I'm here in Mae Sot (again) after a hellish four-hour sangtaew ride from Um Phang. More on that later. But first, let's talk about the waterfall!!
Nam Tok Ti Lo Su was absolutely the most stunning waterfall I've ever seen. At about 900m high, it's Thailand's largest waterfall and, for me, the most beautiful. I woke up early on Sunday and rafted down the Um Phang river for about four hours. It was a surreal trip because we passed many limestone cliffs covered with ferns and streaming with water, making for some gorgeous scenery. The river itself was not a big rafting challenge. We only hit one decent sized rapid and the rest of the trip was essentially a float trip, but it was still very fun all the same. I saw many wild orchids (which were not in bloom), colorful birds, large beehives and effervescent dragonflies along the way. We also got a chance to soak in a natural hotsprings, which felt great since it was an overcast day.
Anyway, after about four hours we landed and waited by a dirt road for a truck that was supposed to pick us up and take us the rest of the way, about 12km. But, no truck! We waited for over an hour, then decided to start walking and hopefully the truck would pick us up along the way. So off we went on the dirt road through the jungle, which turned out to be very pretty with lots of flowers and bamboo and ferns. After about 45min or so our truck (well, a truck) came up behind us and picked us up. Turns out the original truck had broken down, so a replacement had to be found, which was why the driver was so late. I didn't mind, but I soon found out how the first truck had probably broken down. The road was truly awful, with deep ruts, boulders, streams, and lots of mud making for one bouncy ride. I was in back, holding onto the roll bars for dear life and trying not to get jolted out of the seat. For me it was very fun, since I've never experienced a ride like that before, but I can't imagine how tiring it would be to drive that road several times a week.
Anyway, after about an hour we arrived to the trailhead to the waterfall. The guide had informed me that there was a group of three trekkers who I could join up with if I wanted to, which would allow me to camp overnight then take a three hour hike with them the next day. I had happily agreed, since I thought it was the perfect way to have more time outdoors without visiting the village, as I mentioned in the previous journal. Well, upon meeting the trio, who were already at the trailhead having lunch, I changed my mind. They seemed nice enough, but it was barely noon and they were all drinking whiskey from a bottle and were clearly buzzed. As I ate lunch beside them I overheard them cracking up about the crazy things that they had said the night before, when they were apparently drunk and high on opium. As much as I wanted to hike, there was no way I was going to do it with these people, so unfortunatley I decided to return to the guesthouse that night:-(
After lunch we walked 45 min to the waterfall, which was absolutely the highlight of my day. It was so big and the water was so blue; I was in waterfall heaven! I hiked up to one of the pools more suitable for swimming, but I didn't stay in the water too long because the current was so very strong that I didn't feel comfortable with my ability to swim in the swirling waters. So most of the time I sat on a rock and enjoyed feeling the mist on my face. There was a group of novice monks that were goofing off in the water near me, and they all came over so that they could take pictures with the "farong." It was a lovely experience that reminded me that monks are people, too:-)
After about an hour and a half, I walked back to the waiting truck, which followed the same bumpy path back to the highway. After stopping at a roadside stand and buying a bag of the best oranges I've ever had, it was back to the guesthouse and off to bed for me.
This morning I woke up and headed off pretty early to go back to Mae Sot. The ride back was way worse than the ride there when it came to my nausea, and I spent the entire ride with my head down, breathing hard and trying my best not to vomit. I was not the only one feeling the effects of the ride; the lady across from me kept throwing up, as did the poor girl next to me. Needless, to say, I was glad when I got off the truck.
Today I spent time wandering around the market in Mae Sot and I visited a clinic that gives free medical care to Burmese refugees. Tomorrow I'm going to head North towards Mae Hong Son, but I'm not sure how far I'll get. I'll keep ya posted!