view from burning bus on the wayt to mae salong
“we left pai yesterday on the local bus and headed towards our first stop mae ma lai… we tossed our bags under the bus, along with two other travelers bags, and we’re on our way with the locals. the bus was big and long and we were at the very back (not a good combo on a winding road at all), but all the doors and windows were open so we were set…
about 30 minutes into the trip one of the bus attendants hanging out the door hollers to pull over. being right at the door, we hop out first once the bus is stopped. we see the attendant opening one of the luggage compartments underneath and flames rising out of it (fire under the bus, run!) almost… he pulled out a backpack and sleeping mat that belonged to the other travelers as well as an extra air filter that were all in flames. the attendant threw them on the side of the road, which was piled up with dead leaves, which in turn caught on fire.
controled burns by mae salong
so, for maybe 2 minutes it’s panic – everyone’s giving what water they have and the attendant and driver are trying to put out the fires. by now other buses have pulled over now to see the commotion.
after 10 minutes it was all okay – turns out the pack was placed on top the battery and heated up too much, hence fire. luckily, jeff and my packs were on the rear side in their own compartment (we had placed them at that exact spot over the battery and changed our mind at the last minute, moving them to the back…. crazy!)
from that bus, we made our way to the town of interchange and hopped on another bus, arriving at the last stop around 7pm. mae salong (where we needed to get to) was supposedly 1.5 hours more…so we looked for a bus but couldn’t see any. we ended up with a german couple that had the same idea, and followed their lead in hitchhiking.
within seconds we were in the back of a truck, packs and all. by this point it was completely dark out and we started our ride up and into the mountains… it was beautiful!!! driving in pitch black, looking up at the thousands of stars and then on either side of us were mountains in lines of flames (controlled burns, not our bus fire)…. quite magical.
mae salong hills
since we went by truck, within 45 minutes we were at mae salong and dropped off at our guest house.
mae salong, a village created by chinese soldiers fleeing their country in the 1940′s, is now the tea capitol of northern thailand. its a village of a town, scattered on tops and bottoms of mountains. the houses were all very small, all tea houses, with only 4 guesthouses and maybe 3 restaurants in the whole town. no bars and very limited foreigners…quite nice.
we rented a motorbike and explored on the back roads and in between, going though tons of tea terraces/farms, lahu, akha, and chinese villages, and then through the tea houses where everyone wants them to try their tea: oolong, green, jasmine, ginseng….quite delicious. jeff was stoked to feel that ‘tea high’ again.
cruising on our motorbike we felt, and looked, just like dumb and dumber – cruising at a speed of 5mph straight up a hill. a few times i had to hop off the back and walk… guess that was due to all the damn good coconut curries and chang i’ve been eating…..
we’re both just stoked to find a chill place with not to many other tourists. we loved pai of course, but now we’re really off the ‘beaten path’ per se… but tomorrow we rejoin it and head further into the golden triangle…..”