Peter is amazing when it comes to directions. For me, it is not so instinctual. But sometimes even the best navigator with the most detailed map is thankful to have someone to lead the way. While traveling north and then farther north, we decided to take a break from the city and spend a few nights in the mountains. From the city of Chiang Rai, we hopped in the back of a truck and headed up to a quaint little resort in the middle of an Akha Hill Tribe village. The way was breezy, bumpy and scenic. The road became narrower and less paved as we got further away from civilization. The air became sweeter, cooler, and less polluted. Passing tea plantations, streams and other small villages, we arrive at the resort and settled in to our bamboo bungalow.
Our stay in the hills involved some self-guided hiking up and down the hills to waterfalls and streams just cool enough for bathing. While wandering to find the second waterfall, we stumbled upon another resort and were greeted by the friendly owner and his dog. He told us the way to the waterfall. It was through the back gate of his resort and across the fields. “Just follow the river” he said. So we set off and right on our heels, was the dog. The dog would run past us a ways, look over his shoulder, and signal for us to follow. So we did. Sometimes we would get ahead of him, and then Peter would yell “Maa!” which means dog in Thai. He would come running to show us which way to go next. Our guide dog led us all the way to the waterfall and came with us all the way back where he said goodbye wagging his tail and returned to his own home. While we could have found our way without him, he was the helpful and trusty leader we were happy to have.
After our excursion “away from it all”, we had another mission. Since we knew we would be in Thailand a few days over our tourist visa, we needed to do a visa run across the border. We decided to pop into Myanmar for one night. We rode buses and songthaews to the border town of Mae Sai, Thailand where we crossed on foot, passports in hand to enter Tachiliek, Myanmar. Bombarded with Burmese guides offering day-tours of temples, we shook our heads no and kept walking with our bags, without a plan of where to spend the night. Then a very friendly man, speaking English quite well came up to us. He said he knew of a few hotels that were affordable and simple and we decided to trust him. He chatted ours ears off while chewing betelnut and the three of us walked together for about five blocks until we arrived at the Erawan Hotel. The room was complete with a hot shower, bottled water and drinking glasses decorated with zodiak signs. Since it was relatively affordable, we took it. While of course we were slightly wary of trusting this stranger, he had turned out to be quite honest. We thanked him, said goodbye and gave him a tip (which he deserved). He had shown us the way to go in a strange city. While I’m sure we could have found a hotel without him, we were thankful to have a guide.
I think we managed to visit all of the temples in Tachileik, Myanmar on our whirlwind one-night tour. Our day included walking through dusty, traffic filled streets, shopping in the market where it seemed every other stand sold sunglasses or cigarettes, and having tea and steamed buns in a tea house were no one noticed us since all eyes were glued to the TV screen. Our evening ended as we watched the sun setting while snacking on dough balls very similar to aebelskiver. They were savory on the inside with chickpeas and green onion, and sweet on the outside, rolled in sugar. We retired to bed early and said goodbye to Myanmar the next morning. We walked across, got a stamp in our passports and entered the slightly cleaner streets of Thailand, with fifteen more days to be tourists.
This song is for the dog guide and the friendly man from Myanmar. Our helpful leaders who showed us where to go.