Mae Hong son : Coffee and crashlandings

Mae Hong Son Travel Blog

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Entrance stairway to the hill of Wat Phra That Doi Kung Mu

Don’t think I’m gonna do much today. Mooch about Mae Hong Son a bit. Back as a solo traveller once more there’s something refreshingly unencumbered about wanting to just do little more than anticipate the likely play of sunlight and shadow on your chosen photographic subjects of the day. This being the temples and hills of Mae Hong Son today.

I stroll abouts a bustling morning market. A kind man and his smiling daughter are disproportionately impressed by my sub-mediocre mauling of their language whilst I buy doughnuts off of them. But kind of them to encourage. I also - hatefully - waste time (oh precious, precious Liquid Crystal Displayed time!) searching and finding the only place in town where I can have the ‘pleasure’ of purchasing a new watch. “Grrrrr!” There will be no instruction manual with this one so I try not to let my general rage at watches boil over into visible; audible frustration whilst the guy tries to show me how to utilise the various functions of this torturously ugly looking device.

I had spotted a temple riiiight up on a hilltop yesterday so this is my first sightseeing mission of the day. Two carved dragon-dog thingamies guard the entrance and base of a long, pleasantly zig-zagging slope that takes you all the way up to the hill summit and Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. It is considered the most important temple in Mae Hong Son, if not the whole province and the two principle chedis (or stupas) were built in 1860 and 1874 respectively. So not so venerable in age as these things often can be. And it’s fairly impressive too. Surrounded by little stalls, mostly manned by monks hawking postcards or small baskets of artistic looking offerings of flowers, fruit and incense sticks. The Thai visitors gather these in their palms and stroll clockwise around the chedi base, cameras clicking all the way.

Other wats, shrines and pavilions are scattered around this high vantage point area, some 1,300 metres above sea level.

The views from both sides of the hilltop are spectacular. The town and lake and tarmac airport strip of Mae Hong Son set before the hilly backdrop to the east and a beautiful carpet of wooded hills rolling away to the west. Looking down to Mae Hong Son, the compositional beauty of the little lake is apparent once more as it sits like a little, precious jewel set firm in the surround of peoples lives, homes and the hills about.

I gladly sit down for a coffee at ‘Before Sunset View’ café, a tiny affair, a collection of tables and chairs on a wooden balcony overhang facing towards the sunset stage of the western hills. Taking this coffee and slowing down and staring at this green horizon panorama has to be one of the finest coffee breaks of my journey to date!

I’ve noticed today, strewn all about the hillside and temple grounds, and occasionally snagged in the trees, the ghostly burnt remnants of the large white tissue paper lanterns that have returned to Earth after all under cover of dark.

View down over MHS
They appear, crumpled on the ground, like giant smoke-scorched, crash-landed condoms. UFOs. (Unidentified F**king Objects). An invasion of alien life forms. An unstoppable wave of space invaders from the star system Prophylaxia. Their lights burnt out now. No sign of life.

I stroll back down, all the way into town. I make enquiries of the tourist office as to what there might be to be seen in the immediate area as I’m not inclined to bus or package-tour it out of town for inspiration today. All he mentions I’ve pretty much already seen. So lunch by the lake. Some reading’, writin’ and the like and I pretty much decide to amble back up to hilltop wat as I have promised myself that I would like to be in prime position, seated and iced coffee in hand at the ‘Before Sunset View’ café for when the golden orb once more bows out for the day.

So that’s where you find me now, jotting away in my note book.

Wat Phra That Doi Kung Mu
Smiling at more vanquished tissue paper shlongdoms in the tree canopies. And I’ve got that iced coffee. Sluuuurp! “Yum!” ;D The deep, deep greens of the deciduous tree covered hills is taking on that familiar golden burnish as the sun starts to slip down. It’s phenomenally hot. Blazing right into the eyes of my few co-coffee sippers and I. So bright. So hot. Almost dizzying. In fact, comes to think of it, I ain’t ‘alf sweatin’ a monsoon at the moment! Nothing unusual with that… unfortunately.

