I love Mae Sot. Day 1 & 2

My last day in Bangkok made me eager. I was eager to get out of the industrial, high rise, fast-paced buzz of the city and explore the slower pace of less urban cities.

Edie was off running errands and buying a canon 1200D which is what I had used to shoot all throughout my MFA! I told her that when she got it I'd give her a tutorial : ) She has been teaching me what she knows of Thai and we both have been exchanging knowledge and experience. It's a great space of giving and receiving.

I did some running around myself. Posted some letters and walked around snapping photos. I found myself at HUGO bar and eatery for dinner and the bar man seated me and helped me order a vegan meal. He spoke beautiful English. He told me he wasn't Thai. He was born in Myanmar and grew up in a refugee camp up north. He learned English in the Refugee camps. I told him I was heading to Mae Sot on the overnight bus and he said that's near where his refugee camp was.

We talked of dreams. He dreamt of being a boxer when he was younger. And moving to USA to study and work. I told him my experiences of the states, but to never lose his own ideals and dreams. I hate talking about my reality in the States sometimes to people who look so highly of it. I just have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that if they were to arrive and live there, they too would feel the disappointment that I have felt. The streets are not paved with gold. The laws not in your corner--unless born into the privileged white male body--the values corrupt and the idea of an 'American Dream' a farce. But I enjoyed my conversation with him as I drank my Margarita, enjoyed the tomato bruschetta, picked at my fries and scarfed my vegan burger down.

I was sad to leave him and our bar talk, but I had to go back to the couchsurfing condo to meet Edie and pack my bags for the long trip. 

Edie and I headed to the bus terminal once our (MANY) bags were packed and we ordered our tickets to Mae Sot. The bus didn't leave until 11:56pm. What an odd departure time.

We had over an hour to kill. The bus terminal was a place where hopes and dreams go to die.

It was hot. It was pungent. People laid out on seats, dirty and without shoes. Babies in diapers and barefoot ran around screaming for attention. I tried to find a plug to charge my dying phone, but an officer screamed, "NO FREE CHARGE" at me and shook his fingers; which made me scurry back to my seat next to Edie.

Time ticked on. People came and went. This place made the greyhound bus stations look like premier first class travel.

It was time.

We lined up at gate 12 and threw our rucksacks on the bus hold then made our way up some steps to the top of the bus. We sat right by the front window.

I'm not sure if from sleep deprivation or what, but Edie and I sat chatting for hours, laughing, joking, sharing. We were in a dark bubble of bliss to start our next adventure.

As Edie nodded off to sleep I sat, reclined staring out the glass in front of me. The street signs, lights, and neon paint whizzed by. I tried not to blink. I felt like I was in a vortex. The street kept coming at me in the pitch blackness. The silhouette of giant trees and roadside shacks blurred past.

I began to smile. My smile stretched so tightly across my face, my eyes were getting smaller from the pressure of my cheeks. I began to think of my life. Images of California, moments with friends, quotes from poignant conversations. It was as if my life was passing before my eyes. I felt ecstasy. My smile stretched wider. How cool was this life I'm living? How blessed for the lives I've lived? 

I smiled through memories of bad times, tough times, scary times. Those were all beautiful moments that helped get me to that point right there. On the top of a moroon bus, next to Edie, staring out onto the blackness.

I awoke hours later to bright lights and a screeching halt. We arrived at a van terminal. Edie and I shook from delirium, rubbed our eyes and hopped off the bus.

After buying a van ticket, we squeezed onto another 15-seater white van and stared bleerily out the windows. It would be another hour and  a half before we reached Mae Sot.

But the view! It was a little after 6am and the sun had broken the skies. I strained my eyes to see that we were completely surrounded by lush jungle and mountain peaks. I mean SERIOUS mountains! The view made my voice lock up in my throat. I wanted to cry from the beauty. 

but I stared.

Sun streams through giant jungle palms. Winding roads. Roadside huts. The mountain valleys had a low hanging fog. Whispy and opaque. The clouds hung low like little white cotton balls in a child's dreams. The sky shone purples and oranges and yellows and pinks.

Is this Zion?

We rode on, bodies moving involuntarily with the bumps in the road. We finally reached a little stop that said Mae Sot. We rolled out of the van, aching for sleep. An adorable boy who I thought was a girl in an army Junior uniform asked us where we were going in english. We told him the T.House Hostel. He tried to help us get a motorcycle taxi and my heart leapt at the idea of riding my first bike out here...but then we realized all of our bags surely wouldn't fit. 

So we decided to walk.

30 minutes on dusty road. Cars and trucks honking at the two foreigners with backpacks on our fronts and backs. My shoulders began to ache from the weight. I could feel my muscles ripping. My body drenched from sweat. Legs shaking from the past 10 hours of being in a seated position.

We arrived at the hostel. We paid and the women at the desk told us they would carry our bags up the three flights of stairs to our room. My bag was bigger than the woman carrying mine. I wanted to laugh or take a photo...but my soul was tired.

We crashed. After showers we slept for a good 6 hours. We both woke up a bit confused and STARVING!

I looked up veg or vegan places to eat and found a place called Borderline cafe and Gallery just a 10 minute walk away. 

The cafe was out of this world. Completely outside under a canopy, we sat on multicolored cushions on the floor at low tables. We ordered more than we thought we could eat and decided in advance to share everything. White rice, spring rolls, Burmese pakoras, samosa salad, potato fry with a spongey bread, lime and basil juice to quench our thirsts. 

It was divine. Everything tasted so fresh. We agreed to return tomorrow.

After exploring a little bit through town and taking photos together, we made it back to the hostel and slept.


Today we woke up and went for a run. It was 7am and blazing hot. the sun was high in the sky and the air thick with humidity from a heavy rainfall last night. Our run was a challenge in the busy streets, but I enjoyed seeing more of this village and heaven knows my body needed this workout!

We arrived back at the hostel and hung our clothes out on the porch to dry them of their sweat.

We showered. Back to Borderline cafe and Gallery! We ordered all new things this morning for breakfast. A Burmese bean dish with the spongey flatbread, rice, Ginger juice, lime juice, banana juice, Tea leaf salad, chickpeas. It was amazing. My tastebuds squealed with delight. 

As we forked bites into our mouths we talked of this past year. challenges, birthdays, lessons we've learned, positives. I liked this moment of reflection. It helped me to think about the year as a whole and how it helped to shape me today.

We talked of the Flint Michigan water crisis, housing disparities in NYC and Washington DC, the Chicago police brutality crisis and the crisis in America as a whole. The conversation made me think. Made me question where I fit into the equation. How could my life in my private sphere help to ease the suffering in the greater sphere of humanity.

We laid back on the floor matts. Eyes looking up to the bamboo roof. We lay like this after our meals. Wind rustling through the giant leaves and trees. I felt a calm. This eatery was zen. It's not often you can laydown after a meal in public. 

We slowly wiggled our fingers and toes and rejoined the real world. Time to get some money from an ATM, pay and head out. We want to go to a Hilltribe Market, maybe visit a Wat--that's Temple in Thai--and ride the bicycles that the hostel offers for guests. 

I am taking a break from my day to write this post and will fill you in on the rest when I return from my daytime adventures.

Full bellies and sweat-stained shirts,