Sunday, April 20, 2014

Me, the Mountains, and the Mae Hong Son Sunrise

"We had to start setting up the bonfire nightly two days ago," the lady at the lodge said. A fellow traveler who had arrived a couple of days earlier confirmed it, too: the last couple of days was remarkably cold.

The dinners we ordered were being served as I and a few other travelers sat cross-legged at the low communal table of this large open-air mountain lodge. For the first time in the year, I donned my sweater plus my jacket just to cope with the 8°C weather.

Any place else I wouldn't have felt weird wearing so many layers. It was already December after all. But I was in Thailand. Nobody told me it got this cold in Thailand.

Which was why the next morning, I found it strange, almost unnatural, getting out of a warm, comfortable bed at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. (the coldest hour of the day), layering up, and heading out.

But really, how could I ever pass up a sunrise in the mountains?

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
Catching the sunrise in Mae Hong Son, Thailand

I was traveling through the mountainous province of Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand. The long north-south province shares much of its border with Shan state in Myanmar. The mountains here as well as those in Shan country are often considered the southernmost foothills of the Himalayas.

It certainly felt like being back in the Himalayas that freezing cold morning. I and a few other Cave Lodge guests were in a song thaew, a Thai pick-up truck, snaking through narrow roads passing through small houses all covered in morning fog and mist. The road rose higher and higher until the air cleared. The truck then stopped by a dirt track. The sunrise viewing spot was through here.

We settled on a clearing which overlooked a valley. It was still quite dark, but already, I saw we were high above where the fog and mist accumulated through the nooks and crannies of the low-lying hills and mountains.

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
High above where the fog and mist accumulated in the valley

"Would you like some coffee or tea?" the song thaew driver asked.

"Coffee," I said, but really, my heart was more like, "For the love of god, hand me anything hot. I can't feel my fingers anymore."

I sat as I sipped my coffee but the wait wasn't long really. Before I realized it, a small yellow disk slowly rose from the mountains and bathed everything gold. The sky, the mist, the hills, the trees, and the foliage.

Welcome to Mae Hong Son, I told myself. A new day was beginning and already I was falling in love with this place.

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
The sky turned from dark to muted blue. The show was about to begin.

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
Looking southeast towards Chiang Mai province

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
Trees and plants were somewhat dry during Thailand's "winter."

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
And the sun bathed everything gold. A new day had begun in Mae Hong Son, Thailand.


Where did you experience your most spectacular sunrise?


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