Akha Chronicles
Book 1: Maesai
Chapter 16: The Akha in Burma



Much of my first contact with the Akha was with Akha from Burma.  I also found Burma more interesting than Thailand for the fact that it was off limits in many ways but also was many years seperate from the rest of the world.

I made many trips into Burma, this land in the back corner of the earth as it were.

My travels were limited by my limited funds.


Trip To Keng Tung

  I made one trip to Keng Tung, Burma. Then another.  I really liked Burma.  The old buildings. The Akha.

 In Keng Tung, Burma I visited the surrounding Akha Villages, meeting the people there.  At that time there was only a steel bridge across the river at Tapin, on the way to Monglar, which is where I went several times, but  one year the Chinese built a tall arched bridge of stone across the river and many small bridges all the way to Tachilek.  Monglar is sort of a ganster like town on the China border, but as an autonomous region, the whole area is controlled by an Akha/Wa army. (Move?)


Burma Situation

(Was this also a letter to a Brit I penned? in other Chapter?)

I would like to mention a couple of things.

First off I think that credit is needed where credit is due.

I know many Karen in the north here who think that the position the Karen took in the mountains for many years was stupid.  Either they needed to take the war to Rangoon or cut a deal.  They had not the forsight to do either and as the Thais used the Karen to plunder resources, eventually Burma would decide to control its borders and do the plundering themselves.

I know of many thug armies along the border.  Each time I crossed the boarder on some back road I met a cluster of new people in charge of the local thug patrol.

Slowly the border is being taken by the burmese and the militia, in cooperation with the burmese.  Now it appears to be the Wa and the Akha and the Shan and the Burmese with a big growth in the latter.

My second point would be that though the Karen put themselves in a bad way, an unwinnable way, the Burmese government has a form and order that can not be blamed as all bad or even predominantly bad.  Shan state was a land of stupid bickering people who endlessly fought among themselves and did little else but send their daughters south.

In ten years of witnessing this feuding I have watched while the Burmese Army restored order and set about to do the massive job of setting up the structure of everything needed for civil administration.

A few years back that jack ass Khun Sa came here to Tachilek with his boys and attacked in the morning.  Many of his soldiers were killed, many shans were killed and persecuted.  Numerous soldiers were killed and several surrendered after the burning of a neighborhood to get them out since they did not make it nack accross the river in time to the Thai side.  I watched this event myself.  And all I could say was that Khun Sa was a major ass.  For one thing, he could have taken both Keng Tung and Tachilek at that time and the Thais would have backed him up.  The Burmese army was only rag tag. 

But in addition, his action caused incredible suffering among the shans and closed the bridge for the year.  The closing of the bridge, because of this stupid act on the part of the Shans, led to the death and suffering of an incredible number of people to say nothing of the drowning of scores of people who attempted to cross the river during the rainy season on a daily basis.  Khun Sa knows nothing of that.  Just like the westerners and idiots who took the Burmese embassy one year knew nothing of the suffering they caused when the border again closed.  I have friends whose babies and children died directly because of that show boat act because they could not get enough medicine during that time.

Currently if you go to Keng Tung, there is good air service to this place, the road is bad but safe.  In keng Tung the government adminsters the place well, I know many of the officials and officers.  They have built a new hospital, a nurses training school open to all ethnics to work in it.  This you could NOT AT ALL SAY for Thailand.  The ethnics are very much more part of the scene in Burma than in Thailand where they are treated like shit by the Thai government.  Nobody investigates the human rights violations of the Thais it would seem because half the western world is over here screwing their girls.  Who wants to investigate in the middle of a party?

I have been impressed with the careful administration and public assistance in the Keng Tung region.  On tiny supplies, the government by its own order has gotten dribbles of electric way out to the shan villages that never had it before.  Not the act of a hateful government.  Sure there are problems with Burmese soldiers marrying shans and taking their land, but many of the burmese are shit by nature, so you can’t blame the gov that they created it this way.  Further, I know many specific cases where renegade police and army raped or killed ethnics and it was investigated and the people arrested, right up to ranking officers.  The burmese have this in their favor.  They act by strong procedure, and though there may be corruption forming loop holes, the procedure is strong and steady by comparison to anything the Thais have, one reason the Thais have to fear them and one reason why Burma will become a strong state.  Actually it is rather a shocking contrast to cross the border and then have someone mean and back up what they tell you, be it a no or a yes.

Although the Burmese have cut trees in the ethnic areas as a means of encroachment, they also have a strong replanting policy while at the same time presenting a united and fair front to the hill tribes.  Since many Burmese army are married to Akha for instance they seem to work together.

In my opinion, this polarization of the issues on Burma is not in anyone’s favor, it is very American.  Everything, all your markets, or nothing.  Why America continues to be incredibly ignorant and detatched in Asia.

The best thing that could be done now is to build a credible, safe and strong dialogue with Burma.  Try to understand the Burmese border problems, try to figure out why they have these policies.  For instance, here in the north the Burmese have an incredible chinese illegal immigrant problem that threatens to take over all Shan state and the Shans think they have it bad now, wait till the whole bloody place is run by chinese merchants, every girl for sale, not just every third one. It would be a Karaoke door to door to kunming from the thai border and many girls getting shipped around the world as well.

The problem that there is now, is that though activists have done a good job at getting people to pull out of Burma, that was not the best goal, unfortunately, since they were so good at it.  What would have been much better would have been to build a relationship of trust and try to understand the Burmese position.  Frankly the Shans could not have run shan state and kept it safe from the Chinese.  Just like the Karen could not have run the border without selling every thing out the back door and making every boy a mandatory chrisitian soldier.

People who visited mannerplaw before it fell, told me that the mentality of self righteous fundamentalism was so strong there that it was little wonder the Buddhists defected.

Unlike all the reports, I never once witnessed chain gangs on the Keng Tung road and for more than a year I personally witnessed while burmese army troops worked like slaves on the worst parts of that road.

"Free Burma" should not be the only goal, but trust and dialogue.  There will be corruption anywhere,  but the Burmese government has many governing styles and efficiencies that not even Thailand has with all its “freedom” and opportunity.

It was printed in the london press, but I was privy to it myself when the Burmese airline plane crashed here in Tachilek.

The shans, the noble shans, raped surviving passengers, killed surviving men, left children to starve while they plundered the entire plane for five days of rainy weather while the burmese army searched for it.   They got six months jail time or some fool thing.

I know many Burmese officers who are doing their best in a bad location to make Keng Tung a safe operable city with sufficient electric and water and sewer and food and environment for everyone.  That they haven’t sold their soul to the Chinese long ago is what amazes me  because the administrators just don’t have any money to operate on .


Meat beggars in keng tung market, akha

went to from stall to stall with a bowl, didn’t see them last time

yes, I saw this, going from those two meat stalls and around the market, like the urchins they were.


Meng La

I and a Kiwi who worked on oil rigs off of East Timor, took a trip up to the China border with hopes of getting into china but not at all sure that we would be able to.

The trip to Cheng Tung was long enough in itself, the road rough and the driver less than good.  The problem with these drivers in Asia is that they knew very little about their machines or machines in general.  Everything was “No Problem” and away they go.  In most of the rigs the four wheel drive part is worn out almost completely, and when needed it is weak if there at all.

But we made it to Cheng Tung and then the next day we headed for Meng La on the Chinese border after getting all of our papers straight with immigration.  Then it was up into the mountains, devoid of trees for the most part.  After some driving we got to more forest wherein the Burmese army was supervising workers who were cutting down every single tree of size.  I wondered about this as we drove on and wove our way through the mountains to the river and the final immigration checkpoint before the Chan autaunomous area. 

An intelligence officer came out, like he had just discovered the interrogative question and asked us where we were going.  A revolver handle stuck from his pocket in a haphazard way as if due to picth out onto the ground at any moment.  The heat was intense so I commented about it, his weasel eyes looking us over.  My impression was that military intelligence in Burma all needed to be sent for long years in Siberia until they repented of their ways. 

We drove on across the metal frame bridge and up the mountains on the other side.  More logging, and then we passed the last Burmese army outpost and arrived at the first Chan army outpost.  Then I concluded that the Burmese army was going to log right up to the autonomous area to get as close as they could and take as much wood as they could.  And it wasn’t being logged for boards but for fire wood.  Short cut pieces.  Inside the autonomous areas the forest was still thick.  The Chan only taking out what they needed for themselves, not trying to fire the needs of ever more wasteful towns. 

At the border town of Meng La it became obvious that the Chan were unable to hold back the chinese and the main street was dominated by ugly Chinese style shops, not a single wall or window frame straight.

Every girl available was prostituted in a harder fashion than I could recall elsewhere in the world. 

Certainly the Chinese are proof that there is life without beauty, art, ascetic or form.  Everything was as ugly as possible with mindless Chinese money grubbing faces.  The Burmese were a different people as were the Akha.  Bunny like Akha young women darted across the road with their baskets.

After getting our rooms we went to the local pub as it were nearby, and there the girls danced.

One Akha girl really got into it.   She reminded me of the Philippino girl I saw at the enlisted club in Bremerton years before.   She had a promising future, but not a good one.

We spent the night in ugly rooms, cold, no toilet and no water.  For a shower you had to go down to the river, everyone, even those who owned cars, did.  The outhouse was proof that the Chinese hadn’t progressed much.  A nearby construction of a “New” guest house gave whole new meaning to the term “New”. Not a window in it was square.

After a night’s rest we went to the border.  We weren’t able to get in as blonde Burmese people for some odd reason despite the best efforts of our Burmese student friend.

Generally, Meng La was really sleazy.  A slob of a fellow hung around the hotel while we were inside drinking a few beers.  The next day we headed back to Cheng Tung.

Back in Cheng Tung we went up to Ga Tai where we hiked into the mountains to the east to find Akha villages.  In massive heat we found one, after hours of hiking.  The dehydration was incredible.  I barely made it down to the other village on the way back, Kevin Wood being in better shape than I.  There the Akha put us up and massaged my legs which were seized with cramps.

The next day we headed to the next villages and a water fall on the way.  Best I could tell these Akha were extremely poor, and the villages bare.  But they did own a fair amount of rice land, being on the edge of the valley.  At one village a couple Chan women came and bought rice from them.

Then we got a ride to the road on a motor bike with three of us on it and there our Chan driver was waiting and we headed back to Cheng Tung where we stayed at the Sam Yeat guest house.

Before coming up we had spent a few hours the day before on the Mekong River.             


Joeseph of Keng Tung

Joseph was a muslim man whose wife died of these last couple years. He helped Joe as a guide but Joe wouldn't pay him much so he quit, that is what he said.

He knew a few details of the area.  He lived now in a tiny shop house next to the mosque, like an old lonely man pulling up his feet to the grave of sweet dreams, let us hope.


Annie Tip

Annie Tip was a kindly elderly woman with a beautifully gentle face, greying hair and graceful lines of age.  We sat often talking on her porch next to the lake in Keng Tung, Burma.

Her son had gotten into a drug that caused him to “go off” somewhat and he needed to take medicine for a while to undo that.

Her house on posts, was filled in with brick.

According to Annie Tip the Thai police ran town until the 1967 revolution.


Annie Tips Son

So annie tip's son did some kind of drug, then he went up to immigration and began tearing up office papers.  “So the police took him away and called his mother.  he must be 20 and over.  He has a striking resemblance to Richard Gere, facial expressions and all.
then he went to the big keng tung hotel and fell asleep in a room with the tv very loud so the police came again.  Then he would not cooperate with his mother or go to bed and broke some glasses so she called the police.  When they came he was sitting on the edge of the lake and when he saw them he jumped in so that the police threw him a rope and said if he did not come out they would shoot him so he came out and they locked him up at the hospital after giving him an injection.  Now he takes pills.   They said the methamphetamine did it.  Here they swallow it with alcohol.


The Mission Keng Tung

In the Catholic mission in Cheng Tung there are books written about the Akha by the priests, and one can infer that there are also many writings which have been sent back to the vatican library in Rome. Least one would think.  Then once my friend checked on it and said that the journals often talked of how life was for the priests, and said very little about the life of the locals around the missions.

There were rumors that the Bishop was eating the money, and surely neither the mission nor the surrounding Akha got any better off.  The girls kept getting sold south to Maesai for prostitution.

Only changes were more and more crosses and more and more church buildings in the villages.

The locals didn't like the mission because they said that it stole the money given to help people.  Then the army built a very large Budda next to the church grounds, higher than the Italian chapel, with its arms out stretched.  Tourists asked why this was, and the locals said that when the Budda was first built he was not pointing.  But so many tourists came asking where Khun Sa lived that the Budda began to point, "Over there".


Overview Burma

I have been to Burma a number of times.  The first time was with Joe, the Toyota truck buckboard, Lawrence of India, and Don the San Francisco cop.

We didn’t take the jewish photographer from LA who was totally impressed with himself and wrecked motorbikes if you passed him going to Doi Tung.

The road in Burma to Cheng Tung is bad.  The Thai construction crew made it worse.  Then the boss died and it stopped.  My landlord died about the same time, no more the bigshot with the stainless gun in his belt.

Sam Yeat guest house in Cheng tung was best.  The market was fun.  Looking into the life of hilltribe people who came down from places like Lomi Shaw.

