Yesterday morning I sat at a small coffee stand in Umphang. I was the only farang in sight. My daughter and her mother were shopping at the Karen tribal shop next door. A light rain dotted the street. This was the end of highway 1040, the Highway in the Clouds. There was little reason to remain in Umphang.
During the rainy season everything was shut down.
Sometimes mudslides cut off the town from Mae Sot for days.
One night was enough this time of year.
I’d be driving the same road out as I had driven in.
I asked the pretty woman making coffee, if buses came to Umphang.
“Not anymore.” She recounted how two big buses had crashed in the mountains with a great loss of life. Now the remote community was served by song-thaew pick-ups, which made the trip in three hours.
“Three hours?” That couldn’t be right. It had taken me more than four to cover the 164 kilometer the previous day.
“Chai, and my mother makes the trip every day.” Her old lady transported vegetables to the market in Mae Sot. “She drives fast. Two and a half-hour to Mae Sot.”
I thanked her for this information and told Angie’s mom about this woman.
“Mai farang.” She shook her head. The locals were familiar with every bumps, holes, and stretch of bad road on 1040.
There was no way that a Thai or farang could beat the old lady’s time.
That didn’t stop me from trying.
1040 was 1219 curves from Mae Sot.
I started the engine to the pick-up. I stepped on the gas. Four hours later we arrived in Mae Sot.
Somehow it seemed less, but a known road is always quicker than an unknown road.