The jungle route got narrower and narrower as we bounced along the dirt track. You could barely see the sunlight through the dense canopy above. I wondered when our driver would turn the big 4X4 jeep around and head back. We seemed to of come a long way and the road did not seem to be widening anywhere to enable us to turn around.
Then ahead the trees thinned and light could clearly be seen ahead. Then suddenly we were out of the jungle and the daylight blinded me briefly due to the change from the darkness of the jungle. Blinking tears from my stinging eyes my sight cleared. The jeep had stopped. At either side of the track were soldiers. Not the slack eyed Thai soldiers you normally see in Thailand these were fit, grim countenanced, hard looking men. Although not tall even their muscles had muscles. All had combat fatigues on and wife beater vests and more importantly they all had guns. They came closer to the vehicle. Looked us over and smiled. These were Myanmar (Burmese) soldiers, guarding the border and here I was with no passport and no one even knew I was there.
Well Chan had decided I should see some of the beautiful countryside in Ratchaburi near the border with Myanmar. Its a very beautiful area and not somewhere that foreigners normally got. In fact its actually where the middle class and up Thais go for their holidays. Don’t expect any rustic bamboo homes though, or traditional villages made from huts. That’s not what this area is about although the countryside can be spectacular.
We drove around for a while before stopping at a restaurant were Chan ran off and returned with a young Thai man who was going to be our guide. We changed from our car into this mans big 4X4 truck and after a brief meal at his home where we were joined by his wife and young son off we went to see all these crazy Thai resorts all with some sort of crazy theme. There was a resort based on what I can only presume is the flintstones with building looking like they were made from boulders, and some with immaculate lawns and all the concrete bungalows painted garish colours. There is even one designed to look like a traditional Swiss sheep farm (yes I did say Swiss) with real sheep, farm shop, windmill (because that’s the first thing we think off when we think of Switzerland) , and archery range (???).
After a visit to some waterfalls which involved some climbing and was really cool because there were no tourists about I was casually asked if I would like to go to the Myanmar border. Hell yes I thought. We drove back to where we had started and he swapped his truck for this bigger jeep with a really high wheel base and off we set. First stop was his friend who loaded the back with boxes of tiles. Ah I thought. It to put weight on the back to help us get through wet roads by giving the back more grip. Then off we set through the backroads up into the jungle and through into the mountains.
Our first stop was a little village with a school run by monks that had a little outdoor gymnasium. I was told that many Myanmar children came to this school for an education that they cannot get in their home village. The gym had punch bags and them small gloves that Asians use for Mu Thai boxing. Chan decided it would be fun to try a pair of gloves on and give me a good kicking. Literally she did nothing but kick me for the next 3 minutes despite me grabbing her foot every time she did leaving her hopping. She was convinced she had to show the Thai superiority in the sport which was fine with me. We stopped both breathless me declaring it a draw and Chan convinced she had won despite neither of us landing a blow.
Above the village was a small temple with pagoda. They went up in the jeep and I made my way via the hundred or so stairs. It was peaceful and quiet, no tourists, no locals just us. The pagoda was quite beautiful, all in gold with a black Buddha wearing a gold sash in front. After a rest for a bit it was back into the jeep and off we went.
The road was in an incredibly bad condition with ruts and drops a few feet deep in some places. I could see why we needed the jeep. Eventually the road headed into deeper jungle until we came to a sign many kilometers in where we stopped for photos. I was told this was the sign telling people this was the end of Thai controlled land. We climbed back into the jeep and continued past the sign to turn around I thought. Eventually we came out the jungle into the Myanmar, side much to my surprise. Where we encountered soldiers, much to my surprise. Who turned out to be really friendly, much to my relief. We were allowed to take photos but told in not too uncertain terms not to publish any of them on the internet with the soldiers. I played safe and took no more. Being the only falang there and still very unsure of my situation I decided to play safe. Some of the head people came out to great us wearing the lungi a kind of wrap around skirt popular with men in India. I was later to find that one of these men was in fact a general.
The road from the jungle lead down and then up a slight rise with what looked like raised steps being built on the right hand side and building work being done at the top. We followed this road to the top and stopped. Then the workmen and soldiers gathered around with big friendly grins welcoming us and they then proceeded to remove the tiles from the back of the jeep that I had forgotten about. They were not for ballast on the uneven road as I had though but there for the Myanmar people for the pagoda they was building. Our driver had found a way to kill two birds (and one Hobo from heart attack) with one stone.
Eventually we turned the jeep around and headed back with plenty of smiles from these friendly people. As we was leaving I felt brave enough to have one picture taken of our road as it headed out through this small village and back into the jungle. We left as the sun started to set on Myanmar.
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