Cheng Tung itself was a provincial looking town where there were many British looking buildings and something about princes and their dealings with the British.  But no more.  The shan were a subjegated people and no doubt their role in the international opium and heroin death trade had something to do with this.

Nearby was china, and it was obvious that the only people who could really let in the Chinese or really keep them out was the burmese army.  The burmese army was always rough but more western and civilized in some aspects than the Thai powers that be.  Many of the Burmese army were very young.  Army road posts were frail and dirty places, looking like they could easily be over run by anyone with any amount of determination.  Khun Sah’s men showed this when they over ran Tachilek and killed a few soldiers and shot things up but in the end the Burmese army won.

Lots of cheap chinese goods flooded burma at the Cheng Tung market and since the burmese produced so little themselves all they had to trade was timber, flesh, and recently gem stones and jade.  But the latter two didn’t amount to much, and the timber money went to the government and army mostly so all you have left in the way of economics on a family scale was selling the daughter which the families did as a matter of course.

In cheng tung there is a large church facility.  Catholic.  Baptist also, with an empty baptist hospital long vacated.  Now the government has started a nursing school and has young women they are trainging at the hospital as long as they speak english.

The burmese don’t know anything about road building but I can’t help but think that they leave the road mostly as it is as a buffer against developement they are not ready for, wanting to be in control of it when and how it will happen and on what scale.  For that I give them credit, even if it is not intentional.

I travelled to Meng La with the hope of going over the backroad into China, but that didn’t happen once we were at the border.  Mister Joe succeeded after four tries because he got Burmese immigration to make out forms that they were all burmese citizens, but the tourist involved was a little put out at it because he didn’t know this was how it was going to get done and knew what a mess could occur if it was found out by the Chinese that they were foreigners while in the country in that fashion, or so the story goes.

I also crept closer to Lomi Shaw, one of my goal areas.  I went as far as the lower string of Akha villages starting near Ga Tou and Ga Tai as they are called or possibly one and the same place.  Here is the flat dusty rice lands of the shans with the Akha up against the mountains.

I took medicine where I could.  The police, army, and intelligence (MI) were always asking my driver what it was that I was doing.

There was one Akha village past the Ant village that I went to a number of times after quite a hike.  I did eventually find how to get on the road that would get me quite close by truck.

Near the Ant village about some 30 minutes walk there was a very famous monk, or so the pleasant doctor in Cheng Tung told.  I had yet to check it out.

Also there was Loi Mwe, the old british army base and the lake and the radio tower.  If you drop off the back side on the road you end up at the summit road stop as you are first coming into Cheng Tung valley after the long road trip of a hundred miles from Maesai which takes a good 8 hours.

There is also a hot springs and the infernal disco on the lake in Cheng Tung proper where taxi dancing and fights are the main event along with the box and three dice gambling games.  Drink and food.  Some real exotic shan food, I don’t recoment, and then a rat infested restaurant called the Banyan tree because it is beneath a huge one, and the food is also horrible and they never get the instructions straight being your typical slacks that don’t understand that maybe things can be done a specific way, even if it is different.

The drivers usually drive too fast on the streets and roads in burma, making their foreign guests uncomfortable, not needing to be anywhere that badly.  Apparently carrying tourists about is a task of great importance and speed and honking of the horn as one races dangerously through the street enhances that.  Going back to maesai, like a horse to the barn it is always worse.

On the road to Cheng Tung there are a few dusty towns and Akha or Lahu villages. Meng Pyah, the biggest is the midway point before the long churning twisting tank test road up the canyon to cheng tung.

On the way to meng la one passes a army and intelligence and immigration checkpoint with laboring trucks along the way and then it into shan territory with their own army and such.               


Ant Villages

It is a funny name, I am not sure how it is spelled, but since after ten years I have never seen it in writing, I will spell it Ant.  It may be Ent.  I don’t know.  But these people wore black long dresses, wrapped their heads in black cloth turbans.  There was one of their villages East of Keng Tung on the way towards Bah Cheh Akha up on the side of the mountains.  I didn’t visit them much, others did, they lived near the bottom next to the creek.

I knew little of them or the language they spoke, since we could all share Shan.

Burma was a sad place in that it had such a complex and interesting cultural heritage which war and ambition were destroying, while much of the world already looked back on other pasts.  People, humans, in general, about the big things, don’t learn much, thus the saying that history repeats itself.  Great wisdom, doesn’t get passed on.  People remember to think about tiny wisdoms, but great ones are scorned.

Near to the Ant village it was said that there was a famous monk who lived, I wasn’t sure.  And also there was a large tree, with the orange flowers, which people dried when they fell to the ground and used them for herbal tea.

Getting out to the Ant village one had to go past or around the airport of Keng Tung and then out through the rolling hills, past the checkpoint fork in the road where there was army and sometimes not, then past the great trees, huge they were, with perfectly balanced canopies, and then there were great slabs of bee honey and brood comb hanging up there in the trees always.  Soon one came to rice fields, in openings in the hills and the beginnings of the shan villages.  The shans lived in a light kind of melody, their villages, soft, raised huts, tile roofs, a temple and monks, a bicycle, water buffaloes, in a gentle embrace of life and time.  They seemed to mock at war and suddeness.  The roads were soft, so close to the water that fed the rice, ox carts used them but it would appear that no one was allowed to be in a hurry here which all  the ruts and pot holes reinforced.

Near the villages a girl sat out at a stand, selling something, as much a place for talking and someone with a bottle getting drunk.  Life was full of joy just to look around at it all happening in every corner of God’s great earth, going on, starting, stopping, coming again.

The temples and living quarters of the monks were worn with time, faded colors, whites washed by rain, lived on with mold and algae, great trees, shrines, things standing, fallen over, buried, raised up again.  Brick houses, wood houses, hay, pigs, chickens, it all went on in the light brown and grey hues of life close to the soil in a land where there was rain.


Akha Keng Tung Trip

Dec 18, 1996

Back in Bangkok from a miserably hard year and 4 months in the US.

Missing my work and the people.

Check out Kosarn road to see if there are any Akha there but it is already too late in the night for them.  Only video still going on and not much of that.

Going to Chiangrain there was no baggage charge and I was happy for that because I was over as usual.

I made a stop to see Meeh Suur’s mother and Nimit before heading up to Keng Tung the next morning.

Stay at Adaw’s house, police keep checking in Burma style.

Make electrodes for the heart monitor that I delivered by cutting pieces out of a piece of an Akha silver head dress.

Lt. Col Win Han accepted equipment and offered to help with fuel for medical supplies from Daungy by truck.

Visit the Catholoic hill at soon Sat Gone

Immigration man from Tachilek Aung Min goes with me an paves the way.

The small girl in Adaw’s village has a swollen neck, secondary infection from TB.  I pay for meds.  More money thatn they have cash for, 1/2 month’s pay.

The tv blew out on irregular power and 220 110 radio shack step down was actually only 220-100, not enough juice to power the TV.

A burmese man who studied law ran a tv repair with his wifre in the market and repaired it.  Very nice to talk to.

There is a real shortage here at soon sat goh of skin, eye and ear medicine.  Lots of children die.  Doesn’t appear to be any records kept of how many.  Lots  of the children have ongoing colds.  This is the face of peverty.

I hear that the switzerland Andy who had Aids at Nimit’s place went to Hat yai with his
thai girlfriend.  Had great stomach pain, wanted to fly home but doctor said he was too sick .  He offered him a termination medication and Andy opted for it and died from this life.  In this time of his life he had become a very gentle man.

I knew him a little.  Think he was a good guy dispite 20 years of drugs that killed all his friends and him as well.  He had had Aids for ten years I think.

Then found out that Gabriel at the Italian restaurant in Ch.Rai had died of aids as well.  Too many young girls.

Went out to the Roads end Akha village.  I left my motorcycle there and then hiked down steep ravines over hillt t second far ridge village packing alll the camera gear and the medical canvas pack.  The boohseh said one hour, but it took four hours minimum because I didn’t knmow where the trails were.  I spent the night needless to say, drenched with sweat and fatigue.

Going to more villages this morning.

A horse is definitely needed once in the mountains here to ride a string ofvillages. big horse.

I have got to hand it these people, they farm rice and corn on hillsides I could hardly climb pack or no pack.

The burmes immigration Man from Tachhilek was exceptionally helpful in arranging everything.  He was my official escort to keng tung.  no charge for entry into Burma.

Zera arranged papers from customs for the heart monitor to go north.  I had to pay 200 baht to move it across the border which I though a little much.  I think h8is help can also be inflated by times.

I got permission to stay in Adaw’s house at soon sat goine from Immigration in Keng Tung.

Between the greatly reduced transport fee in a toyota wagon for $60 to the no charges to the $15 charge for a motorbike for 8 days. 

I then had a meeting  with the new hospital admin and a doctor who received the Data scope heart monitor in the private office of Lt. Col Win Han .

Win hand is the Div Chief Officer of Easter Shan State east of  the Salween River.  Very pleasant man.

At hospital three people a week die of aids.  Everyone admits problem is getting worse, especially among shans.

Christmas in a couple of days, big festivities.  Need more head lice medicine, lice combs of plastic.

Guards at Maesai Plaza Guest House both died of aids last year.  Quite quickly from when I saw them last.  Maybe in their early 20’s.

The fat Burmese man died of aids this spring 97.  He came to my house once, he was very afraid.  Charlie had funny things to say about it that really weren’t funny at all.

Gabriel of Ch. Rai Italian Restaurant died miserably of aids with hives over his entire body.

It takes time to get a feel how to best help these Akha People.  Especially the ones in the upper villages.

However I have noticed that scabies is far more prevelant in villages near towns, including other skin ailments as well.

In the night Mee Loo Loo (earth quake).  Rats dropping kernels of corn down on me all night after biting the germ out of each one.

Need Bactricide and clotrimazole.

Need more Benzyl Benzoate oil.


Village # 1 Bah Cheh Akha

This is the village at the end of the road that is Ooh Loh Akha

Spend numerous nights here.


Village #2

Pulling teeth of Ai Yeh.  One top back and one bottom molar, fragments and root only left.  Hard to get out.

He told me he had headaches while working.  One look in his mouth and no wonder.  Abcess in progress. Pulled six teeth.  All broken off. No novacaine.  He didn’t make a sound.


Village #3

Bah Cheh Akha/ Bah Kow

Woman missing leg 16 years.  Still can’t find it.  Using very worn, very short crutches which cause her to stoop causing chronic low back pain.  No wonder.  She is 47.  Som Yuuh.

I spent 1/2 hour negotiating to see the stump of her leg so that I could tell if she had a knee left or not and measure it for length against the other one.  No luck.

She lost it to a land mine.

She asked for cough medicine, jah gah ah seeh.

Som Yuuh wouldn’t let me see her leg to measure it and the baby she was caring for shat heavily on her lap so I loaded up and left.


Village #4

Bah Cheh Akha

Nice gal in village.  Ooh loh Akha.

Her father asked me if I wanted a wife?

I pulled the tooth of the head man.

He really knew how to prepare chopped vegetables which he steamed in an army can mess kit thing.

Catholic villages.



4 tables day 1

2 tablet day 2


younger person

3 tablet on day 1

2 tablet on day 2


Quinine treatment contributes to black water fever.

Bah Jeh Akha

I think these were at the village I visited with Akha Girl up the road to Meng La.  Kin to Adaw of Soon Sat Goh.


Video in the market is hard.  Too many short takes.  Better in the village.

Great need for nutrition and medicine.  Replentishing agriculture.

Inflation of kyat from 106 to the dollar to 168 to the dollar in less than 2 years.  This greatly diminished the buying power of the Akha.

MPI, myanmar pharmaceutical Industries

Yangoon Black market Unicef Benzyl Benzoate.


The Akha who go to Thailand get Aids.

Need for more soap.  Who can pay for it?

There is a great need to tend to these mainor skin ailments before they increase.

Chicken pox vacine available in Thailand if older than 1 year.

Yellow fruits for kerotin -B2 deficiency which causes mouth cracking.

I see all of this need of such a good people and I wonder how to increase the voltage?  How to better be able to help?

The film and pictures will help some.  I try every day to tighten up my ideas on both.  Hoping for the best resutl for these people.  So much to be done.

One doesn’t know how to do except to do more of what they are already doing.

consider myself quite fortunate to be able to stay here for Christmas.

The police asked me to get a driver’s license in Thailand for motorcycle use here.

Village names

Bah jeh, north 1 hour

Bah Jah near to there

Bah cheh, above ant people

Huuh gaw, visit with Akha girl, Adaw’s ah nyee

Jah dah is road get off destination for lomi shah


Merry Christmas.

Good photos today.

Getting more the hang of it.

Video is harder, has to be done more slowly but shooting gets done off the duff on the spot planning as you shoot.  I prefer studies with video.

Then on photo work I sometimes shoot a whole roll of fim on one person, trying to discover their expressions have gotten some good voice recordings of Booh Chooh.

This evening half of the little police showed up to ask all the questions all over again.  The grace of my host is significant.  I then discovered how often the police have stopped and asked her questions about what I was doing.  Made it very uneasy for her but she was very happey I am here, how generous.

26 Dec.  In Huuh gaw village a good ten miles up the Keng Tung Basin on the west side to the north.  I keep adding to the villages I know.  lots of need.  TB is common it seems.  I have been “shooting water” for two days now.  The old high stomach bloated feeling once again.

Nursing along on about 35% power.

