My friend in Mae Salong

In between jobs (a nice way to say jobless) after a tough Beijing assignment, I decided to pack and head for Northern Thailand to take a break. To conserve my financial resources and to kill time which I had aplenty, I planned to go on a shoe string budget.

A friend of mine suggested that I visit his friend in Mae Salong, where I could use it as a base to visit elsewhere in the north. I had to do it solo as most people could not afford the time. Taking bus, train and bus again from Kuala Lumpur all the way to Chiang Rai was no fun. By the time I reached Phitsanulok, I had already covered 1840 KM.

Phitsanulok is 1840 KM from Kuala Lumpur.

A Chinese gentleman was kind enough to give me a ride from the junction to Mae Salong on his motorcycle. My friends’ friend, Mr. Mok was there to meet me at Ban Kang, half way to Mae Salong Town.

Mae Salong

Mok is a kind man in his mid-sixties. I was forewarned that I will have to lend him my ears to listen to his history starting from the days when he was a soldier with the Kuo Min Tang army, fighting the Chinese Communist army. I jokingly told him that if I had the patient to read the book “Roots” by Alex Haley, I would have no problem with him recounting his history. Breakfast and dinner times are when I had my “Mok-story”.

I found Mok a man of contradiction. While he always spoke of Chinese traditions and culture, I found that his actions were not in lined as how a Malaysian Chinese would see it. Malaysian Chinese tend to be very patriarchal while I find the Thai more flexible, where a woman’s position in a family is sometimes more important than the man’s.

Mok has a son, a daughter-in-law and 3 grandsons living with him. His daughter-in-law is from one of the minority races from Burma. The son is in his mid-twenties, who is not working and spent most of his time idling and playing with kids. Although the family kept a few pigs and chicken, the work of feeding the animals were done by the wife.

Mok has at least 5 daughters, mostly working in Bangkok and Haadyai. One of them has a 9-year old son who lived with Mok. I found out that the boy has ‘Mok’ as the family name, something Malaysian Chinese will find strange, as the boy’s family name should follow that of his father, and not his grandfather on the maternal side, ie Mok.

Life is very simple and frugal for the Moks. The vegetables were grown and harvested from the hills nearby. Rice and meat were purchased from the market nearby. We ate almost the same food which was cooked the same way for the 3 daily meals.

We had our daily meals here

I stayed for 4 days with them, spending time in Mae Sai, Mae Salong town and also played with the kids in a school nearby. On one of the nights I went to Mae Salong town to have a drink, and it was there that I befriended a few Farangs from London. Before I left for Chiang Mai, I gave 1000 bahts to his daughter-in-law and another 500 Bahts to Mok’s youngest daughter who was bound for a university in Bangkok. When I reached Chiang Mai, I received a call from my ex-boss asking me to go back for a new contract.

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