Compared with yesterday, today had to be less stressful and it was.
Another 7am start saw us on our way east for 25 kms and our first stop to visit the Akha hill tribe.
We parked the cars and were decanted into 4×4 open pick-up trucks which would bus us up the hill to visit the Akhas.
The tribe originated in Nepal and migrated 300 years ago to China and two hundred years ago to Burma. The tribe lives in the hills with little contact outside, living a simple life but the attraction is their dress sense. It might not be Vogue, but for this remote part of Myanmar it was certainly eye catching.
Their head gear is made with Indian rupees, which are still currency in the area. The village we visited has 300 souls and three religions, Buddhism, Animist and Catholic Christian. The Akha until 15 years ago did not have any education beyond a catholic sunday school teacher, but then the government introduced a school with three teachers.
The girls marry young (around 15 years old), and since there is no contraception, have lots of children, many of whom were evident during our visit.
Commerce is beginning to creep into the economy and a few women were selling headdresses and shoulder bags, Jo and Olivia made the most of this retail therapy.
Our invasion was a bit voyeuristic but most felt found it charming and a privilege to see how such a remote community survives in a modern world, and to be welcomed so warmly. The above pictures show one of the lady’s looms, followed by a kitchen which is housed in the building on the right in the picture below of a typical house.
The route up and down the hill was exciting to say the least, a mud track no wider than the truck, deeply rutted and strewn with rocks protruding from the surface. But it was fun.
In places the road was still being laid, so in true Friendship Rally style Charles offered to lend a hand. leaving his mark on this remote part of the world forever.
On the road again we had a 130 kms drive along the Sai river meandering around bends up and down but descending gently from 1400 meters to about 400 meters for lunch.
The river valley was green and the river had water, which made a change, so agriculture was possible in the terraced beds in the river valley bottom.
Lunch was a rushed affair as we were now in Tachilek on the border with Thailand and we were to cross after lunch.
The border seemed the usual chaos but order slowly appeared with Zani’s team getting our passports stamped out of Myanmar without us leaving the car, and the police doing a fabulous job of creating a special lane for our cars. Immigration and customs into Thailand worked like clockwork and in a jiffy we are free.
Though one or two of us did need a bit of “gentle persuasion” to get going again after the border.
The contrast between the two countries though was immediately stark. Gentle, rolling, green and empty rural Myanmar was now a 4 lane dual carriageway in Thailand, bustling with traffic and mayhem.
The short 60 kms trip into Chiang Rai was uneventful and as it was only a one-nighter most people left immediately for a trip into town to see the sights.