The biggest missed spurce of money I see is manure.  Totally unused.  The probolem is that vegetables must be grown close to be watched yet separate from dogs, pigs, chickens, cows and geese which instantly eliminate them.

Then they could raise more squash and get their B-2.

They do grow a variety of beans and other seeds.  But very little vegetable vitamins except mustard greens they call ho pah.

It is ver easy to see why these girls will head south and take their chances.  The Burmese government deserves some of the blame as well as divisions put in place by the british which left the border minorities at odds with the government. 

But as long as Shan state was poor the girls will head south.  Thailand needs this resource and hungrily accepts it.

The catholic system here in Keng Tung appears quite mindless.

Foolishness for women and children.

A village might see a tatecist once a year if they were lucky, but are compelled to build aith a tin roof anyway.

There is great need here for practical beneficial teaching in each village.

Drunkeness and gambling common.

Many womein with children have split up over this, not that splitting up is the only solution but for them it may be.  I suppose if the men don’t stop the wojmen become ill of it.

Many girls faces are looking for a ticket out of here.

Thrre is a need to get these people into some kind of side hut farming.

There is also a need for washing stations in the villages and a supply of soap which these people can not afford.

And Toilets.

The shat is definitely getting into the creeks.

Tons of new army trucks near the airport.

The police twice stopped meover driver license and they can’t even get gloves and needles at the hospital.

Airport is being greatly enlarged.

The rich air tourist hungry for new destinations.

And Thai toruists coming up the road.

As a Shan girl saidl.  The Thai men think they can always buy a woman but somehow always end up with the cheap ones.

Thoi Koon, more pretty, more prone to go south.

More cops came by, lots of dumb questions all translate3d by one very drunk Akha man.  Then they summonded a very dignified Alkha man who was the villagae cop from the Akha perspect Then the two left to consult their supervisor.  One looked shan, one looked Burmese, the smarter one.  We waited till midnight but they never came back.  Amazing all the work I make for them and still no gloves and no needles.

Doh Moh Akha is the first southern village on the road from Keng Tung to Gah Tow-Gah Tai over west of there against the mountains.

The trails and cart roads too it are difficult to find and the Akha girl and I fought the motorbike out through the dry rice p addies to get there.

She and I spent an awful lot of time on the road together gooing from Huur Gaw Akha on the NE side of the valley and on to many others. We even went up to the way station up on the mountain to meng lah where they park the bull dozers.  A radiator water stop for trucks before they n to the river and into shan army territory.  We then went futher north in the valley than I had before but saw only one small akha village.

I had been to Doh Moh Akha before about a year and a half ago.   Then back across the grey muddy rice paddies to Gah Tow and back to Keng Tung.

More cop interviews.

I think one must start with the obvious to make improvement.

There is the need for gerater nutrition, side gardens.  Tehre is excessive use of alcohol and lost money to gambling.  There is a total lack of traning among many of the men and women.


Kicked the Cook Out

So I had to kick the cook out, I didn’t not like to do that but I got tired of all the constant complaining and sourness after all I was continually doing for her.  She was basically making her daughters into prostitutes rather than teaching them to use their minds. 

It went without saying that they had benefited well by me. I spent more on their family than anything else, including myself.  But this is the stupidity of life, so the little boy and girl will suffer most, learn early on how cynical life can be.

They had not been back.  In fact it was the first time that I had ever asked anyone to leave, usually it could be worked out.

I had no idea how they were going to make it.  I had just been prepared to shell out a lot of money to help them when they up and said they didn’t want to work on the books anymore or go to school any more.  Oh well, they didn’t get one baht that day.  And none since.


Keng Tung

Today I met a baptist pastor named Richard in the market.  We had a good talk about Paul Lewis stuff etc.  I forget what all about, but practical two fold theology.

The christmas festival started today.  Lots of Akhas.  Lots of photos.

This was festival one would not have wanted to miss.  I am so thankful that I was able to make it and get to meet so many new friends.

More and more of the police are getting familiar with me.

But I moved back into the hotel sam yweat guest house to make them happy.

Actually I am quite surprised I got so much liberty to date considering their general paranoia.

I met Booh Nooh in the Cheng
Tung market who is from Bala Akha.

Met Ooh Ah Too.   Sings at festival.  Called me lee Shah.  Lives at Naw Jet Akha U ah yah queh nah.

He invited me to his house on my next keng tung trip.

So I was busy filming the evening away when the call of nature hit as it had been doing these last few days.  I asked my driver where the toilets were but hhe said at this time of night the building were closed so to go behind.

I walked  down a long terrace and then balancing on one hand dropped off the porch at the end of the building only to find my boots squirming in the shat of 100 people withthe same idea.


Keng Tung 97

Road up is only 30% as good as last year I think with many large holes.

Much of the problem is that they don’t do one section, tar it and move on, so the next rainy season it all washes out again.  Plus they continue to use round river bed stones which don’t pack like crushed rock and was out more quickly, like peas popping up out of the road.   There isn’t necessarily a shortage of rock in the road it just isn’t always in the right place.

Ate on the road at Mong Phyah and got sick that night to shits and puking.  Spent all next day in bed.  Sore.  No massage available all though the catholic hill village sends all its best south as prostitutes.

Gave meds to the hospital.

Invitation to the Akha New Year on 28th.

Met Father Ah Pah at the RCM in Keng Tung.  He has a wonderful clarity about the language and can teach me much.  I must come here to study and concentrate on the language if I am going to do any good with it in building a dictionary.  Soon all the knowledgeable old speakers will be lost.


Mong Pyah

Mong pyah is the half way town to Keng Tung from Maesai.  There is a catholic mission there that Father Bosco runs.

There is a dusty kitchen stop across from the church where the drivers stop and eat and it is fine if  you don't mind dirty food and getting the squirting shits.  Just a basic travel tip.

The road to Mong Pyah is best, then it gets slower and more mountainous north of that.


Keng Tung was different

It was boring but it wasn’t Thailand.  One needed a little bit of both, but the mentality in Keng Tung was different and I made new friends. 

There was the Akha priest father Appa

the photographer who was Akha

the old man he knew writing the book in shan or burmese about the Akha, with his portable hearing aid and his young chubby grandson who knew nothing about Akha having grown up in this artificial catholic neighborhood but yelled in his grandfather’s ear anyway.

The catholics had built a huge compound on the top of the hill and it was mostly run down, all the foreigners having been made to leave, though catholic leaders still visited.

Appa said that too much of the old culture had been lost.  He knew it.  I knew it.  Yet the catholics as a whole couldn’t admit it or that there could be a better way so the big wheel kept turning and crushing it all to powder.

Catholic orphans sort of got sent into the convent automatically it would seem.

Then there was the catholic run leper colony.  They certainly weren’t all bad people by any means, just if it could have been modified a little.

And Keng Tung was a quaint town.  Not a lot of cars, big and small streets.  Business going on in the old fashioned way but one knew that this was just because there was an artificial cap on everything.  As soon as the road was good there would be probably just as much recklessness here as in Thailand.  Everyone had to take the consumption ride it appeared.  After they learned, a few only I should say, the most part had not a clue as it was in America. 


Road to meng la

used to be really bad but only three hours now


The Murder

Joseph, the muslim man in Keng Tung told me that the policeman from Rangoon had come to continue an investigation into a murder from the fifties when a shan woman was killed.  Apparently her daughter worked overseas sending large amounts of money home and then someone killed her for her money belt and burried her in a little bit far place as Joseph put it.  But the daughter who still lived abroad is still interested to know the solution to that case, why her mother was killed so the police have come to inquire.  It is thought that family members near to the mother killed her.  Possibly the daughter is paying to have the investigation move on.


The road crew

From Thailand

They moved equipment up into Burma to work on the road and tore out huge sections of mountain side and then the whole thing came to a hault.

I don’t know if it was connected to my dead landlord but the project stopped about the same time he died.


Taxi dancing keng tung

That’s what the call it.  You buy so many tickets in a strip and you dance with the girl you give it to on the floating disco on the lake and everytime the bell rings she tears a piece off the ticket till its all gone, so the floor is littered with tickets and broken hearts.  An Akha ran the pussy game there. Men with rifles.


Jeeba Daw

I was at this one Akha village way up on the mountain in the Cheng Tung area and they brought this man into the hut who had a big lump on his head and blood all over his shirt.

I got him to go back out side in the sunlight and then the story came out that he had been drinking and got in a fight with another man who then struck him hard on the head with a stick.  He had a huge hemotoma under the scalp. I sheared the hair and cleaned the place on the scalp where there had been the initial opening.

There was another man in the hut who was sleeping off his drunk and I supposed this could have been one of the parties in the discussion. 

As I was doctoring the wound to the head the drunken dancers from a nearby hut came by to add to the pandemonium.

I couldn't help but wonder about the Shan who came up to these Akha villages and set up gambling on holidays, ultimately looting the village.  I had seen the same in Thailand. The Akha sort of considered fair game to loot.

I had first visited the upper Akha village higher on the ridge some two years before and it had only been once I had gotten there that I had spotted this other village that I was told was half Akha and half Lahu.  But on this day the headman of the upper village knew I was coming as I had met him the day before. So when I met him at the trail head he told me that most of the people from the upper village were down in the lower village for the Chinese New Year Party.  So we walked back down to that village.  Some of my friends from the upper village were there whom I was glad to see but overall the idea of a party seemed to be more getting drunk and having gambling fights.

I was glad to see the headman's daughter was still alive. On my last trip she had had this hot malaria fever for her tenth day running.  I only had two aspirin at the time. So I was glad to see she made it. These were tough people. 

As I sat with a couple of men on the sloped grass of the hillside village we looked across the ridge to some of the saddles to the north and I asked what the villages were.  They told me the names, which I promptly forgot, and I began to get some ideas that I was hoping very much I could implement in the future.

One woman from the same village I later met in town. She had walked in with her husband. She brought a load of wood with her to sell.


The Last Village

The afternoon was almost gone by the time he left the end of the road and headed up through the brush towards the top of the ridge. He didn’t know where the main trail to the village was and so he just picked out this track and that muddy track, most of them made by the cattle and water buffalo. 

The going was steep and he was soon hot.  Animals sort of burrowed under the brush but he was too tall for that. It was hard enough without trying to thread himself through all of those openings.  He knew that once he reached the ridge there was a trail that he could follow all the way up to the higher points on the mountain slopes.  Ridges always had trails, if not made by people then first made by animals.

He had been to the village another time but it had been some two years before.  A lot had happened in his life after that.  He had traveled around the world twice since his visit here.  He wondered how that related to a village that hadn’t gone anywhere for the last one hundred years?  Western people were very busy as though going somewhere and getting something done.  His life was proof of how little that could all come to.  Those two years had seen the loss of his business and the need to start all over again.  He understood that to be the beauty of investing in people,  the investment stayed around a lot longer than money.

After thirty minutes of non stop climbing he fought his way out onto a clearing on the ridge and caught his breath.  He still had a long way to go but now it was just climbing the length of the ridge as he walked along the top and there wouldn’t be any more brush to fight.

To his right he could see the lower village. This one was Akha and Lahu, a small village.  High at the end of the ridge, in the direction he was walking, he could see the scar on the mountain where the village was that he was going to but it was  too far to be able to distinguish the huts.

Darkness was coming on. He would have to hurry.  The pack he carried was not heavy yet but it soon would be with the pace picking up.

With the falling sun on his shoulders he leaned over a little and began walking as briskly as he could up the trail. 

Along the trail there were old stacks of cut wood that had been gathered for the charcoal market in town.  Ah yes, deforestation for the townsfolk, convenient enough to blame on the villagers if need be. 

When the season became hot enough he had the notion that some type of vehicle made its way up here and picked all the wood up.  In places the weeds had been cut back to clear the way  already.  Here and there some dirt had been  leveled out.

He thought to himself that life could be good living out here. But for him there was too much to do and too many people who needed his help for him to spend life only living in one village.  At least that was his initial thought, even though he had to admit to himself many times that a person’s assistance to others cannot always be at a sacrifice to ones self.  Even though he had  medicine in his pack right now, and even if he kept that up for many years, he knew that he could find himself unneeded by all of these people, whom he wanted to help in some day to come.  Life was like that too, but as long as he kept that in mind he still felt it was a good thing to do. He was content with himself however life turned out in the future.  He knew how fickle life was.  Once Einstein had said, when asked what was the most important thing in life,  “Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket.”

He viewed himself as a facilitator.  Sure, he did carry first aid supplies with him and a few other items which the villagers were always asking for but he felt that it was the fact that he cared about them as a people which they appreciated, not that he was bringing something to them.  He hoped they always felt that way.

He crested a hump in the ridge, and the trail dropped down into a cut quite steeply. He would loose a lot of elevation and then he would have to climb back up again even higher and more steeply than before.  That could not be avoided. 

Now he could see the village quite clearly, across a saddle where the ridge snaked up to it.  He would have to go another fifteen minutes at least, the sun slipping further into the evening chill, turning all of the grass to a sort of golden look.

Walking down into the cut in the ridge it was easy to slip and fall down.  When he got to the bottom the trail narrowed and headed up again over heavy erosion and a very scarred surface.  The going was tough. 

Most of the dirt in these hills was red, but up the trail a little, he could see where it became crumbling white granite.  Sticks marked the edge of the trail, driven into the ground, for reasons he didn’t know.

