Fang to Huai Khum Resort on the Kok River
Huai Khum Resort to Mae Salong

We are up at 1100 meters in Mae Salong, a Chinese Nationalist outpost with a colourful history. During the communist revolution the Kuomintang (Nationalists) were swept from power and one group of them fled to Northern Thailand and Burma. When their plan to overthrow the communists in China failed, they remained in the region to be used by the Thai government to fight communist groups. Later they became involved in the opium trade, until the Thai government stamped that out in the 1980’s.

In the last two days we have been traveling in the hill tribe region very close to the Burmese border. Yesterday we stayed at a resort next to a hill tribe village and after dinner our cook put down her pots, picked up a guitar and accompanied the local children singing songs and dressed in their traditional clothing. Donations were gratefully accepted for their school.

Today we visited Ban Lorcha, an Akha village that has received community development funding to establish a living museum of their culture. For three dollars each a local gentleman gave us a tour of the village including demonstrations of animal traps, weaving, dancing and metal work. The community also has a shop that sells their local crafts. We didn’t leave empty handed.
Our acquisitions at Lorcha were actually our second craft purchases of the day. An hour earlier we stopped to clean and oil our chains and found ourselves the center of attention in a small community.  A local Akha woman offered us a beautiful purse and two bracelets for ten dollars, which we happily accepted. You know you’ve paid more than market value when the vendor returns to give you a huge bunch of bananas and ties two more bracelets on your wrist. No worries; a sale is a success when both parties feel they got a good deal.
Gordon:  We only cycled 45 kms today, but it was perhaps our most challenging ride.  Prior to our departure we expressed our intention to cycle to Mae Salong, and the response from locals was always nervous laughter accompanied by hand gestures that could have been describing the ascent of the Matterhorn.  This did make us a little nervous, but how difficult could a 700 meter climb be?  However, this net change in elevation glosses over the significant ups and downs in between.  The total height climbed was about 1400 meters, but that again fails to convey the brutal pitch of many of the hills.  They were simply ridiculously steep.  I walked many of the hills, while Ruth, with a couple of lower gears, ground along at 3 km per hour.  I must take a moment to acknowledge the powerful cycling machine that Ruth has become.  A few months ago today’s ride would have been unthinkable, whereas now it is only a bad idea.

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