But, I dunno, there’s a something a little more to the manner of my present discomfort I feel… I feel… I feel?… I feel pretty grim actually. “Phewf!” Have a another slurp of iced coffee, that’ll hel… “oof!”, no, that didn’t help at all. Try focus on reading. Sun. Sun. Sun. Hot. Hot. Hot. Nope reading’s an impossibility right now.

A 'tree'of beaten gold/ tin prayer offerings, the leaves inscribed with prayers and wishes
I don’t feel shonky very often and so I know something’s defo the matter Down Below. Nothing too serious I hope, but images of Jon from Pai start running through my mind. Two days ago, our last evening together in Pai, the poor lad came down with quite an impressive night-long bout of food poisoning. Paul and I were sparing with our sympathy and liberal with our laughter at his expense. Many a sortie was made to the toilet by the poor lad that night!

But yep, something’s really grinding away down there. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Sun. Sun. Hot. Must see sunset. Common symptom of the longterm traveller. Sunset and sunrise addiction. (The former addiction more frequently satiated than the latter as it doesn’t involve the need to crawl out of bed!). Muuuust see sunset. Rumble - rumble - gloop. Hmmm? Not good. Coffee? Not good.

Wishes inscribed in gold (detail)
I really, really should be making polite conversation with the lady to my left but… rumble - bloip - splong - gurgle - rumble… not good. It would not be good. Come on sunset, hurry the f**k up would ya! I think I’ve got the lie of the land on an impending gastronomical disaster. I reckon if something's gonna go nuclear from m'stomach and rear (and it’s still an 'if') I’ve got about sunset plus T-minus 35 minutes to get me aaaaall the way back down the zig-zag slope, through town and to my lakeside ‘home’ toilet safely. Rumble - rumble -sweat -sweat…

Sun turns from ochre to gold to red… rumble - splong -bubble - bubble … and it drops … rumble - roll - rumble … sunset DONE! Tick that box, pack that bag and “GO GO GO!” … but not too fast! Don’t shake that amoebic nitro-glicerine in your gut too hard, you don’t want a chain reaction setting in… rumble - slosh - splash - rumble- sploingo…


The tiny balcony of the 'Before Sunset View' cafe where I will later be falling slowly into some discomfort
Step. Step. Gentle steps. Jolt. Shake. Jolt. Jolt. Rumble - blurp! “Uh oh!” Walk. Walk. Walk. What were Jon’s progression of symptoms again Doctor House? “You’re an idiot!“ Fine. Cheers Doc. Don’t think about that! Just focus, not on your insurrectionist belly but the journey ahead. Getting closer … ruuuumble - splonk - splonk … geeeetting closer! Step. Step. Step quicker. Flat ground. Less risky. Slosh - slosh- rumble -mumble… nearly there, neeearly there. “Och hallo! You again!” Wha? -wha? - what? Who? “Sawah-dii kha!”. “?????!!!!” Yelp. “Yes, vee saw you zis morning in town und also at ze temple and now vee see you again!” What the f**k?! “O-o-oooh yes, I remember-uhhh…” RUMBLE - SPLOSHITY-PLOP! “Kha, Sabaii-dii.
A deflated 'dom. One fo the many giant tisse-paper lanterns crashlanded like giant, used prophylactics.
How are you? Hee-hee!”
Walking down the dingiest of short-cut side passages possible I’ve been conversationally accosted by a german expat, his Thai wife and mother-in-law. I have never engaged with these people nor know one iota (or have one iota’s interest right now in) who they are and the fact that “whoopee-f**king-doo” we have passed each other 3 times in the street of the same town on the same day, I mean “Looooord, it’s a miracle!” A coincidence truly worth celebrating etc, etc… ruuuuuuuuumble…. “Oh yes…. Errr… lovely, look I don’t mean to be rude but…”. “Oh ja, I have lived in Mae Hong Son for sree years now with my wife…”

[ T-minus 5 minutes to lift off ]

“Oh I see… lovely…” Did I even ask a goddamn question that statement could possibly have germinated from?! Rumble - splosh - burp… “Und how about you?” slosh.

