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That old rocky road

Riding the trail that connects civilisation to the legendary former mine now known as Glennis's Homestay

Photos: Pongpet Mekloy

Half-a-century ago, a young Australian woman came to Thailand with her Thai fiancé. They got married in Bangkok, where she worked as a teacher, while he started a bustling tin mine deep in the forest on the border of what is now Myanmar. In those days it took five hours just to travel from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, then 12 hours from there to a town in Thong Pha Phum called Tha Khanun, and another 12 to reach Pilok, where the mine was located.

Over three decades ago, due to plunging tin prices, the mine, where over 600 men and women worked around the clock in three shifts, had to cease operation. A few years later the husband fell victim to cancer. Before he passed away, his wife promised him she would take good care of his former mine and the remaining workers, whom he regarded as family. She kept her word and moved from Bangkok to Pilok. These days, at the age of 79, she still lives there, in the forest home full of fond memories of her beloved husband.Some of you may know that this is the story of Glennis and Somsak Setabandhu. Over the past many years, Auntie Glennis -- or Pa Glen, as she is widely known by Thai travellers -- has turned the former site of Somsak Mining into a famous homestay service that still sustains the families of the few remaining former miners.

Apart from the true love that Pa Glen has for her late husband, there's at least one other thing that has not changed with time: the off-road track that links the old mine site in the forest to the main road. It's the combination of the couple's fascinating story, the old mine's remote location and difficult access that gives Glennis' Homestay -- still called Somsak Mining by many -- its legendary status.

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