240km, 3 punctured tyres and 1 lost number plate later

28th February 2017

Up high in the mountains, as the sun began to set on the forests of Mae Hong Son stranded at the side of the dusty broken road two foreigners sat far from home. No not the beginning of a dramatic film but a glimpse into the reality of the Karen living deep in the forests of Sao Hin. 

‘Reaching the isolated’ is one phrase that you might (hopefully) have recently seen littered across KHT literature. The true meaning of this is one that we learnt as we spent a weekend journeying into the region of Sao Hin. A Karen district where some villages lie over 100km from the nearest town and hospital. 


A Journey to Remember 

In convoy our team set off from the town of Mae Sariang in two 4x4s stacked with supplies. Led by Salahae and Nootsabar, our Karen staff, we covered over 200km to reach the most remote villages KHT has worked in to date. A journey which we quickly learnt is not for the faint hearted as we bumped along rocky roads and splashed through river beds. 

Along the way we passed through checkpoints, as Sao Hin is a stones throw from the Myanmar border, and is within Sao Hin National Park. A gateway which declares the names of ten Karen villages. In reality however, there an estimated 22 dotted through the district, many unacknowledged by the Thai government. 

With no road signs and barely a road to speak of, the knowledge of Salahae truly came to light as he perfectly guided us around the region. This gave us the chance to see our very first Karen villages and the impact of KHT projects. 

KHT team ready for action

A warm welcome

Our team was welcomed in by the villagers of Ban Na Pa Pae as we spent a night with the community experiencing the warmth of Karen hospitality and the colours of their culture. 

A village which is over 100km from the nearest town, has no electricity and lives off the fields surrounding the 24 houses and one Catholic Church dotted along the dusty road. Separated from the nearest health centre by a dangerous journey means keeping villagers healthy in Sao Hin is a key priority for KHT which is why we found ourselves trying out KHT latrines and clean water taps in Ban Na Pa Pae. 

Mountain side toilets and irrigation

After awaking to the screeches of a cockerel and the smell of breakfast being cooked over an open fire we were brought the unfortunate news that not one but two of our tyres had succumbed to the perils of Sao Hin’s roads. An unfortunate start which called for a mechanic from the next village to help us on our way. 

Our breakdown was not unique however.  Every month our Karen team travels along those treacherous roads to deliver projects in Sao Hin, bringing lorries full of materials which Salahae informed us inevitably always breakdown. 

So close but yet so far

As we weaved our way back along roads and river beds backed by spectacular mountains, victim number three was claimed. Alas, our number plate was ripped clean off, lost somewhere deep within Sao Hin national park. Number plates were not the only thing lost however. With no road signs and forest blending into forest our car was as lost as our number plate. 

Eventually rescued by Salahae our final journey back to the nearest town, which saw us visit a Karen school preparing for a KHT dormitory to be built and travel through a spattering of lush green irrigated fields, was one fraught with even more obstacles. With a mighty pop our spare tyre which had been doing so well, exploded leaving our car stranded at the road side. With no phone signal and no second spare tyre, the only option was for one of us to hitchhike to find our lead car.


Which brings us back to the beginning of our story. 

We are happy to report that the two members of our team are not still at the side of the road at the mercy of the tigers and bears (which Salahae so kindly told us about). Eventually our team was reunited and the car bought back to life. 

An adventurous journey for us, but real life for the Karen. Our eyes have now been opened to the true meaning of ‘reaching the isolated’ and why it is so important for us to keep working in this region where villages lie cut off with little access to a hope or choice for the future. 

Later we were also happy to find out that nothing goes to waste here as our three broken tyres were given a new home, donated to Karen villages who can repair and reuse them. For now our number plate is a mystery...