(Mae Hong Son) Muju []
Slosh. Aggrivated slosh! “Oh I’m just visiting. Passing through.” Not quickly enough!

[ T-minus 4 minutes to lift off ]

I’ve only really had minor food poisoning the once. Not fun of course but I consider myself to have been lucky in life so far in this regard. And I’m still hoping my sturdy immune system will win the day, avert disaster, cut the correct coloured wire ( “… the red one, the red one! NOT THE BLUE!” ) to diffuse the bomb about to go off in my belly ’n’ bum… ruuuuumble … but I dunno. And anyway. Should the worst happen I feel I’ve had a blessed journey so far. Not one cold, cramp, bout of diorrhoea or other illness to hamper my global progress so far. Hey, I even went a whole month without a bout of Egyptian Belly so it may well be time to pay my dues to travel karma… and I did laugh at Jon after all! Blop - blop - gurgle -blop…

[ T-minus 3 minutes to lift off ]

“Und vhere else vill you be travelling next?” … err to the nearest possible f**kin’ toilet mate! “Um, I’m not really sure.

Back to Chiang Mai maybe?” ruuuuumble … oh please, please, please shut up and go away… “Look I really have to…

[ T-minus 2 minutes to lift off ]

“Alzo, okay, okay. Safe travels!”. “Sawah-dii kha!”. “Thanks!” Ruuuuun! Thank god my sleep-shack’s so close to the centre of town! Splosh - splosh - splosh. Jog. Run. Jog. Run. Rumble. Run.

[T -minus 1 minute to lift off ]

“Hello - hello - evening - BYE!” To my hosts. Fumble key in door. The Boy Scout in me has one last ( ruuuuuuuuumble! ) task to dash off before showdown should it happen… grabs empty plastic mineral water bottle… rumble- blop… grabs scissors from First Aid kit… sploosh - sploosh - sploosh “Uh oh!” … cuts around base of said 1.

Sun set (and bellyaches)
5 litre bottle creating plastic funnel recepticle for… for… um, liquid content… ya get the idea folks. Just in case it’s a both-ender… “hey c’mon! To show such resourcefulness in the face of adversity and only seconds away from the edge of the abyss!!”…

10, 9, 8...

Be Prepared. The time honoured Boy Scouts motto.

7, 6, 5...

Am I prepared for this?! Get to the f**king bathroom Weselby!!!

4, 3, 2...

“I’m sorry for laughing at you Jon!” So long and farewell my good friend Dignity…



sheba124 says:
Poooor baby
Posted on: Mar 16, 2009
hummingbird50 says:
Well on the bright side...everyone's systems is all cleaned out and ready for round two!! :)
Posted on: Feb 19, 2009
Stevie_Wes says:
"Hee-hee!", the third member of the Pai trio (Paul) also got struck down about the same time as me so I think we all probably picked up somethin' munchin' there. Oh well! :)
Posted on: Feb 19, 2009
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Entrance stairway to the hill of W…
Entrance stairway to the hill of …
View down over MHS
View down over MHS
Wat Phra That Doi Kung Mu
Wat Phra That Doi Kung Mu
A treeof beaten gold/ tin prayer…
A 'tree'of beaten gold/ tin praye…
Wishes inscribed in gold (detail)
Wishes inscribed in gold (detail)
The tiny balcony of the Before Su…
The tiny balcony of the 'Before S…
A deflated dom.  One fo the many …
A deflated 'dom. One fo the many…
(Mae Hong Son) Muju [www.mujuworld…
(Mae Hong Son) Muju [www.mujuworl…
Sun set (and bellyaches)
Sun set (and bellyaches)
Mae Hong Sons jewel of a lake fro…
Mae Hong Son's jewel of a lake fr…
The green hilly mounts about MHS
The green hilly mounts about MHS
Carving on temple-mount walls
Carving on temple-mount walls
Mae Hong Son airport
Mae Hong Son airport
Another wat guarded by some imposi…
Another wat guarded by some impos…
Mae Hong Son
photo by: Stevie_Wes