Mae Sot Reservoir

I especially remember this bike trip as it was the last one I made with the kids before I took off on a ‘wild hare’ of a trip of my own to China for six weeks. I am lucky to have the luxury of such freedom. None of the kids at the shelter in Thailand could manage such a trip — but, maybe that will happen, too, in the course of time. I hope so. Having been so impulsive all my life I’ve finally figured out why I take all these ‘side trips’ in life. Russians are supposed to think and write this way — in a zig-zag fashion. Or, maybe it is like a chess move — thought out several moves ahead. Yet, a train trip is the western style of writing and thinking — one ‘engine’ or ‘idea’ pulling the whole ‘train of thought’ on its straight line path to a pre-ordained conclusion or destination. It seems a terminally boring way to go through life I think! I’d prefer to be floating down the Moei River — letting the river’s twists and turns pull me gently downstream. It is ‘Go With The Flow’ time — a trip I hope to start later this year — but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.


This wasn’t the first time we’ve made this trip. Katie will remember the time we took almost all of the kids up to the lake — but in April of 2007 just before monsoon when the lake was at its lowest. Then, we could play with the younger kids on the mud flats that stretched for half of the reservoir’s length. Now, it was February and there was more water in the lake. This reservoir lies to the south of Mae Sot and is on the edge of the hills that stretch off into that direction. The road up to the reservoir winds its way along the flat until it ends up at the base of the dam. From there, the road continues past the reservoir and goes up into the hills to the next village. I’ve also been there before. It is the site of Pataravitaya School’s retreat center. The village is mostly Karen and I remember visiting it when I first arrived in Mae Sot in February of 2006 with students from Pataravitaya. We spent the day collecting rocks from the stream that feeds the Mae Sot reservoir to be used in building retreat huts up in that village. I have already made one bike trip up to that village and hope to take the kids camping there in October of 2008 — at least that’s the plan. I have already purchased a complete bicycle repair kit (all the tools needed to work on bikes) and have it ready for use. I also made bike trips up to the reservoir in October 2006 with the first few kids that I helped out at the shelter. At that time, the lake was full of water and we rejoiced in a cool shower in the waters flowing down the agricultural canals heading for Mae Sot. The picture here is of Tun Tun Oo — one of the first two Burmese I befriended, along with Pio Way Oo. We’ll never forget that first trip to the lake or the refreshing dip in the cool, clean waters.


But, I have lost myself in the past. I must continue this story — I guess it is one that extends from NOW into all three directions of time — past, present, and future. One of my students that I had taught at Pataravitaya School lives in a resort just near the Mae Sot reservoir. The school had recently had its English Camp there and so I was a guest teacher at that event. That is how I found another lovely spot near Mae Sot. I thought it would be a nice trip for the kids at the shelter. By this time, we had about a dozen bikes in various stages of repair and the boys could manage a day-long trip. It is a three hour ride from our village, Tamahaw, to the reservoir, and the road parallels the main road from Mae Sot to Mywaddi but veers off to the south once we reach the edge of Mae Sot. The ride to the resort was fairly typical of our bike trips — we meander along and stop for a rest here and there or a cold drink. Once at the resort, it was lunch time. I had decided to take the boys out to eat. It was their first real nice restaurant experience. I think they enjoyed the meal. We only had shrimp-fried rice and Thai seafood soup — not much of a meal that most of us foreigners would talk about but for us a ‘big deal’ with actual service. It wasn’t expensive either — 500 baht for all ten of us with drinks included. It is easy to forget how much we actually ‘devalue’ nutritious food back home in the West. I would never take these kids to a McDonalds or KFC — even it it was the last restaurant left on Earth!


After lunch, we relaxed a while and discovered that one of our bikes had a flat. It was not possible to repair it since the tube had simply split. My student agreed to bring the bike back to school with him on Monday. We were down to one less bike but that doesn’t usually stop us. We just double up on another bike and keep on going. The resort has lovely grounds and a lot of playground equipment — maybe the first time the boys had seen such an environment. We are now building a playground at the shelter (September 2008) and the younger kids will soon have a safe place to play. They won’t have to clamber on the backs of old trucks that drop their ‘beds’ unexpectedly on our front lawn, becoming part of the local ‘trash’.


After playing a while, we got back on the bikes and went to explore the hills above the reservoir. We discovered a Buddhist temple up on the hill. The boys and I wandered around and also met a group of Thai soldiers camped out on top of the hill. They seemed to have every kind of military truck, satellite dish, and computers stashed away there behind the big ‘Buddha’ on the hill. They didn’t mind us and we didn’t mind them. The view of the reservoir from up on the hill is splendid and you can see the stream that feeds it. This is the Thailand I will always remember as I start north again in December 2008.


We have also lost or destroyed almost all of our old bicycles.  At one time, we had twelve of them in working order.  This is not true any longer — most of them are only good to be sold for scrap metal.  Even with the bike tool kit I brought with me I think only a couple are salvageable.  Our kids are ‘hard’ on stuff.  It has to be almost indestructible to pass the ‘kids use’ test.  So, I had decided to buy bikes again — another second hand bike per month as it could be afforded.  Tezo got the first one I bought yesterday.  The children have been instructed that bikes ‘will continue to appear’ with each visit from Dhane — but only if the bikes we have are still in working condition when he arrives at the shelter.  Some of the older children can now use the bike tools I have purchased to repair the bikes and start learning responsibility.  I would have had them learn ‘self-reliance’ but we all too quickly forget how to do that — how can we ‘re-member’ it comes from within and not from someone we project it onto.  Our true friends are here and alive in THIS life and not off in  some ego-projected Heaven.



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