food options. It’s easier to find cheap vegetarian restaurants and snacks and we are craving for some diversity before heading on to Myanmar….. Three days just relaxing. Sven seems to be happy that I got thrilled by a book I found in our guesthouse so I am captured and don’t torture him with being to restless. But there is a one day introduction into Buddhism and Meditation held by the Chiang Mai University that we don’t want to miss. The monk, Phra KK, responsible for that one day retreat is a super entertaining and humorous guy. He even shows us how to wear a monk robe properly by suddenly getting undressed. He also shares some parts of his own hard life story as a Bangladeshi refugee with us. What an amazing and impressive personality.
Our last stop in Thailand is Mae Sot, the border town next to Myawaddy, Myanmar. Before crossing the border we stay for a few days because of Mae sot’s political and social significance. Many refugees, especially from Myanmar are living here. The situation is quite difficult and some NGOs try to improve people’s living conditions. There is a cozy little restaurant and shop in town ruin by an NGO hiring Burmese refugees and offering traditional Burmese food, handcrafts and artworks. They also provide more detailed information about the refugees situation and we get in touch with a Dutch guy, who is working there. After having a chat (including some up to date insider tips about traveling in Myanmar) we decide to rent a motorbike and visit the refugee camp 60 km outside of Mae Sot. This camp had been set up in 1984 and still exists. About 50000 people, mostly from the Karen ethnicities fleeing persecution by the Burmese government, live here. We don’t want intrude into their privacy or watch them like a tourist attraction so we just drive by and stop in discrete distance only for a few minutes. It’s a big camp with many people living quite close together in basic houses. It’s hard to say how their living conditions really are. Some school buildings and daily life facilities have been set up but they don’t look very busy. It’s a thoughtful way back to Mae Sot.
Before packing the backpacks for Myanmar we take a walk around the market. Influenced by so many different cultures and people it’s different from other markets in Thailand and even much more diverse…. Want some frogs, rats, cockroaches, turtles and other specialties for dinner? No worries, here you’ll find them all…
Okay, let’s cross the border again. Just a walk over the friendship bridge and we are in Myawaddy, Myanmar now!