Once on top of the last major climb he snaked along the ridge, almost level with the village he was approaching.  He could hear very distant voices and dogs barking.  In the evening sun and through the filter of memories the village looked surreal,  not possible to exist in the same world, the same time space as all the events which had happened to him while he had been away.  They knew nothing of it, he could not speak their language well enough to tell them of it and all of that was what made his approach so much more of a beautiful experience.  This was his secret place.   A reserve of friends whom the hard edges of the business world would not be able to disturb for another year or so.  Humanity was so in contradiction with itself, and so bent on destroying the best things that it had, like peaceful villages. 

He wondered if they would remember him.  There was one little girl who had gotten burned and one old woman who had begged him to stay the night. Those were his memories of that short visit. Tonight he was prepared to stay over until morning.

He couldn’t see anyone as he got to the gate of the village but could hear a dog barking very distinctly.  There were voices and then as he made his way into the village he saw some children.  From what he could guess this was only the second time these people had seen a white man in many years.  There had been very few in the country since thirty years before.

A young woman peered out at him from beneath the hut where she was working on some rice.  He made his way a little further into the village clearing and then sat down in order to give the villagers more time to discover he was there.  Depending on the time of day and the location of the village, the village didn’t always know when someone had come into it, except in sort of a general way.  But word soon got spread and the children began coming, the smaller ones with their mothers, to see this curious person.  Others went on with their evening chores, carrying baskets full of water gourds to the spring holes.

By this time the sun was soon to be behind the distant mountain ridge far across the valley to the Western side. The long shadows of mist clung to the tops of all the folds of the descending and ascending ridges and hills that lay between them.  As far as he had come he reckoned it was a long and full days journey ridge to ridge.

The evening was still and peaceful.

When he asked about the little girl the adults remembered him and pointed her out.

There was no sign that her leg had ever been burned.  She must have turned all of six by now.

One man told him the Headman was no longer in the village and invited him into his home.  They carried his pack and after he took off his boots he settled on the outside porch.  What a splendid view it offered. Not just a view of a vista but a view from within a kind of life.  He was looking out from some eternal place where time had stood still.  Sadly he thought to himself about how rapidly all this would change.

The children gathered about again and he slowly took in all their faces and the soft murmur of their voices.  Moments like this, listening to the children, was why he liked their culture and their language so well.  They were meant to be listened to.  Their language was music to him.

With the setting of the sun, casting its last rays like spikes to his eye, another day was drawing to a close and he was glad that he could end it in such a wonderful place.  He knew in his heart, that when a western person came here there was little of spiritual substance that he could teach these people that they didn’t know already.  What he could learn was immense.

The man called him into the hut for tea.

His clothes were wet with sweat.  One of the old women asked him if he had a change, as she wanted to wash everything for him so that it would be clean and dry in the morning. He didn’t but found the offer a welcome no less than a full family welcome. Chilled he sat close to the hearth, his feet almost in the coals, watching the evening household routine.  There were always parts of several families in one hut when there was a visitor, but also because of some shared task and the extended family.  His eyes grew accustomed to the dark and he took it all in.  The hut was large with a big loft area where things were stored.  Right now lots of big ears of beautiful corn, nice as he had ever seen anywhere, hung overhead.  Then there were baskets, mats, and odds and ends of this an that, all natural made, many having uses he didn’t recognize.  Cooking utensils hung in a bamboo wrack above the fire varnished a dark red from the smoke.  The floor planks were old, polished as smooth as the seat of a bench, from use.

A couple women busied themselves near the fire.  One man cooked corn in a pot, before removing the boiling brew from the fire with his bare hands, and pouring it into a wood trough where he mashed it a little before feeding it to the pigs.  Water softened corn feed.

His eyes adjusted fully to the different parts of the hut and he listened to the evening conversation.  He sipped tea hot off the fire which took away some of his chill.  Then it was that he noticed what looked to be a person sleeping under a blanket on the other side of the hearth.  When he asked who the person was, suspecting they were sick, he found out that they were indeed sick. 

He set his tea down, got up and went around to the figure and pulled the blanket back.  Boiling in fever lay a twenty year old woman, her face drawn in pain and haunted. The fever had been with her for ten days, they said.  He figured it must have been malaria.  He only had a couple of aspirin in his bag and so he gave her one, holding her head up so she could swallow it with water.  Then he placed wet rags on her back to cool her.  He didn’t need a thermometer to know she was really hot.

The woman struggled with the fever.

The son called to him that the food was ready and set a woven basket table out in the middle of the hut and all the men gathered around.  Men and women didn’t eat together according to tradition, best he could tell.  This wasn’t solely a man’s world but men had a place that was to them alone, as did the women, and this he liked.  There was an order.  He ate his dinner of rice, vegetables and salted fish.  Once he had gotten used to these meals of hardy mountain rice he never went hungry in an Akha village.

After eating he went again to changing the wet rag on the woman’s back.  The water in the pan got hot as  he wrung the rag out repeatedly.  Finally, giving her his last aspirin, he went to his corner, next to her father and tried to fall asleep.    

He worried for her. She was really sick and should have gone to town long ago.   The fever had exhausted her.   The mother had tried to explain some of the difficulties of the ten days but it all sounded like malaria.

His mind slowly turned with different visions as he made his way down into a land of memories and gentle caressing fog, passing off to sleep. 

Late in the night he awoke from his dreams when he heard the woman crying out to her father.  From what he knew of the language she was horribly cold. The father got up and began building a fire and he got up also and checked on her.  She was like ice.  He helped layer some more blankets on her and went and got one of his own making seven in all.  Slowly the tongues of a new fire licked up and began to warm the hut taking some of the unnatural chill off her.  He sat with her a while and then went back to bed, wishing he had more medicine with which to help her.  He drifted off to sleep again hearing only a few murmurs in the background and noticing when the father brought the blanket back to him some time later, the daughter’s chill having broken.

He was awakened to the melodic rhythmic pounding of the rice that resonated from beneath the huts throughout the village.  He soaked in the sound, knowing that there would probably come a day when this sound wasn’t heard  anymore.

Getting up he checked on the woman once again.  She looked tired but better.  He slipped out into the village, breathing the cool mountain air and seeing the beauties of this wonderful world these people lived in despite the risks of health  which every human lives under.

These were tough and proud people.

A young girl came singing a beautiful Akha ballad as she carried water back from the spring hole in two buckets cast over her shoulder on one of those springy bamboo slats.

Women stepped rhythmically on the ends of their rice hammers striking out different cadences here and there throughout the village.  They did it with such poise.  Like gallant sentries of life, guardians of the secrets of the mountains that gave them the sustaining rice.

When he came back to the hut where he had slept, the woman who had been so sick sat out on the porch catching the first rays of the sun’s warmth,  her tired and drawn face carrying a soft smile and those haunted eyes.

He ate breakfast with the men and then lingered around the village till the sun grew strong and warmed him a little.

Around the corner of a hut a woman came leading a child, blood running down the girl’s face.  He looked at her head and found only a small cut.  He asked what had happened as he washed it off and disinfected it.  One of the other children had been after a dog with a knife and missed the dog and cut their  friend.  Then it was he noticed that it was the same girl who had been burned two years before..  She was becoming regular about these things, he mused to himself.

After patching up the little girl he reluctantly said goodbye to all of them and had to work to get out of the village because some invisible force was drawing him back, trying to keep him there and weave him more permanently into the life it had to offer.  Some day he knew he would have to make peace with that.

He walked quietly and thoughtfully down the ridge, the noises of his village friends fading into the background as if swallowed by the mountain as he pondered all that he had heard and seen there.  Surely it was a balm to the soul to be a part of that village.  There was very little clamor for anything but the necessities of life.

The trail came out on the road.  He made a mental note of the spot. Not seeing any passing transport he began walking back to the town in the middle of the valley floor.  He walked for a long time down the dusty and hot road.  He got to town in the early evening.  He feet were sore, not used to that much walking.

Once more a village had made its way into the fabric of his heart and this made him glad.  He would come back again, many times, to see his friends.


Jiminy the driver

Relative of chads, lives in Burma, drives pajero

shan driver and van

van was older, said most his high school class was dead of aids, said jiminy was a part boy but not him



Not been there, john says its dirty, people are rude and so forth, but John doesn't know what art is and doesn't have any appreciation for people in the first place. Just a computer.


dyke in dawngee

writer from canada told me this story, and about the dyke packing a gun and how she told how the missionaries ran guns and paid in opium


Skating Rink

Meanwhhile the chinese from Mengla had made a contract with the Burmese government to run a skating rink next to the lake with music and games for 20 years.  The chinese from mengla were generally a rude ancultured bunch and the last you would want in your neighborhood.

They were the apitome of chinese who only cared for money. And they were only two doors down from Annie Tip with their blasting loud racket.

But oh no, the Burmese weren’t going to go in for any stupid stuff like what they had in the west, yeah sure, at least we had noise codes.


The old Buhdist monk near the Ant village

I was told there was a famous one near to there.


What illness?

In one Keng Tung village:

One woman had scabs of black on each upper arm symetrically with the other one. On the outside a little above half way up.  Had been there for three years.  Never healed. Made me wonder and a little gave me the creeps.


Akha generals

There are some.  There were some.  And there are a lot of Akha’s in the Burmese army in eastern shan state.


Khun Sah

Now retired, had them attack tachilek and then surrendered later, leaving his army behind.

Had the attack been with a sufficient number of men, say 500, the Burmese army at Takilek could have been overpowered and Takilek and possibly even Keng Tung could have been taken with time but it appears that for whatever reason Khun Sah was not prepared to do this.  Possible the Burmese could have resorted to weapons that he knew about and he was sure to loose in the long run with high civilian casualties, after initially having captured the region.  Still it seems like a lost opportunity and points to the main problem in Burma, fighting amongst themselves with no real likelyhood that they would be able to get along or pose a power that could administrate itself to outside forces.

The Burmese Army has had the unifying effect of saying that it will control all of the borders, will end ethnic squabbles and will "Get on with it".  In all the complaining that I have heard in the meanwhile I have seen ample evidence that no one else was up to the job. The different groups behave like independent groups of pirates, getting what they want and going home long before the job is done to where it would benefit everyone.


Burmese Dishwasher Dead

A burmese army man shot a Thai merchant crossing the river and killed him.

A day later a Burmese man was shot through the head.  A pawn.  He was the dish washer at the Thai Tong Hotel.  A victim of the common folks being killed over a dispute with big folks.

Lets kill somebnody that isn’t too important.

Possibly there was some connection as to why that particular Burmese man but it appeared arbitrary according to my sources who knew the incident well.

He was a friend of my Shan friend who worked at the Wong Tong Hotel as front desk manager at the time.

I wonder what his last day was like.  Did he love someone?  Did he have a family?  And the terror of it all going down?


Boo Choo sings

Village Soon Sat Gone, keng tung

She is a catholic Akha at soon sat goh that sings very well and I need her to do some recordings for me next time that I go up, traditional Akha stuff


Banyan tree restaurant keng tung

A place of expensive food and lots of rats, they used to come under the table while you ate and you had to chase them away


Ang Ai is kachin girl there

That was the name of a girl who worked at the banyan tree in Keng tung


Father bosco mong pyah, pagans

his comment about any akha not catholic

the catholics call the baptist “the half jesus people”


stone quary tachilek hah loh dteh

where anyone can work making rock if they have nothing else to do


Father gives blood trasfusion, then dies later that year

This was the ill baby situation near the orphanage on the road to keng tung.

Life is so odd, people dying and nobody seems to care for them, compared to how I grew up and lots of people cared, hoped you didn't die.  There was always sadness, like people had time to feel the pain, while here no one did, they washed it off their hands in a stiff kind of way, less the kept it around a moment too long.

Baby is no good, blotches on skin


Generator to zera

I bought him one. They had the  motor.  They used it many years till electricity came from Thailand.


Road crew burma from thailand abandoned equip

something didn’t work

The graders, rollers and buldozers lay beside the road, quite dead.


The Luay in keng tung market

sell fish and other stuff


burma runs its own show

opening the country up how it sees fit


a buffer against chinese domination

this is what someone might describe the road from maesai to keng tung as


Burma market

Lots of endangered species, or what was left of them there.  The young guys used to bring all kinds of live animals over, bears cubs, you name it.

Burma animals


Tiger at keng tung zoo

Yes, there was a tiger there, quite a nice sized one with a really long fat tail.


Keng Tung Road

and road trips



That is what the kids call out in Burma when they see a foreigner


Agaws six villages

He was playing pastor to them.  Could only think of money that guy, somewhat of a broken religious record, but a nice guy too.  Really I couldn't figure him out.  He ran a church. I knew his sister, Ah Daw.



supply of teak and cheap girls


Lwe Mwe

Lahu man’s wife and worker and him blown up in car, wife and worker die from land mine in road.

He was coming down from the mission and bible school at the old house up on the way to Lwe Mwe where Paul Lewis used to live.  Beautiful place. He never remarried.


Ah meeh marries AI who later dies

She later dies too


Captain Menyo

General menyo of immigration but then his wife finds out he has a second wife, writes the army and he has to step down.  He was building a hotel on lake in Keng Tung for two years now according to Annie Tip, but it still wasn’t finished. His second wife was a rich shan or chinese woman in Takilek it was said.


