A trip to Salawin (Thanlwin) river which flows along the deep valley between forest covered hills of Thailand
and Myanmar is more like meeting different cultures, religions, languages and social status loosely mixed
in a place where natural scenery is one of the most beautiful in south east Asia. Accommodations are basic, often
spartan and transport in the non-tourist season is not very convenient unless you rent a whole car or boat.
A view from the road: Mae Sariang to Mae Samleab. Rice paddy fields, bamboo farm-huts with the backdrop
of hills after hills.
Right: the containers of cooking oil imported from Malaysia waiting to be sent to Myanmar on the Salawin river -
Mae Samleab (also spelled Mae Sam Laeb or Mae Sam Laep) is a village between Salawin (Thanlwin) river
and the hills of southern Mae Hong Son province. It is an hour drive from Mae Sariang.
Most of the houses are made of wood and are usually of two storey.
People are Karen (Kayin), Shan or Thai Yai, Indian, Thai and other minorities. Walking along the street you will
likely to hear conversations in two or more different languages. Indian foods such as "Charparty", and Betel nut
can be had in some shops. The family members of the restaurant cum shop-house where I ate speak Karen,
Thai, Myanmar and Shan.
A typical living room in Mae Samleab. These houses sit on stilts on the slope of the river shoreline. On the opposite
are hills and trees, and then the village road between the cliff and the houses.
School and temple are on the
higher ground. When I visited there in the last week of August 2005, there was no permanent electricity supply,
some homes had solar power generators and a very few with own oil engine generators.
I saw a pretty young Muslim lady in Myanmar style makeup on her cheeks.
When I asked to take a photo she politely declined.