Jan 082008
 

Mae Hong Son

This morning we would breakfast in town on noodles and congee before heading up into the hills. The Vietnamese style soup noodles were generous on the pork products, but the broth was not as fully developed as one might like. We turned the corner into the market and picked up some spices and miscellaneous ingredients before piling into the vans to head up, up, up the road North. Our first stop was an Agro-Tourism center featuring experimental projects and a variety of instructional displays regarding, for example, how to grow coffee and avocados, two introduced crops, in the area. Nice flowers, but it was getting hot in the sun.


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We soon arrived in a Hmong village and traveled from house to house examining, and in many cases purchasing, various examples of cross-stitching, embroidery and quilting, from small samples that might be made into a purse to jackets, vests, and long pieces of fabric with many potential applications. The quality varied, but it was a one-way trip so I ended up purchasing several pieces. Now I just need to find small people who can fit into these items.

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Beyond the Hmong village was a former Yunnanese refugee camp now renamed to Ban Rak Thai (Love Thailand Village). Here we tasted and purchased several of the local teas, and then sat down to a lunch of Yunnanese specialties. A huge pork leg was meaty and fatty, but the better pork dish for my money (and calories) was a fatty belly stewed with preserved vegetables, thinly sliced (the opposite way from how you would slice this cut for bacon) and served with little steamed buns. The third little piggy was a pork sausage wrapped in a thin omelet. An salad of astringent slivered raw tea leaves was dressed with an oniony composition containing canned mackerel. A whole deep fried fish with a spicy sweet sauce, a plate of wild mushrooms, and a bony chicken soup completed the set. Or so we thought, until an appetizer platter arrived bearing salty barbecued pork spare ribs, a very pink pork sausage, deep yellow preserved eggs, oil roasted cashews, and cooling slices of cucumber. It was very filling, even without the pomelo segments and tangerines that followed for dessert.

All too soon, we were winding our way back down the mountain. Just when the van brakes were literally smoking, we stopped at Phasua waterfall for a break. Here a short staircase leads down to a view of the falls and the nearby pond. The park sells bags of fish food, so as soon as they perceive footsteps, the fish mass along the rocks for their handout. I tossed in a few leaves and they became discouraged and swam over to the next tourist. This does not seem like a healthy situation, and I suspect there are many more fish than would occur here naturally. Since it is the dry season, the falls were not too impressive, but we were grateful to stretch our legs.

We returned to Mae Pai for another boat ride, this time with a diesel engine. We powered down the next section of the river, stopping at a police station just a quarter kilometer shy of the border with Myanmar. Again, more pleasant scenery along the river, and a glimpse of the “long neck” girls who wear rings/coils around their necks. The rapids were mostly quite tame, but there were a few incidents of serious spray to keep us on our toes.

After about 75 minutes, we headed back to the resort for a little pre-dinner relaxation. And yet another superb dinner at Fern Restaurant.

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