Puking Woman

So we gave the Akha women a ride but Joe he drove so fast through the curves that her baby got sick and threw up in the truck and he had to smell that all the way back. 

Now Joe was one of these guys with a wicked sense of needing to do people dirty whom he felt had wronged him some how.  One of these guys you gotta say “Oh, sorry about your penis!”

Since then I made a lot of trips to Cheng Tung, most of them in the winter of 94-95.  The road is long, but the last few hours are the worst, winding and churning upward.

The whole country in this eastern section is back forty years.             


Three Wives

The Akha Man Had Three wives, part of the akha welfare system.  two were fifty and one her husband died and then the third one was 38.  I asked him if he troubled himself with their differences, he said he did not.  The younger one lived in an attatched hut but the first wife did not care for her so though the younger one was willing to talk the older one was not.

The other wife lived in the mtn. we went to see her.  He thought it was over, gave her daughter five hundred kyat anyway and then we visited another village only to have that head man say that the woman definitly still loved him and it was not over, so I told him he should go back and double what he had given on this trip.

I think he said he had at least 13 children


Pajero transfer case, sure you have 4x4

Jimny.  He said he had four wheel drive. What he meant was that it used to.  So we barely made it because the four wheel drive didn't work at all. Never buy a Pajero.


Mengla beautiful dancer

She could really dance, an Akha girl.

Time Kevin and I went there.

Hadn't seen a girl dance like that since the time I saw a philippine girl dancing like that in Bremerton Washington at the enlisted man's club.


Mengla chinese architecture was ugly

The chinese were rude and taking over the town.  The chinese came there and set up jade shops, jade that they sold to visiting chinese.

A huge ugly temple was built on the hill, hardly authentic, the huge ugly catholic church across from it.


Burma Road

So the army guys got in my car in Burma and the one spoke English and since he wasn’t paying for the car I asked him why the army didn’t know how to build a road?  He got out soon enough.  The cook kept saying, shhhhh, he’s army officer. I didn't care, I paid for the car in full and it wasn't a free taxi.


Journal Entry Dec 12, 98

Keng Tung Burma

Consolidating relatinships and connections

Peeh Durh no longer Akha Natinal Leader in East Shan State

Now Ah Soh.  Flats Traditional Village near the air port.

I am stopping by for Peeh Durh's father's funeral.

The literacy work becomes increasingly important now.  There are attempts by Leo to pull all the Akha toward the Hani.  Certainly Paul Lewis attitude as well.

Conditions in Keng Tung area seem to be improving economically.  The villages appear to be less poor.

There is ever more work to do.  Getting out to villages and so forth.

Went to ever beautiful Lwe Mwe.  Roads are bad.  Truck and tires good.

Bah Jeeh and a few other silver smiths, I visit these.  One is an Akha in the Pah Meeh Akha village.  The other people are Shans near the Lwe Mwe road.

The whole issue here is how much non silver metal they are putting in.


Road To Mong Lah

Akha Village to right.

they have a church and want pipe.  I think they are catholic.

The old church was made of mud bricks and fell in.


Hooh Booh Akha

27 years Catholic.  No Nyeeh Pah.  They had a buffalo killing spear and a few other items.

Their head man, two of them had the names of Leeh Seh and Ah Tooh.

Gah Pah Bah Leh Akha was near a Shan village in the valley bottom but the Akha were moving from that to this village, and I met them on the road with their heavy packs and hauled them in my truck and that is how I find out where villages are.

Ah Nymm was one girl, her father's name was Gaw Daw Ah Yeeh


Keng Tung Jan 2000

Father Norman of the Keng Tung Catholic Mission at Joseph sat with me talking.

He agreed that Keng Tung was a very lonely place, most of all very far from anywhere.

Yet it was also a very private place, not so concerned with the cares of the outside world.  A mindset that was rapidly disapearing off the earth.

Keng Tung to me has also been friendly, as has Father Norman.

I have come here a number of times though I have not had time to get to places in Laos and China that I would like to go to.

I checked at the lake.  Tin Tin my Buddist friend was gone, as well as her problem son, no one knew where she was, maybe in Rangoon.  Her son had taken some bad drug which had damaged his mind quite severely.  It was very sad to see. He was about 20 then.

One night he was carrying on much, so they locked  him in his room but he broke out through the window.  The neighbors called the police so he jumped in the lake when they came.  They told him they would shoot him so he got out of the lake and a doctor sedated him.

He would also go to the big hotel where the Shan Palace had been and get drunk and get into a room and turn up the TV loud and fall to sleep.

Then the police would come for him again.

I sat several times with Tin Tin on her screened porch, looking out at the lake, talking about the old town and how it was.


Three Wives

Ah Jurh was the Akha man with blue jacket and blue hat who had the three wives in Keng Tung.

Meeh Daw and I stayed there one night.


Silk Sheets

Richard is the chinese guy who sells sheets in the market, he also told me about the mission being bad people.


Keng Tung

30.  Currently Keng tung is old buildings very slowly being replaced by concrete.  I could have bought land h ere but I had not enough money and trust was not so easy for who would watch it and hold the paper.

31.  The Keng Tung horlick corner, they sold deep fried vegies near by, sometimes those big chilis used in chili reanos.  Once I met a fellow here who introduced himself as the ex police chief of Keng Tung retired.  Wondered what he saw in many years?  He kept telling me I should "trust me."

32.  The Pah Meeh village and silver smith house in Keng Tung.  They made cloth here, the old way, dying and weaving and spinning.  Many dipping crocks, whiskey added to keep it correctly and so forth.  They dipped well died cloth more than thirty times, drying each time, in this dye of two kinds of plant leaves.

33.  There was a blacksmith there, a Jeeh Hah, silver smith actually.  He made lots of silver stuff.  His house was thick walled and dark with wood, cavernous, the many children coming and going.  One daughter had drowned in the lake there in Keng Tung while swimming or boating.

That was many years ago.  He had fields which were far out the road toward Maesai, before you went up the mountain on the right side there. 

His mother was a spirit woman, a Nyeeh Pah, very old now, could b arely hear.  More than 80 he said.  Not nearly able to tell any story now, the wax having been poured back in the jar sealing it for all time, the knowledge mostly now in h er mind or sent out to others already, but the days of acting over, now just days fo being till death's door.

I cut my head on the tin roof there because for a moment I took off my hat and forgot and then walked under its sharp edge, built for short people.  Cut myself as I walked out of the old brick bathroom next to the house.


Keng Tung

The Bill, The Road

The bill still wasn't paid but I could wait no longer so I headed for Keng Tung to look for a wife for my friend.  He was without children in his current state and wanted to change that.  His first wife had none and he wanted me to scout the lay of the land for him and then report back.  Since he was paying me and I had things to do in Keng Tung anyway it was quite convenient for me. 

The immigration office was disorganized as usual on the Burma side.  Fifty people and not one with any authority.  The Taxi driver was worse.  Insisting to crowd another passenger into the front seat with us in his battered old Toyota truck.  A fat shan man.  He was pleasant enough, but we banged around inside the cab for the entire trip.  Fortunately he bathed. 

The road was fpof of being in no danger of finishing soon.  The entire hundred miles was torn up.  Worse in some places, better in only a few.  A sea of mud and deep t ruck ruts.  Huge trucks moved garlic south as we waited on a siding.  But the road alone was prooof of error in the burmese government thinking.  Apparently no matter how much money people paid towards it, the revenue was always stolen, the road unfinished.  A road this busy could pay for itself quickly.

We got in Keng Tung around 9 pm.  It shuts down at 10pm.  I did meet a nice girl at the Mong Pyah road stop restaurant.

One man, thin like AIDS kept drinking alcohol, touching his jaw as if a tooth hurt him, looking off into the road.  Glasses and wrapped in a longye he also looked educated.


Keng Tung  Nov. 6, 2000


One fellow told me that now the Burmese army was fighting amongst themselves, both in Keng Tung and in Rangoon, maybe five factions but later there would only be one.

The Wa and Shan were waiting.  Waiting to come down from the mountains.

In the town the army was kicking out the Shan families, taking their land and houses. 

Before the Shan had been very bad to the Wa.  So now the Wa killed all the Shan Government workers, not ordinary Shan people.

The Wa were busy trading the chemicals of meth and guns.  Selling them into Thailand of all places.

The Lahu and Shan raised opium.  The Shan and the Wa dealing about equally in heroin, but Kuhn Sah doing it from Rangoon.

Keng Tung wasa the same easy market, a little busier, fauller than before.  Quite apparetly the army had lost some of its grip.

The curious question was why Thais were buying guns and bombs?


Keng Tung Market Bread Shop

The market shop where I bought Horlicks and sat writing was breezy and light.   Shadow where you like it and hand worn light brown boards made up the long table, the cracks full of crumbs, the benches painted grey.

The wood had grain to it like horse hair.


The Keng Tung Hotel

 had replaced the Shan palace which the Burmese took great effort to tear down.  I h ad seen photos of it, very beautiful in deed, a would heritage site no doubt, built of adobe people said.


The Wa and Daungy

One fellow said that the Wa control the pass to Daungy now.  Travelers are killed on this road.


Food was always a problem in Keng Tung

I got marginally sick but avoided great sickness by being very careful what I ate.  Never the less sanitation appeared quite low.


Burmese TV

Burmese TV is nothing but endless commercials, gold, soap, cookies, medicine, always attempting to show off the technological genious that got as not so far in the west.

It is very obvious that much of all the world will be destroyed in t his fashion.  One area using up all the resources and the other areas envying that before they find out it is a bad idea.  China is waking up and this is in itself the beginning of their take over of asian resources and these resources will run out.


Lights oare out very early in Keng Tung

The incredible slowness of the improvements are proof that the army is very poorly organized.

A large hotel near market can not open because they pay not enough money to the army.  Everything is pay army, this is very sad here.

Not only does it appear there is not much advancement but you feel that everyone is afraid, that no one is relazed or free with the army everywhere.

A few new houses are being put up.  That is all that I could see.  The enormous hotel is still empty, built  a couple years now.  An incredible loss for someone.  Hotels for the rich, the locals the servants.


Got Money?

As I ate breads at the horsehair table, a monk asked me where I was from and if I had any money.  Course you would ask a westerner that.


Burmese Progress

Now the burmese have built a hospital, nurse school, schools, bigger airport and many administration buildings and improvements that were not hear ten years ago even.  So the good and the bad.

The Burmese army came to Law Leh Akha many times to ask for money.   Sometimes a 100 kyat per house, sometimes 1000.  Otherwise no problem.


Towns north

Wah Tah Bpho

Murh Hah

Murh Kah

Murh Yahn

Loh Meeh Shah people go to the last two to buy their goods.


The Horlick Stand

Actually quite a big area, with earth oven, hot water boiling, benches, tables of horse hair wood, a buddist alter, music, and open air, set up from the wlak area.

The two girls were older, one married and with an older baby.  I had known them here for ten years now.

Part of the stand was divided off, a different partner using this other section.  In asia one often saw nearly symbiotic businesses, room for everyone to get along.


Progress? KT

So for Keng Tung I felt prosperity and order, but also corruption in the army, everything tightly controlled.  It was obvious that the Burmese were colonizing the place and not welcome, because the population was soely shan.

But if the Shan had not watned the Burmese here they readily could have kicked the Burmese out by sheer numbers, but had failed to do this due to infighting and internal conflict.


Spider Man

The fellows from the Economic Development Bank Mr. Spider Man Laughing Inspector and the others, well, while I was talking we were speaking thai and he asked me, the serious one, how I liked Keng Tung.  I said "sah bai dee" which in Thai means "pleasant".  But immediately he replied "you spie?"

We all laughed.

My impression of this place of the world was that there was MUCH cooperation.  It had not been overly commercialized, the templese were still improtant, and the people were mostly of open face.

This made just being here very relaxing and pleasant as compared to Maesai which was SO commercial and exploitive.

When you ive in a society which is chiefly exploitive you can see how poeple fall into this.


Camera Team Japan

The Japanese American Camera guys were still here, very pleasant people.  Obviously not opting for the American Life.

They said they'd marry Akha given the chance, they were two or three brothers.

In many ways what I see the Army doing is putting certain hints on growth and commercialism, insisting on good institutions first, which I don't see in the same way on the very liberal Thai side of the border.

I do not think it would take long to fit in but heading in the commercial direction would not be the way to go.

One can see from the excessive commercialism in Thailand what comes of the spiritual, exploitation increasing.

What is excessive?  Well one could argue that a long time.  I would say having caps on society is important, where they are placed may be secondary.

What we will see, as all the roads come together and an internet tower of babble is built, that the same errors will repeat themselves. Ignoring the warning signs, ignoring the rules.

However it is a very doubtful that the earth can long suffer the second twer of Babble.  The destroyesrs, Jesus to come back.

Every event in Keng Tung seems to be about and around peple, food, and drink, the music, as anywhere, less pleasant.


Keng Tung Days

These days in Keng Tung were quite enjoyable fore me not so much just goals come true, as theat wasn't the case, but in a realzed perception tat they would come true all god things to he that waits.  Come that isn't a year, nothing good happens in a year, ten twenty maybe.

But bad things happen overnight.  So who minds a few years.  Walk easy, think easy, don't stress.


Gow Moon Chong is the famous monk here


Joseph said Joe has an ant wife in Chiangmai night market.

