Make way for formalities! There’s a lot of people, it seems a little confusing, and everything is done a little at the same time: the customs officials of Mae Sai ask us for the papers of the vehicle, the permit, and are happy when we take our customs passage booklet out, even if it is not officially required to enter the country. While waiting for their feedback, we fill out the entry forms, then go to the counter where our passports will be quickly stamped with the 30-day visa waiver. The customs officials return fairly quickly with the temporary import certificate. Done, officially admitted to the ancient kingdom of Siam very close to the Golden Triangle, and very close to the border posts with Laos! And as expected, without too much hassle with the import of the vehicle, which is far from being easy at other points of entry, where the law of 2016 imposing a traffic permit is more applied.
We relax by having a first series of “made in Thai street food” soups, which will allow us to get an overview of the strength of the bath and the standard of living, which have increased significantly over the past year, and even more since our last stay with 3 of us in 2012. We are delighted to taste the impeccable bitumen, again on the left side of the road after the Burmese interlude, before stopping for a night near a small shopping area.
We take our time the next day, but not too much, because we have an appointment! Mike and Carole, a Swiss couple who crossed Myanmar a few months earlier with the same agency, are waiting for us at Ban Thung Sai, 120km away. With a few stops to admire the view of the ocher waters of the Mekong, surrounded by mountains with fertile slopes, we arrive there at the end of the afternoon, a little surprised by the night which falls quickly. The welcome committee is awesome: our new bivouac companions welcome us with their Thai friends Kung and Nang. Everyone has just completed a new day filled with the renovations of the future restaurant, and it is with pleasure that we join them for the aperitif, then the delicious meal cooked by Nang: sautéed rice and Kaeng khiao wan (green curry soup), accompanied by the unbeatable rice, steamy and sticky. We thoroughly enjoy it, in the company of the rest of the family, the grandpa and his sister.
We discover the very pretty decor in the early morning: the beautiful structure of bamboo, wood and palm leaves of the future Sala (restaurant) on two levels dominates very green rice fields, a rambutan orchard (fruit close to lychee), a small wood full of bamboo, a small plot of corn and of course the family house and its small vegetable garden. After the essential discussions on the trip, the team goes back to work, while we inspect the truck: the chassis repair done in Myanmar has not changed, bad news, however, at the front: a beautiful crack on the bar supporting the air intake and the shock absorbers, which had already taken a hit when the shock absorbers were broken in Manali. A few more kilometers, and it would have probably been a complete breakdown!
Well, it looks like we’re going to be staying a few more days than previously planned. Fortunately, the framework for this new extended stop is great, which is good, in the end, as it was high time for us to put our feet down a little after the last few weeks chaining the kilometers! Here we go: unloading the cabin, including the bikes with which the children can again have fun with the children of the neighborhood.
The 15 days that will follow will be punctuated by repairs on the truck (finally entirely made by Loïc, for lack of having found a good welding workshop nearby), disassembly of the motorcycle (which still does not start), giving a hand to the Sala crew, back and forth to the market, and to the DIY stores of the village, the school sessions, and always the shared meals for lunch and especially (early) in the evening on the floor of the living room, in front of the Thai boxing matches or news from the royal family.
A rather zen-ish start, trying to get used to this rural rhythm of going to bed early/getting up early, without much success, tasting rambutan (picked while defying the inevitable biting insects of the small woods, we will understand the reason behind the very covering outfits that the locals wear), peeling the huge and very good grapefruits, observing the nature that surrounds us, or even watching the tata emptying the tadpoles caught in the rice field.
All under a beautiful and warm sun (we’re a bit jealous of Mike and Carole’s air con), if we do not take into account two well-watered days, which will fill the rice fields a little and reassure Kung, worried about his future harvests after a monsoon not very generous in rains.
But we are already halfway through our visas, it’s high time to get back on the road! A good day to repack everything, fill up with water, and, ballasted with two beautiful pounds of sticky rice and fruits offered by the family, we say goodbye to Carole (Mike unfortunately had to return for family reasons), to the family and to the neighbors who have made us feel so welcome, wishing them the best for the future restaurant!
In our agenda: small visit of the region of Chiang Rai, then direction Bangkok for a new artistic session, and, less fun, a big administrative piece, that of our visas for China!