A Stinking Hot Day In Burma
It was a stinking hot day in Mae Sot. Myself and Phim were excited because today we were going to cross the border into Burma for the day. She had been to Laos for a day on her ID card, where, I never found out but today would be the her 1st time out of her homeland with me.
We'd met in Nana Plaza 10 months ago and now we were on an extended holiday. I was to return to Thailand earlier but a nasty bicycle accident intervened and I'd spent months recovering and getting fit.
We drove down to the bridge and asked what the go was for her to get into Burma. A quick dash up the road to a government office and 5 minutes later she had the needed paperwork.
The car was parked outside the nearby police station and soon we were on the bridge walking towards the evil little empire. Phim seemed to be filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation whilst I was just excited to be going somewhere new and different. Soon her instincts would be proven correct. Whilst on the bridge a rather strange little man caught up with us and started to talk to me in very good English. Phim wasn't happy about this and I myself was very wary, stranger danger and all that. He was pumping me for detailed info about myself, my travels, my occupation etc. just the usual stuff any scammer might want to know. Maybe he worked for the government or he was just a friendly local. Who knows? but he soon disappeared on the Burmese side possibly believing I am world renowned vampire hunter or not.
We did the border paperwork and were soon in our second country of the morning. As we walked along the footpath we came across a gaggle of samlor (rickshaw) drivers waiting for customers. I kept walking up the hill but one young guy ignored my protestations and followed us. He seemed ok despite being leaner than an over-raced greyhound and his smile grew when a price of 40 baht was agreed upon for a trip to the market.
Phim was rather proud when the market turned out to be smelly, dirty and bereft of anything worth purchasing. Thai markets were clearly superior she opined. Yes indeed, in fact everything in Myawaddy seemed rather inferior to Thailand except the view over the river. Surely being a border town it must be relatively prosperous so I can't imagine what the rest of the country is like.
Our driver's name was Toon, and he agreed to take us around town for 200 baht for the day. After a trip to a wat I demanded to be taken to Myawaddy's finest eatery for some top notch nosh. Toon had obviously been following local culinary trends because we soon rocked up to a packed ristorante. Ak47s were the must have accessory with lots of the local police in attendance so I felt our security needs had been well catered for. Management quickly arranged for one of its best (plastic) tables to be made available and Toon joined us despite claiming not to be hungry. The food was quite a disappointment but what Phim and I didn't eat, Toon soon did. The poor bastard obviously hadn't eaten well in a while so I ordered him a few more dishes which he quickly cleaned up.
Back to the mighty samlor, it was time to see the rest of the sights which of course turned out to be more wats. Oh Joy I thought but after a short journey down a side street and up a hill we arrived at a rather impressive and large structure, a crocodile surrounded by a moat. It looked out of place to be sure, like one of those ridiculous "big" things you might find on the side of a highway in Australia. The big banana, the big pineapple and so forth. A quick visit to the nearby Buddha followed which dazzled us with its LED display. Phim made a donation to ensure our happy travels would continue.
We walked through a collection of huts and houses to the next wat where we admired the view back to Thailand. On the way back the local kids were playing takraw so I joined in and kindly let them thrash me. Emboldened by their victory two small football goals appeared and a new challenge was issued. My team consisted of all weedy little kids and the odd girl up against the cream of the local boys. I managed to bag two early goals, Mark Viduka style and despite repeated raids on our goal we managed to keep a clean sheet and earn a famous victory. Like any good WAG Phim suggested now would be a good time for a drink, just short of heat stoke I concurred. We walked back to Big Croc where Phim and I got back on the samlor for the journey down the hill into town.
Phim weighed about 44 kg and on this day I was about 84 kg. I was sitting above one of the front wheels and Phim the other. Samlors aren't made for speeding down hills with this sort of weight differential and towards the bottom of the hill we developed a sphincter tightening case of the speed wobbles, but for a second Toon seemed to have regained control but alas he hadn't. Just as a motorcycle coming the other way passed us the inevitable happened and the samlor tipped over throwing me off on the high side and Phim straight on to the road narrowly missing the motorcycle. Surprisingly I got straight up, I was ok. Oh Jesus Phim. She was laying on the road face down. Toon was also on his feet now and he went to lift Phim up but fearing spinal damage or the like I stopped him. Visions of her face being horribly disfigured raced through my mind but she slowly got up, revealing an abrasion on her cheek which wasn't too bad. It actually looked like someone had punched her in the faced and it was starting to swell up. We embraced Hollywood style as she sobbed for a couple of minutes as a small crowd of interested locals watched on then she decided that it was time to return to Thailand post-haste. That meant getting back on the samlor which was damaged, we went along slowly but it was in need of repair and Toon swapped his with another drivers.
On the way back to the main drag I made a check of our injuries. We'd all lost skin from the palms of our hands where we'd put our hands out to break our fall. This is the classic way to break your collar bone, the force travels up your arm and snap, but we'd all been lucky although Toon had lost a lot of skin on his. All 3 of us had abrasions on our arms as well but Phim was naturally only worried about her face which she wouldn't stop touching and kept asking me how bad it was, refusing to believe she was scarred for life.
Toon wanted to take us his house and nearly did but I insisted that we go to a chemist. He wouldn't budge so I paid him and we set off on foot hoping to see a chemist on the way back to the border post. I don't know if there is a chemist in Myawaddy but I never saw one but did chance upon a dentists of sorts. It was a filthy place but the kindly dentist did have some alcohol looking stuff in a bottle and I bravely stepped forward to have some applied to my hand and arm. That shit stung like a mother****** and the resident medical professional seemed pleased when I winced like a girl, Phim not so much because she was next. Cue more pain, tears and hugging.
After thanking the generous doctor profusely it was back to the primary objective of getting out of this backward third world hell hole into, um, well, what counts for civilisation in these parts. We made it back to the border post office and whilst I was getting my passport back Phim found a mirror where she was fixated. I had to drag her away from it so she could do her paperwork and when finished she went straight back to the mirror and promptly burst into tears.
"Out! out! out!" said one of the bemused border guards. I was happy to comply. So we slowly walked back over the bridge, Phim sobbing away and everyone who passed us shooting me dirty looks as I'd clearly gone the knuckle on her. Talk about the walk of shame!
Back in Mae Sot we went to a chemist then our guesthouse but Phim was still badly shaken and had a sore jaw so I insisted she go to the hospital for a check-up. Within 5 minutes she'd seen a doctor who gave her an X-ray, an injection, more pills and the all clear. I wanted to go back the next day to check on Toon to give him some extra cash for his troubles and go see his house and visit his mum, all off which I was hoping to do the previous day but it never happened for various reasons. Whenever I look at the scar on my arm I wonder how he's getting on the poor bastard.
Ah, what's a few scratches. It's all part of the adventure. Of course you were lucky and it could have been much worse. I don't wish to sound callous but it must have looked rather comical. I mean, I have never heard of a samlor crashing like that before!