Joe one time got angry and cut his wife's hair, she ran away, her dad sent her back, Joe sent him a motorbike.


Party Keng Tung

There was a big party in Keng Tung.  with some band and lots of food and the odd gambling table where you sake a can to win some food item that you pick out from the display.  Course its all rigged.


William Wong

Met my friend from the Wang Tong reception of long ago, William Wong.

I hadn't seen william in many years.  His father had passed away, a doctor in Keng Tung, the big house there next to the market.  He and his mother live now alone in the house.  In front there was a Taylor shop, Akhas there too.  It seemed very much that in so many ways the RCM passified these people and took the heart out of them.  Very placid but uninteresting.

Even Mooh Dzurh's village, I notice that at his father's village there is much taken up with the Church and not so much interesting beyond that.  The Church itself, the mission, has become a cult for the people, an imposed cult.  The village itself has next to no resemblance to anything Akha.  There is the embroidery, and what is left of the language, that is all.

Even Mooh Dzurh's father is to me somewhat phony, like he surrendered to the church with little fight or vision.  But Mooh Dzurh is still a good man and good writer, though he has his panic money moments.


Henry is the immigration friend of Joe in Tachilek



My search for my friend for a wife was getting closer, I had some appointments to visit some families in the next days.


Themes of Keng Tung

1. Changing times.

2. Ethnic Groups

3. Stability

4. Wives

5. Bad road, land lock, safety from Thai style

6. The Chinese buy Burma

7. Expats and odd man's

8.  Old years vintage, old bldgs, etc.

9.  Market

10. Missions

11. Buddism


Joseph next to the Mosque knows all the Wa villages in the area


James Mawdsley

Many of the people whom I spoke with thought James Mawdsley's stunt was stupid, having nothing to do with the reality of the lives in Burma.  As the burmese press says, what foreign effort has been made to help with either schools, hospitals, etc?


Keng Tung Doctor

The doctor in Keng Tung near the market, he said that the Akha were good people and that the Wa work even harder than the Akha.


The Banyan Tree Bar

On the Road to Tapin

Two intersting girls,  both Shan, tended the Banyon tree Bar.  One petite, one masculine in the face, thick features.  But they earn money for family.  Selling drinks.  The chinese workers buidl the road nearby.

The excellent Chines style which is to dig into the earth, make two walls, and then pack stones, dirt, and rock, into this space of ten meters between them, and thus the road, the walls work like a girdle to keep the rock and gravel from escaping in what is normally wet marshy rice land areas.  Otherwise all of it would endlessly disappear from the road.

The Banyan Tree was great.  The Burmese call them "God Trees" and no wonder.  They have long rams that would seem to break, but are gentle, like grand parents and often the home of bees which hang comb high in the branches.

In Monglar to the north on the Chinese border they are the home of great spanish moss also, ike what I saw in Florida as a child, southern lanes.


Keng Tung Shops

In Keng Tung is much modern music from small shops, many other small endeavors, clinics, cotton book paper shops and shops crowded with cans of drinks and cookies.  The prefab cookies that never spoil and taste horrible. 

Interesting I compare a diesel, not as nice as Kubota, but wi generator for 11,500 baht compared to 35,000 baht in Thailand.

Cheap goods to all the world, that is the lovely Chinese policy which I think simple and great.  Heavy and somewhat crude maybe but so what. They will figure it out in time.

What I like so dearly about the places the highly practical nature of the items made, the low mark up, like being in a very large old fashioned hardware store.  This is my great feeling of keng tung.

Many things of wood.  Some things that cost 2200 baht in Thailand cost 300 baht here.

Natureally the big corps have not squelched vriety and simplicity of design here.


Keng Tung Prices

Generally the prices of things between Keng Tung and Maesai are astronomically different. 

The Burmese claim with due cause that the big companies from Thailand push expensive whiskey on Burma while blociking cheap improt into Thaliand from the Burma side.  This is definitely an injustice they have right to complain about. 


Lives of Stone

Stories of the Old Temple

Happy faces, happy Prayers and happy feet polish the stones.


Tin is the girl across street from Joeseph's place

Nu Nu San is Lahu Girl who stops by.  Her name is Ah Seh also.

Joeseph's wife died in Jan 64.  He seems old and sad.  He is kindly but I feel no one takes care to him while he takes care to many people, especially us foreigners.  He said Joe treated him poorly and paid him worse.

He took me to one temple that is very old, the Shan having great respect for it, it is very nice there.

Old beam posts, gold, laquer work.


The Doctor had gone to Rangoon when I stopped by


The Gold Smith Shop

I stopped at a gold smith shop, just leaned in the door of the small place then went in and sat down to watch them work.  The place was compact, funtional.  Very enjoyable to watch them work the 10k gold.


Shan Girl

Met a shan family, the younger girl very much more clever than the  older girl.


Army Comparison

I guess the acid test is to compare the army officers massive new building with the poverty ward of the hospital.  This is the true comparison.


The Lahu Girl

The Lahu girl sat, all smiles.  Long hair and pleasant if not pretty.  Half Lahu Half Burmese she said, she worked at the hospital with her mother.

Her father  Burmese fisherman and they were quite poor, living behind the hospital in a very poor wooden house that looked dark and nearly broken with no windows that opened any more.


Burmese Army

The Burmese Army may be setting up this or that but is is obvious that they are also plundering the people, the community, and their brutality seems quite extensive.

People say the Wa are far more tough than the Army.

So everything has its good and bad.


Lives of the Stones

The sun was approaching its best light of the late afternoon and the man struck the b ig hanging barrel drum to call the people to the temple.

Inside were so many sitting buddas, maybe to some imags, idols, statues, but in this context certainly also art.  The temple was of wood, no surface even or the same with drynig and woarping and twisting of the wood.  Yet the oldness of all the laquered and gold glittered walls and pillars was the magic of the place, nothing made to perfection but all the more perfect.

The great posts that held the top roof were uneven, twisted, bending, but part of the grand design.  The floor was polished wood.  Like a big barn in shape but so very carefully ornate and marked in time.  The polished posts in a row on either side that held up the building, sunlight cut between them, shadows of novice monks moved between the, reflections off all the polished surfaces that were so mixed together in all the ways that only wood can reflect in its similar but uneven patterns.

Leading to the doors were polished stones on the outside of the building, polished by scores of happy feet, now robust Shan women walking out and down the steps and plump.

The side halls of the temple were glittered with gold and red.  They were part of the same temple space, but the roof was lower in these side wings, to the outside of the big tall support posts.

The light coming in through the windows bounced off the floor like golden water.

The long building was enchanting, so much dark wood, gold, yet reflecting light, like a very old music box of wood.

I wandered oat the old days of Tibet.

There was only one bell that I saw.  I was told that ther very large Keng Tung Bell was stolen by the Chinese, not the British, that it went out of town via the road to Monglar about 1943, and that they killed the chief aged monk in the temple at that time.

The old man said it was a monster bell.  I would have to ask at the other temple about this.

Keng tung if nothing else was a place of  many temples.  I could not say but that I noticed the people took seriously their respect, they didn't just come here to see god, but they also came here to care for the building, which in its own way felt like it was surrounded by stones that were sturdy and worn, exposed to the weather, but that as careful wood, the temple itself was fragile, giving ear to the voices of boys.

I talked to young monks who swept the dirt grounds with long stick brooms.

One had toaught for five years and said he would be a monk five more years.

We walked slowly back from the well worn open grounds, never locked from the community, surely not like Christian churches were.

I wondered at how the churches were locked in the west, like unkept, unfit and unfitting, like maybe a hostile act in the community compared to temples, not sure on this, but interesting to note. Churches seemed to require you to make an appointment with God by comparison, to come and have a quiet moment with the Lord, and then all others will be there also.  Seems that with this temple system the individual can always find the moemnt to themselves.  Some kind of comic mismatch that Christians have to go to Buddist temples to be free to pray to their God.


The Shan Girl

Chinese coffin houses, that is what they called the old four shops two story house eft from British times at least.  The walls were thick clay bricks, painted white, dark wood shutters, rafters, the typical shan clay tiles on the roof.

The boards were warped with tiem but also worn thin a=with much use of so many feet over the years.

The upper balcony was solidly built even still, and the younger daughter sat close and talked lively while we drank coffee.  Joseph told the mother I was scouting for a friend.

The older sister had a puffy upper lip, very bent teeth and seemed not nearly so clever. 

The mother was a thai from Tahiland, a school teacher.  But the husband was a motorcycle mechanic always very much drinking according to my friend, as he leaned back pretending to tip a bottle high, a twinkle in his eye, laughing.

The Shan girl fetched us photos and told us who all the people were, none of whom I knew but Joseph knew some of them.

Heading back to the Mosque I kicked what appeared to be an old cannon shot from the dirt of the road, the size of a small orange, iron, and placed it in my bag.  Later I threw it in the Maesai river when it occurred to me that there was the chance it had a small load in it still.

So the road yielded that and an old copper burmese coin,  with the wheat leaf or rice leaf on it, a childs marble in the road after that.  I put them both in my pocket for the moment, liking always to gather small things.

Many houses with their gently warped and sagging roofs ined the street.  The roofs of clay tiles that the Shans baked in holes in the ground, well, they were very heavy and sagged in time.



Someone in the news said that the Bush Gore election was undecided in the state of Florida.


Cops from Rangoon

CID from Rangoon was still investigating the murder of the Shan woman with all the money.  But the investigating officer was no longer in Keng Tung, gone back to Rangoon.  She was killed they think by a friend who wanted to rob her of her money belt, and after all these years her daughter who is said to live outside Burma pays to investigate it still.

Murder will out.


Stories Keng Tung

The dirt

Old bldgs

dynamic tension

increasing presence of chinese road, goods, workers

buddism in change

materialism much more in evidence in Thailand

Temple Library under construction


Army Learns to Read

One man said the monks in Mandalay fought the army and insisted they all learn to read Shan, buddist scripts.


Sam Yweat Guest House

The inside of the rooms were varnished pine, or painted panels with frames and flats, and then some walls of tongue and groove like the old houses in America.

Keng Tung reminded me of Oregon High Desert buildings.  Chipping peeling paint, weathered wood, dry dusty roads, doors nailed shut, while Maesai was like the western part of oregon. Wet, except sailom Joi was windy and cold like the columbia gorge.


Bank Guests

A good evening in town, with the Myanma Economic Bank Boys.  Mangager, assistant manager and Internal Affairs inspector, Mr. Spider Man.  Cause he was tall and thin, had very big hands with very long fingers, a huge smile and flashing laughing eyes.

The manager is friendly man, Burmese, where the inpsector has sad hound dog eye brows and a wide smile.  and very pleasant.

The bank manager pointed out a fancy house as we walked in the night.  This man was 36 .  He was from Tachilek.  He had 200 prado cars.  Died of AiDS, wife ws there, the lights lit dimly.

One hour massage down the street, same boring stuff, pregnant staff, gee, wonder how that happened.


Beetle Nut

Everone here chews beetle nut with stained red teeth and spitting it everywhere, it gives you a rush to the head with a narcotic effect, I don't like it for that feeling but is fun to chew if you know how to get the right mix made at the right table to your favor.


Keng Tung Improvements

I keep thinking of all the improvements in this town, not withstanding the huge budda.  lights, the new officer quarters, but that the poor peoples maternity ward and the general hospital, the old one still in use, is a shit hole.  Here the poor must pay for each pill, each supplies, before it ever shows up at the hospital.  Being sick is to be a hostage to poverty. Where are all the "Free Burma" people now?


The Keng Tung Market

An ever changing flow of bodies, baskets and faces, hats, shadows, coats, bags moving, rolling stopping to sit and disappearing all again.

A man tall and th in, with a watch and mustard yellow pants came and chased the women out of the middle of the market road where they were trying to set up to sell.  This road cut both ways through the market, dividing it into quarters.  The man returned to his chair at the side.  Women, so many, trying to find a place to stop and rest or set down what they had for sale.  Mustard greens, pod peas, onion greens and little red sweet potatoes.


In Keng Tung

The "question"

Whoever I ask from Joseh RCM hill the denial is the same, nobody knows anything, the catholic mafia.

But surely the traditional Akha know what is being destroye and lost and the proof is on their side.


One Shan Girl

She was the cousin of the m oney changer woman next to Richard, always laughing and joking and embarrassingly delightful personality. 

She could understand Akha where as they could not and naughty things could be said for the laughing.


Langell Valley from Keng Tung

Events cease being events and become time passing.

I remember back in Langell Valley days at the Circle 5 ranch repairing engines, people's cars..  Cars were already getting way complicated then and I was young an dknew even less abou t life than I did mechanics, though I enjoyed it.

Knowing what to charge was difficult, each situation different.  Sometimes you just weren't going to be able to charge what it was worth.

Now the memories are long ago but there were the Baths, Randyand the girl who liked h im, Sue Phillips, and I kept on, and maybe they stayed still?

These people were tough in business, one time they were just h ard, maybe one time they paid nothing, but truck and tools were never so good a life, a drifter on wheels going from one ranch to another to fix equipment and then have people refuse to pay.

I looked back now , here so many years later, sitting ta an old sidewalk cafe in Keng Tung, suitable place for the thoughts, nd wondered at the mysteries of life, experience and time.  We don't grow up.   We collect and grow older, our bodies a clock.  On e tries to keep innocence and softness, but hardness is so often damanded.  People can be very bad to us but I think the gentle sould would still keep the gentle trusting soul and th is is a gift of life.

