October 01, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 12 little horse elder brother

cryptic title of this post is for YK & e cat's reference

[131205] after sunset, YK & e cat headed literally down(slope) e main road in Mae Salong in search of dinner. e shophouses lining e road were shuttered up, & it was almost pitch dark save for e odd light from a home, e harsh fluorescent lighting from e 7-Eleven, & e dim reddish glow from a karaoke place. settled for beef noodle soup (very nice & full of flavour) from a noodle stall run by Chinese Muslims from Yunnan - e only food place that was still open in this corner of town, even though it wasn't even 7.30pm yet.

we sat down to eat at e only table in what could pass off as e lady owner's living room - she called her nephew out to join us at e table, while her mother sat nearby watching karaoke VCDs featuring Teresa Teng concerts, nationalist songs & scenery of China, e country they had left behind over half a century ago. watching such VCDs & singing along as they 怀旧 (reminisce) seems to be a favourite past time of e older generation here. after half a day here, it appeared to us that any elderly person stationed in front of a TV set in Mae Salong would be watching something similar.

they were happy to learn that we could speak Mandarin & recognise Teresa Teng & her songs, & our dinner ended up stretching into a 1.5 hour chat. they share e same surname as e cat's mum, & e nephew spent 2 years working in Kuala Lumpur, during which he heard quite a bit about Singapore, including e infamous chewing gum ban. apart from Cantonese, he also picked up e accent - e cat was really tickled to hear a Muslim ethnic Chinese who grew up as a Thai citizen speaking e Yunnanese dialect & Thai speak Mandarin with a Malaysian accent like its Malaysian Chinese KE7 hostel mates =P

it was close to 8pm when lady owner's son returned home from Xinghua School at e other end of town. e 'double' education system here - 8am to 3pm national school with Thai curriculum, 4.30-7+pm Xinghua School with Chinese curriculum - meant that many Mae Salong Chinese had e option of heading to Taiwan, Malaysia & other places with Chinese communities like Bangkok & Vietnam to work. many Akha in e Mae Salong area can also speak Mandarin, which allows them to find construction jobs in Taiwan, & some of them even send their kids to Xinghua School to pick up Mandarin.

according to lady owner & nephew, most Mae Salong Chinese are pretty well-off, as many in e older generation made their fortunes in e opium trade, & so they could afford to send their kids to Taiwan for college, hire Akhas to work on their tea plantations, & run food stalls, guesthouses & tea shops to pass time.

after we were done with e noodles, they made us try some yellow (soya?) bean mush that they dip 油条 (fried dough fritters) in....felt as if we were visiting relatives rather than having dinner at some noodle stall on a backpacking trip. & then e conversation switched direction as they asked for our surnames & ages, & why we were travelling on our own without our other halves. & then lady owner told her nephew (who was about e same age as us) to take us around Mae Salong on his motorbike, & alarm bells went off in YK's head - she sensed that some 'matchmaking' was in e air....?!

Mae Salong invaded:


this must be one of e closest 7-Elevens to Shan state, since Mae Salong is less than 10km (as e crow flies) from e Burmese border =P in a town without street lighting, people are attracted to it like moths to a flame....e amount of lighting seems almost obscene. immediately to e right of e 7-Eleven is e general provision store that it usurped, where we found stuff like green tea milk (cat addiction) for cheaper prices =P

junk food:

photo by YK

always had some junk food & instant cup porridge/noodles with us as back-up in case we got stuck without food. a lot of green tea stuff ;)

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