Chinese New Year on the Burmese Border - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 28, 2017

Chinese New Year on the Burmese Border

Na Wai to Arunothai

Chinese New Year in Arunothai on the Burmese Border

We know we are indeed staying at a nice place when breakfast is included. It was a good thing too because our guest house was out in the country on a hill and not near any restaurants. It was doubtful we would have found anything other than noodle soup in the small nearby village.

The town we were going to ride to, Arunothai, was only nine miles away which meant we could linger over breakfast and get acquainted with Coleen and Chris from Singapore with whom we would be cycling. None of us could travel further than Arunothai because of the steep hills beyond which we would have to tackle but that was a day in itself. There were few, if any, places to stay in the hills beyond Arunothai so we were definitely wanted to stay there.

Breakfast was basic but good. The setting was outstanding at an outside table with views of hills and valley bathed in the rising sun’s warmth. Chris was very happy about bacon being served. I pointed out to him that it was only a nine mile day. He didn’t care and downed the bacon with gusto. We all followed his lead. We four seemed to be quite compatible and there would be no problems traveling as a group. We have never ridden with other people so we had been naturally a bit apprehensive. Andrea and I are definitely loners - loners together.

Although we wanted to linger longer in the beautiful setting of Baan Famui Bungalows we were a bit worried about finding available rooms in Arunothai. From Google Maps we could see that there was in fact one guest house but we didn’t know if there would be a vacancy. Our concern centered on the fact that it was Chinese New Year that very day, a time when the many tourists who had been on the move stay put for New Year’s Day.

Saying good-bye to our fancy bungalow at Baan Famui Bungalows.
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We didn't stay long enough to even sit on our porch.
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It was another gorgeous day and the road was flat to gently rolling. We were entering a landscape that looked a bit different somehow. It’s interesting how at the outer edges of a country things change slightly. The landscape, architecture, type of crops, the way land is cleared and farmed and the look of the people. My sense of adventure is awakened in these areas. I don’t quite know what to expect but I know it will be subtly different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s the feeling of being out there, far from popular tourist routes.

Here I felt a mixture of nearby areas I’ve been to such as Kyaing Tong in Myanmar and Muang Sing in Laos. I was also feeling Yunnan Province, China.

The landscape changes as we near Arunothai, Thailand.
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Lots of corn grown in the area.
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Very near Arunothai.
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Descending into Arunothai, Thailand.
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When we passed through the city gates to Arunothai it felt as if we were entering a Chinese town. As we coasted into town there was no question about it, we were definitely in a Chinese town. If the walls around all the houses with their inner courtyards were not enough of a giveaway then all the red lanterns and colorful rooster images at the entrances to each house or store was proof. There were also piles of spent firecracker casings littering the streets. And every woman and little girl was wearing a bright new red dress. Residents were obviously in holiday mode and were roaming the streets eating special foods and visiting friends. Arunothai was a festive place.

The Year of the Rooster has begun.
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Two very shy girls.
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The two very shy girls went home and brought their brother to shield them from us.
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Running home with their New Year's treats.
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The thing was, I had no prior knowledge or even an inkling that Arunothai was a Chinese town! Since it is right on the Burmese border I assumed the town would have a decidedly Burmese or at least a Shan bent to it. However I saw no Burmese of any sort. It seemed pretty much Chinese.

But it all makes sense. If I had thought about it for say, a minute, I would have realized that there was a good possibility that a town on the Burmese border might inhabit descendants of the Kuomintang Army (KMT Army). I know that the remnants of the KMT, which fought in China’s civil war in the south under Chiang Kai-shek, ended up in towns near Thailand’s northern borders. There are large numbers of the descendants in nearby Santikhiri and a town near Chiang Khong, Thailand. This must also be true of Arunothai.

The KMT mostly escaped to Taiwan but a small group decided they would stay in Burma and make forays into China to try and defeat Mao and his Communist government. They were soundly defeated and settled instead into the opium trade in Burma. They controlled the opium trade in fact but eventually the Burmese government pushed them into Thailand because the Burmese government wanted control of the opium which they retain today. Very lucrative for Burma and they have added meth production to their portfolio in the northern areas just over the border from Thailand. But that’s all another story.

We did indeed find rooms at the Arunothai Guest House. From the way the owner was frantically cleaning rooms I think it’s safe to say that the place may have been full the night before. I’m telling myself that was the case because it would then justify my decision to stop early and take the guest house at hand last night even though it was expensive. I hate wandering around looking for a place to sleep especially now having sent our tent home.

Our humble room.
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The owner of the guest house was quite nice, lively and happy to have us. It’s always nice to feel welcomed. The rooms were very humble but fine with us. We had arrived so early in the day that we had plenty of time to leisurely find lunch and explore the town and area.

A dragon was making its rounds dancing through the town blessing homes and businesses for the new year. After the dragon danced in front of each house or store the accompanying troupe sang a little song. I thought it was interesting that their only instrument was an accordion. Lots of firecrackers also accompanied each stop of the dragon’s in order to scare away bad spirits and help assure the new year would be a good one.

New Year's dances.
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Unfortunately the famous noodle shop that Chris had been looking forward to was closed for several days. But we found an excellent little restaurant. With so many restaurants closed they were doing quite a business.

A great little restaurant.
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Pork with basil - Krapow muu.
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Back at our restaurant for another good meal.
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All of us were curious about how loose or controlled the border was with Burma so that was next on our reconnaissance of the town. It turned out that there were no border guards at all. We rode down a dirt road well into Burma and nothing. That’s the way borders should be. Too much of a big deal is made of borders and if everyone ignored them actually no one would know where one country ended and the next began. Wishful thinking….

A Burmese temple. The only Burmese thing I saw in Arunothai.
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We rode our bikes around watching the nearby jagged hills change color. Oh, and there is a big lake in Arunothai and a carnival of sorts that was sort of winding down on one side of the lake. Some dance performances by very young children were still being performed on the stage inside a large building.

After the party by the lake.
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Dance performances still going on.
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We kept riding. The lake was like glass and reminded me a lot of the lake at Kyaing Tong, Burma. We followed near the border and watched more dragon dances in a neighborhood as the sun dropped. It had been an easy and interesting day. I was pleasantly surprised that we were getting to experience a Chinese town and on Chinese New Year even!

lovebruce

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Today's ride: 9 miles (14 km)
Total: 1,707 miles (2,747 km)

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