Across from me, they tore down the old restaurant in a heap of bricks, rubble, boards and wires.  Going to build again.  But tar roads and concrete can not embody thetimes as these old buildings did.

Burmese women break the bigger pieces of old brick rubble, laughing at me, nearly the only foreigner in town, as I sit here so.

The beer is cheap, not so good.  The Chinese say Chinese beer is "low sperm count beer, government issue."

But over the times of years I look back, I don't regret life, I don't know of very many people who had more adventures than I.  And still going on, but always to be a better person, and kinder, more wise, more worthy a steward.

I look back amazed at all the places I h ave ben both different and similar. 

Ash valley, the long road to Halfway, I forget that one town, it was the "T" intersection there in N. California.   There was some sect that lived there.  Also there were places like Burney, Alturas.

One friend was married and lived there on a ranch in those days.  He was not so experienced to the women and sure felt lonely way out there.  His old lady left whenever she wanted and headed back to see mom for weeks at a time so they finally split up, good riddance he figured.

Randy Bath was his boss and a dolt at that.  Said a few words in a week if at all.  Wonder where he is now?  Anyway, he lost the ranch for not managing it right or talking enough with his deed partners.

Once I pulled and replaced a big transmission out there near Adin, was a real hassle for one person.  Got it done though.  A guy with a load of cattle blew it out there on the pass, and I worked a full day, night too, getting it pulled and put back in, took two days.

One place and then another, long roads, no where to call home, long years.

Everybody wants to go home.

I miss.  I think I find it sad that we do not grow up to value things at first like our families in the west, like we value them later on. 


Circle 5

Near the Circle 5 in Langell valley was where Randy came from, actually the other side of that small valley.  There was a ditch boss that tried to keep everyone happy about the water supply.  The indians were gone and this was all that was left, even the small dairies closing down one by one.  John Bath, h is brother, land payments, tractors, swathers, combines, and then ranches lost to the bank.

Ranches had weathered gear like no farm had.

No Amish around in this neck of the woods, that was over in Ohio.

One young kid worked for Gary Randall, he brought a truck, and was making a go of it.  Had a young wife and kid and spent a good deal of time drinking, no one to help him, hauled hay when he could.  Wanted something of a life, you wonder how kids in the US make it with no one to help them so many times, no family, no village, no Akha.


All the farms

I think of all the farms and ranches I worked on, roads, parts houses, so many different jobs and then the economy of Carter which broke so many including myself.

Stores full of memories, one here or there to take down and turn slowly in the hand.


Keng Tung Cross roads

Keng Tung was the crossroads of much people and history, and that is what gave it such mystery and excitement.


Keng Tung Hospital

I took another walk about in the hospital.  The nurses are well, but the majority of the facility is very filthy and without vision or imagination.

The outpatient section is only for th ose who can pay well, the poor reside in the old sections of the buildings.

What isimmediately noteworthy is the lack of #1 government funds, #2 spirit of volunteerism to raise the conditions and standard.

For the people to not do this themselves shows very much a backward way.  The filth, the dirty walls, pealed paint, black floors, no view, (blame that on the catholics who picked the spot)like in a cellar, is nearly a death house but also showing the stupidity of medical staff t hat they feel any healnig will ocurr quickly in this environment of dim light and despair.


Keng Tung

Dark at night, breezy by day.  Not so many street lights as open shop doors to light the way at night time.  Outside the main area of the horlick shop at night there was not even the light to walk by. 

I had a little bit of time on my hands, I took a visit to William Wong, some breakfast and a stroll through the market.  The Japanese film crew was busy buying souvenirs on their last day in town, gobs of spendy camera equipment, the image to nab.

Eventually I made my way through the stalls, restless money changers clicking their India Ruppees together endlessly, and I headed off for a reluctant lunch on the corner.

The sky was spotted with full clouds, tall, lue.  The outcome of the US 2000 elections was proving to be the closest in history from what I could gather from shop owners, Bush maybe ahead but a very small rate margin.


Motorcycle Don

A cop from San Francisco, his shan wife left him again, another shan wife.


Not many factories

One noteable thing about Keng Tung is the lack of industry.  A town not too concerned to care for itself, dusty sandy streets much in decay, locked in time while gravity , wind, bugs and rats were not.


Funny Money

People spoke that obvious wealth in Keng Tung was not by normal means, facy 3 storey houses andnice four wheel drives.


Diesel Carts

Two wheel diesel motors pulled water carts thruogh town, delivering supposedly clean water to houses, but now the large water bottles were even showing up, the kind from Thailand.  White plastic, hardly like the big green glass jars from Sparkletts or Arrow Head Water which we saw as children and often made terrriums of as kids, back in Riverside days.


Many Roads to far away places

Keng Tung had roads running out in many directions.  Loi Mwe, Airport and Akha villages, Tapin Bridge, Gatow - Gatai, Daungy, Tachilek, and probably a few others.  It was sort of hard to remember them all.  One road in a back neighborhood had a place where old ladies spun water pots of clay and then baked them.  Ivan Polunin and I spent hours watching them (he wanted the hours part).  The ladies used old wood kick spinning wheels on the ground to spin pots and lids, building on handles, the clay slipping through their hands so easily.

Reminded me of kilns and ceramic beads.

Approval or money, what was it which children sought from their parents?


Shan Carts

I had followed them down road tracks from themountains hauling lumber or moving through the villages, two oxen, the driver and the great wooden wheeled carts.  The wheels had metal rims, but clanged and bounced along the dirt tracks, now more often replaced by Toyotas.

The cart rested on a cross beam, which was fastened to a lone metal axle, with a wooden peg holding the wheels on.

More often than not one saw the cart wheels used in a fence, a table or some such than as a cart any more.

In the old shan villags one saw little wooden wheel carts, very small, and also ox sleds.  The Akha used these with their water buffalo also.

Interestingly enough, water buffalo were being eaten into extinction in Thailand and I wonder what the health and environmental effects will be when there are not so many left?

Water buffalo were kind and easy to toch, children riding them safely, the heart of a large cat it would seem, eager to get to know you.  They have a cry, seldom heard, but the clonking of their wooden bells, tell you they are in the jungle near you. 

A lone black chick walked the guest house yard.  Goig to sleep near the box they had put the old white hen in.


The Sihk Man

He lived on the corner and sold old truck parts. I wondered what he really did cause there was no money in this.  There was a temple in town they had, one relative would watch it, he was leaving for a year to Daungy, I wasn't sure he would be back, it was lonely here and he had very few family or Sihk friends here.  He said there wasn't much social togetherness in the whole area, like people who no longer recognized their own specie.


Two Girls

The two stone road curbs ran on over the hill and out of view.  The graet banyan tree sand in the winds as stiff leaves clatter down.  Chinese workman shaped stornes with hammers, building the curb that made up the monlar Keng Tung road.  China would soon own all of misguided Burma. 

Motorcycles and trucks rumbled by, coming out from Keng Tung, the spot being some ways out of town.  Richard showed me this little stand.  There was a driveway right here to the nearby shan village where the two girls who ran the place came from.  One man mixed cement, and this stretch would soon be finished.  I had a beer, setting there on the bamboo benches, the two shan girls chattering with an easy to laugh Shan boy listening to thai music and talking about the police and far off places like Bangkok, a distant look in the eyes of the less animated girl on the right side.

Clad in a long b lack dress, cheep black shoes, with a red vinyl perse, the smaller gal shattered on, her face whitened, eybrows and lips decorated.

The Chinees workmen went on, mortaring the stones with cement that was little more than sand. 

I  ate some pickled "Mah Gaw" apples, as the Akha called it, I suppose it was some kind of crab apple if you stretched the imagination.  Pickled it was ok when drinking beer, dipping it in chili powder and salt with sugar. 

The small gal sang now, everything was south from here. No one wanted sons, useless sons, in this land.  Daughters could be sold.  The lottery is what they were called.  What is a man with six daughters? A lottery winner.  A concrete house coupon.

The light filtering through the branches of the banyan tree.

The Rangoon Airways plane droned as it h eaded off, the taxi driver spoke on, an older man, his yamaha no younger than he, as my back attested with each bump.

Next time I came here the road would be finished.

The distant hills still held some green, and of course many Akha villages.  Clouds cast great shadows on the hills. 

The small round faced gal practiced her thai alphabet, going over spellings of different town names in the area.

Bamboo rustled to the back of us, the bamboo table and the benches cut in the side of the red clay hill to the side of the road.

The Shan girl with the stronger face h eld me with her eyes, hair climbing up from her eye brows in fine rows.


Banyan Tree Bar

I took a drive out to the Banyan Tree bar again but the motorcycle was so bad, there was nothing left of the rear shock, plus the old boy kept speeding up and slowing down, like Tuk Tuk drivers do in Thailand sometimes, acting as if we weren't going anywhere, it was so annoying I had him take me back to town and got another driver.  I put on a jacket, and went back out.

(The Akha girl at the pharmacy near the market and Sam Yweat Guest house said she got 300 baht a month. That would buy a length of cloth or six meals, take your pick. Her name was Meeh Seh)

I headed out again with the fellow who took me near Tapin, he was buying some meds at the other pharmacy near the Yangon Airways Office and he gave me a lift out to the Tapin Road Shan village.  There is an Akha village behind there called Wah Leh Akha where the catholic mission is.  Some 32 houses, a convent and men's house and a very long church.

A nun went to watering the red tall flowers an absolutely charming smile, the children said she was burmese.

Off again we passed another Catholic Akha village down here in the flats and did a loop back to Pah Meeh Akha village where the Jeh Hah and Peeh Durh live.  I decided to buy the dark blue Aha cloth I needed now in the afternoon while it was nice light and I had time.  I bought 15 looms of it.  A loom is an Akha length for cloth, about the same distance as between an adult man's outstretched hands.  It was finely woven blue, all one piece but not has dense as some I had bought in the past.  This village was well known for making Akha traditional cloth.  Better than any sold anywhere else, but the price was a little high this year.

70 baht a loom, but I like to see this trade encouraged and the good blue stuff just isn't available anywhere else.  I needed a new jacket and I owed Massimo from Italy one also.

I then stopped at the Jeh Hah's house, but I called him the Bah Jeeh instead.  His oldest daughter is married now, one in Bangkok tending an Akha woman who married a Chinese man, 11 kids he had in all.  Big and  happy family so many great kids.  As we talked the day faded and the lights were needed but then went out, so I wrote a few notes by candle that his wife brought for me.  That was nice.  She brought me a guava and the oldest boy cooked me dinner which was awfully nice thing to do. 

The Bah Jeeh's wife was a nice steady and patient woman, a great way with the kids, and the children sure reflected this even hand.

By night fall I had the sniffles and a sore throat coming on from this morning, all from drinking too much horlicks I figured.

Maybe I would stay a couple more days at most.

These Pah Meeh Akha were still traditional and it showed in the persuits of the village, silver smithing and cloth production along traditional means.  Lots of weaving and dying going on where ever you looked.

The house was the thick walled brick style, wooden shuttered and probably not painted inside since the one and only white wash.  A wooden table and chairs, a large bench bed and a back room to the rear which was the kitchen and the bath was a tiny place out back, which was how I cut my head that time.

A slew of cheerful children broke into the room, nearly all of them from this house, gawking, talking and crowding and then off again, the smallest boy riding on his sister's back.

Nine girls, two boys. 

A load of bananas were against the wall on the floor.

The rice harvest was done, some 380 cans of rice, which is quite good, very good, and they had terraces to work from which is excellent.

Only the terraces were a little far.

No room close to the house and town, so their land was far and they had a tractor do their fields each year.  The didn't keep a buffalo.


With my first cold in years, I go to bed early


Old Paths

On this trip to Keng Tung there were old paths to go over and enlarge, new people to meet but back in Maesai I had money concerns that bothered me, knawing at me like a mouse does on a leather strap, weekening it. 


Fried Eggs

She was there in the m orning chill, pert, steam flying up from the large round grill in the barrel drum fire, a floral green surrong of dark olive and a peach colored t shirt.

Fried eggs, fried bread, oil saturated, bathed iin it, the way these people like it.

She didn't have the attitude nor the looks but she reminded me of the girl at Jo Jo's who always got angry if she became noticed.

The sun cut through the rolling steam.  How the hands get burned by the popping eggs and oil.

She had the perfect cast.  Nubile.

I ate the rest of the b read as the odd tourist passed by, not common in Keng Tung.

The bread came with peas mixed with oil and fried garlic, was really good, soft and leathery.  A few old ladies from Europe walked by. 

The bread stnd was a kind of perch where you could order quite a bit.  Coffee and tea glasses the heavey ones.  The waiters moved at speed, out to the tbles, empty and back again the glasses revolved.  Aluminum tea pots for a chaser of light green tea if you wanted it after one of the sweet coffees.  A rag in the middle to clean your hands and the occasional polishing down of the horse hair table by the waiter, one of the sisters, or a haphazard young fellow that had the best days when he wasn't there.

The girls face was hidden mostly by the steam, drank some more of the heavy dark tea drink with milk.  Thick as coffee in Cairo.  A few Akha women with babies on their backs pass by.  There is an Akha beads shop just across the way that they are often stopped at in their traditional dress to buy this and that item to fix up their head dresses.

