Day25 Mae Hong Son, Thailand

11:59 pm Motorbike/Motorcycle, Thailand, Travel
Distance Travelled 115km local travel only

Day25

I got up early, and given that it was a nice fog, headed up to the hill to take some photos.  The view was spectacular.

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The monks were just getting ready for the day.

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The fog was still quite thick as I returned to the guesthouse.

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After breakfast we headed into the hills to find the long neck tribes.  The long necks are a sub-tribe of ethnic Karenni.  They migrated from Mongolia to Burma in ancient times.  They are now refugees in Thailand.  Some say that the government maintains a tight control over the community.  The camps where the people live are often referred to as "human zoos" by those critical of the arrangement.  They can be found in three different locations, so we took a ride to see the countryside.

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The road reached a sudden end – with a Thai security checkpoint.  I guess these soldiers are watching the hills and river to see if any people try to come across the mountains from Myanmar.

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Again, these people live in a very scenic place.

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Some of the long neck people live in the village across the river, and most people travel there by boat.  So we headed to the next village.

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How do you know that part of the road is closed?  There are branches on the road.

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The road was interesting – we had to ford a creek on 10 occasions each way.

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We travelled up another forest road to see where it leads, and we ended up at another checkpoint – this one wasn’t right on the Myanmar border, as they were willing to let us go another 3km.  You can see the army camp in the background – they didn’t want me to photograph it, so I got Rebecca to pose near the barrier.

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We then stopped on the highest peak in this area – which was about 850 meters above sea level.  There was a helipad (where my bike is parked) and it looked like it is used regularly.  Further away (where Rebecca is standing in the middle picture), but around the helipad circle were small hoof marks, like those of horses or donkeys.  There were even horse/donkey droppings.  Now, why would there be a need for products to be transferred to/from a helicopter to/from horses/donkeys in a very isolated area?  We have our suspicions, but you come to your own conclusions.

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However, the view was great from the top of the mountain.

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These staghorns also looked great.

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Here you can see a bit of how steep the mountain road was. I didn’t want to stop on the steepest sections to take photos.

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These are all pictures taken from one of the long neck villages.

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The long necks wear a spiral, not a series of rings around their necks.  Girls from the age of five can start wearing them.  All women and girls can choose whether to wear the spiral or not.  It doesn’t lengthen their neck but it pushes their shoulders and ribs down.  There are a variety of reasons why they wear it.  Obviously beauty and status are part of it.  However, it is also related to their animist beliefs and their worship of a serpent.  Notice the girls are also wearing the make-up commonly worn by Burmese.  We gave money to whomever we took photos of in the village.

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Later we saw this woman’s face on many postcards.

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There is a catholic church in the village, though it didn’t look like it is really being used.  Many of the hill tribes have converted to Christianity.

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The road was very beautiful, and we even got to see these elephants as we came around the corner – nothing like three large mammals blocking the road right in front of you!

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At night we went into town to have dinner, and found that the big party at the Toyota dealer that had been going all day had stepped up the tempo.  There were people everywhere.  Yes, the road was still open, but it was difficult for cars to get through.  Check out the bus trying to get through the crowd – and yes, everyone had patience – no flaring anger here.

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Even some of the hill tribes came to town with their babies.

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