Sometimes you start a journey with the best of intentions and expectations. Sometimes it all falls a bit flat. You have dreams of a fun little road trip – two motorbikes, three people, more than enough cameras, and the promise of tea tasting and charming hilltop villages.
It will be great, you think. Just think of the photos we’ll get and the chance to share a place many travelers don’t know about!
And, if you just look at the photos, it would look like a success.
What the photos don’t show is getting stopped by the police, paying a bribe then having a mirror fly off one motorbike on the highway within 15 minutes of leaving Chiang Mai. Or the other motorbike dying on the side of a mountain near the Burmese border and start rolling backward leaving the rider (me) waiting on the side of the road until the other two realize I’m not arriving when I should be and come back to save me. They don’t show the hours spent driving back and forth between the dead motorbike, small mechanic shop and final destination. Or the bug bites. Or the rain. Or then getting to the fabled village, wandering through the whole thing in about 30 minutes and not finding the tea tastings or steaming bowls of Yunnan noodles we were promised. Not really post-worthy.
Often travel isn’t dreamy photos of someone looking out from a misty mountaintop or splashing in the sea. More often it’s early wake up calls, things not going quite as planned and mysterious bug bites. Sometimes it’s more work than it seems worth in the moment.
At the same time, if you have good people around you, nothing can ever be that bad.
And it’s good “learning experience”.
Visiting Baan Rak Thai
Originally I was planning to write a post about Baan Rak Thai with details on how to visit and what to do during your stay, but my time there ended up being so short (due to getting in late because of the dead bike then having to leave first thing in the morning to catch the one songthaew out of town so I could make my way back to Chiang Mai) and there really isn’t too much to write about from a visitor’s perspective. The village is located in Mae Hong Song province near the Thai-Burmese border and was founded by Kuomintang Chinese soldiers who were allowed to stay by the Thai government if they helped protect Thailand from communist China. Because of this, the village has a distinctly Chinese feel and, while we found it a little disappointing, is a surprising find – you don’t feel like you’re in Thailand.
If you’re interested in visiting Baan Rak Thai, I’d suggest doing it as a day trip (with your own transportation) from Mae Hong Song town or as part of your Mae Hong Son loop motorbike trip. Shops selling tea, souvenirs and dried or pickled fruits are open during the day for shopping and tea tasting, and the Mae Hong Son area is beautiful to drive through (assuming your bike doesn’t die).You don’t need to stay overnight – there’s really not much here to begin with, things shut down early, and accommodation options are slim with lower-quality rooms at higher prices than most other parts of the country.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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