The people here often stared, often laughed, turning quickly to their companion to point you out, to tug on their sleeve to get them to look, as you went by.  Like you wouldn't notice, but not necessarily as bad manners or anything.

Cheap Burmese music clattered away, similar to a noise in the motor which would instantly alarm the driver, maybe a fan belt came loose in the fan.

The idiot to my right started smoking, laughing some more then suddenly going silent.

In Keng Tung you could see nearly anything sold.  If it didn't come frm Burma or Thailand it came from China, most of it came from China these days.  Maybe not the highest tech, but there was something to get every job done.


The Shan house

The Shan house was sturdy,  mud, brick, wood, carefully adzed beams, across the rice delta I could see all the rice stacked so carefully and then the grass sh ields built and placed on long poles to block the sun, like sails, from scorching the workers, then they moved the shields to the next location where they used a stick and a strap to wrap around the bundles of rice stalks and swing them down with a swish to knock the rice grains all loose.  The Akha used sticks that they just hit the rice with, that were shaped lik polo sticks, rather than swing all that weight.

The shields dangled and swung as the moved them to the next place, an event fixed in time long ago, seeing it now.


The Lazy Man

The Thai Yais have the field work and harvest done, the village built, the work minimized.  This is not particularly Lazy but rather rather a contrasting view to the western life of dissipation.  They year after year accumulate so that each year life gets better, the children grow up in the house and then take it over, the old get older and die, no new houses are needed, everyone gets along, all the brothers and sisters stay around near the same old  house, the family name moving through the house, the house not going anywhere generation after generation, only disturbed by sometimes more than frequent war.

They don't work any more than they need to.  They have terraces, fruit, pigs, cattle, and building houses they waste not their time on cause they keep using the same ones.

The families are unified, carrying on each generation doing its job, work kept to a minimum as to not materially over produce.  WEalth enough to be able to pay workers now to move the rice, and help in the fields.  There is no agenda, no need or reason to hurry, the life sustainedable for centuries in rich clay bottom land of the valley.  If one looks at the history here one can see that it has been the maurauding plunderers with wide agenda and no need or desire to farm the land.  I remembered Peal S. Buck The Good Earth or something like that. 

Shan villages, nestled kindly in bamboo forests, lakes, canals, rice terraces and fields, the ox cart roads, the old village temples.

Sleeping dogs, feeding pigs, certainly food security  and wealth, what others would polunder and enslave.

A doughter finding husband or going to Bangkok is an aside here not always a necessity.  Going to the show.  Taking a shot at fate and seeing what kind of new fortune can be had.

Shan houses, built above ground, stone,  wood, clay tile roofs, the short tiles, hooked at one end that just rested there on slats, screaned in porches, hammocks under the house, old sewing machines, sometimes looms, nothing un necessarily stressed, the wealth, the place, the "sofa" for life, saved in place for generation after generation to enjoy. 

Christianity had not so much place here as we knew it because these people weren't fooled and we were.  Busy, spinning about, each man out for himself, trying to build what could not be sustained and then falling back.  It was a little hard to find fault or shortage with an abundant food supply in a place where people had all they needed and food grew easily.  Life moving as a stream of light and time by over the polished boards and dusty roads.

Inside the Shan houses the ceiling beams were luxuriously thick, brought from the mountains, fixed in place like the belly of a great ship.

Every flow and look of life here showed of a slow easy pace.

I looked at all the girls easy of grace and movement, soft feet padding on the wooden floors.

Door curtains swishing, tea and fruit every time brought, urging her younger sister to wake up and come out and help and visit.  Candies, seeds of sunflower, oranges, the Shan man who brought me chatters as I watch, since I don't know shan language much but it seemed to me some kind of business they had. 

The daughters in this house were of sufficient beauty, harvested and sent to all ends of the earth, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore.  Seeking fortune and future, a husband and family.  The father told us the story behind each big framed picture on the wall, where each one of his daughters went and married, quite happy that they had moved on.  The photos mounted in varnish and wood told part of the story, other parts remained a mystery.

My guide moved us well from known house to known house.  The photo albums came out, the purpose of my visit defined, the younger sisters, the old granfather, body carefuly and fully tatooed, legs, arms covered with letters.

This was a house in Yahn Kai Shan village.  And here a most beautiful sweet Shan girl.  Sow.  Her sister Tip.  They were all called Sow of course but this was said when they were shy not their name. 

Kuhn Sai is a knowledgeable and helpful man in Yahn Kai village.


Shan Fish and Shan Girls

Back at the first village I slept.   Then the fish and food came in, a nap, time to wake up.  The oldest daughter was back from the fields and washed.  Dressed and soon we were eating.  Lao, Mekong, fish, soup with more fish, large lime, salt, hand rice, and soon the guide was strongly feeling and pressing the girl, a long relationship standing with this one, I had agreed not to speak to the wife what I saw on this trip, this was a men's trip.  The mother pressed more wiskey on me, I drank a good share, the stuff was clear and you didn't feel it, soon you couldn't feel your face either but it wasn't like mixed drinks at a bar or beer, that was for sure, much smoother than that.  The man squeazed firmly at the plump girls breasts to hissing from the girl and much laughter from her mother and I, since obviously she had  been much freer with the liberties at some previous time. 


Chinese Girl

Back in Keng Tung I ran into the Chinese girl who used to work in the Maesai Pharmacy, now she had her own place here on the main street.  She said her father was ailing so she had her own place here to be close to him.  She ran this one at night and one in the market during the day time.

Then I went to Joseph Hill and the mission, took Vitamins and medicine to brother John there who had showed me a hole in his ankle left from an injury when the taxi motorbike driver crashed them both.  Due to poor diet it was healing very slow.  He was old and tired.  I don't know if he had always been old and tired or just of late.  He was a priest for 60 years, 40 years in Keng Tung alone.  The cemetary of white stone crosses marked the lives of so many committed people to this place, many of them who were not from here, not enough graves so it made one wonder if some got buried elsewhere and more quitely due to some offense?

I then went to see the Akha man who speaks english and has the restaurant that sells so much alcohol.  He has two alcohol shops, one in the market and one out in a shan village.  He had not much to say.

Then I was off to a "two girl house" which is what they call a brothel here. They never have more than two girls showing, there is a TV with important army guys giving gifts to monks.  I ate some sliced apple and my driver and I were off again, figuring out the Keng Tung night life.  The two girl house was also said to be the only one in Keng Tung, not sure I believed it, but really didn't matter. The chubby girl working her way through life with the other unfortunate older girl.

I then took some vitamins to the silver smiths wife.  She had experienced a miscarriage and showed me the results of a doctor visit, not knowing how to read english.  I told her that the doctor said she had to go back to be scraped because the miscarriage was not complete and thus the bleeding would not stop, according to the doctor's report.


Civic Pride

The most noticeable thing about Keng Tung was the lack of civic pride and volunteerism.  That apart from the big tree on the hill that you could see from the mountains even.

Volunteerism is what can be done no matter what a government is like to make life better for everyone.

Even in the west where we have great wealth people take great pride in volunteering and maybe in that is the secret of the great wealth also.

The whole monk thing to me seemed in question, when there wasn't a single clean street in the town.  People endlessly spit and cleaned out their noses, leaving the waste in the path or street. 

I wondered again why the community did not fix up the hospital.  Joeseph said the rich people were too good to go there or help and got all their care at the private clinics.

The mission did not seem to lead on this matter either, by example or organization.  It is much more powerful to organize people and lead by example than to endlessly do charity for them which then of course is not enough, and you need a jillion nuns.

And I would think the mission will get left behind for their lack of vision and not to be replaced by better forces either.


Head Cold?

My last morning in Keng Tung for a while, I went and had breakfast.  A head cold had tossed me all night long with dreams as thick as spider webs reaching out, turning, blocking the view, revealing, and I woke very early.

There was still hot water, many years ago I had helped the owner, the Shan man, a royal, to wire in the hot water heaters.  They were made in the US.  I made sure he used a ground. 

I checked one pharmacy, bought some expired contact 500, a few extra packs, enough for the next three years, and got some breakfast.  I was not feeling good. 

Most the shops hadn't opened yet, the air was slightly chill.

I was contemplating to hire a whole car, if I had enough money I would buy cotton.

This time I wanted a driver who really flew along rather than creep.

It was a six hour drive with a good driver, longer with a bad one. 

I took the medicine, had some very heavy tea, and hoped I would feel better.

The quest had been successful, working with many people, I knew very well what NOT to waste time on.

The shan girls were heavier than their Thai counterparts, the Burmese girls more slim. 

This particular tea shop was Akha owned.  It wasn't where I regularly ate but they weren't open yet.

The heavy brick oven with its round interior, the large round pad they stretched the bread over before striking it to the inside oven wall where it quickly got bubbly as it baked.  The bread came out quickly full of these big bubbles and stretchy, crispy on the back side.  More peas and fried grlic with oil, made a paste one could spread on the bread and roll it up  to eat.

The market got busier and busier around me.  Another normal market day.


Leaving Town Keng Tung

We made really good time leaving by 9 am since there were lots of checkouts to do to get under way with immigration etc.  This office, that office, the man wasn't in yet, and so forth.

The immigration office it self was interesting, about ready to fall down, an old Shan house.  All the offices were poorly organized to get anything done quickly.  Well organized with many forms but not for speed.

At the worst part of the road we got held up more than two hours while back hoes cleared the road of dirt that more back hoes up above were pushing down. 

Rather than really finish one section of the whole damn road, they kept the whole thing under construction at the same time.  A jillion back hoes and not one good cat.  4 D8 Cats would have outworked them all. 

Looked more like the Thais were getting rid of all their existing back hoes, since I didn't see much new equipment. 

The slow pace didn't make sense either because the new road would be worth a lot of toll money.

The sooner done the better for all.  Explain that to the Burmese.

We got to Mong Pyah an hour and a half late but were still in Maesai by 4 pm, a record for me and this road, since it used to be a 12-14 hour trip.  105 miles is all.

Now they were getting serious on the last rocky and narrow part of the road along the river close to Keng Tung, and this was the worst part all these years, many places only room for one vehicle one way at a time. 

A slew of trucks gathered at the restaurant in Mong Pyah, we had even had to hold up a backhoe and rolled big stones out of the road ourselves. 

Now all of the rabbit like toyota wagons were here, swarmed around the big water cistern to fill radiators, clean windshields, one guy pulling some kind of broken strut off the bottom of his car.  Everyone got a good feed except myself since I didn't trust the kitchen as I got real sick here last time.  I had a sponsor drink and some potato chips. 

The occasional army guy came through but there were a lot more Wa trucks than army people, and the whole road had a lot of chinese stone bridges already built all the way to Tachilek by the Chinese crews.  But I figure the road would still take two or three years the way things got done around here.


Back in Maesai

I got back to Maesai.  Talked to Mr. Thein Kwan the lawyer in Tachilek, about the catholic mission and banking.

Then told my friend of the results of the trip.  Meanwhile he had gotten himself married while I was gone, a woman from Bangkok.  So that took care of needing to rush back to Keng Tung and I was very tired. 

But Mr. Thein told me that I should speak to Mr. Peter Townsend in Keng Tung as h e knew much about the church there and Bishop Abraham.

Overall the trip was stressful but needed nd god, I got some things done that I wanted to do, brought back cloth and cotton.  I was also one more step closer to Loh Meeh Shaw.

I met many Shan girls, villages, etc.plus always new information on Akha situations there.

The road coming back was much better than going, only 11 days difference.

Keng Tung is dirty and depressing, the road will change all of that.

On the maesai end I have rent, truck bill, truck repari, cloth and hospital bill to do.  Very distrubing and I don't knwo if any money coming in.

I brought back cotton for weaving, two big bags.  I want weaving to start in the flat village. 

Other than bills, printnig Akha books, and maybe buying a press to do that or having it done.

Also I had web and internet bills.

So this is the life here that I live, work and bills, and not much pay for me, but I choose to be here and do what I do.

My Keng Tung driver was good and I agreed 1700 baht but gave him 1900 because he was good.

Then I had to pay 200 baht to get the Burmese Taxi to get the cotton through for me and to my house, a very big bag, bigger than I was.

Everything at the house - office is ok on my return.

My next challenge up there in Keng Tung will be to get across the river to Loh Meeh Shaw.

I maybe need to take about 4 truck inner tubes and a hand air pump next time.


The election between Gore and Bush is a mess


Burma Police Run Away

There was an advisory on Akha radio that Burmese Police were running away from their jobs to become bandits in the mountains where they raped and killed, two lahu people killed of late in the mountains of Burma around Keng Tung.  This was about 1999.


Millenium Keng Tung

Jan 1, 2000

Well, here I was in Keng Tung, Eastern Shan State Burma for New Years Day 2000.

Actually I slept through the whole thing.  You see, pretty hard to get even a good clean meal in Keng Tung.  Its a dirty place.  The army manages it that way.  Dirt, trucks, dust nota street sweeper to be seen.  So naturally there wwasn't much of a celebration unless it was by the lake, which I heard rumors of but didn't see.

The Burmese army in the process of setting up an administration seemed to hae reduced Keng Tung to its lowest common deominator, dirt.

Where there had been the beautiful Shan Palace they placed a newer hotel which it would appear no one came to.  The Palace they tore down.  The real tourist attraction.

In the early dawn I was ready to get up when I heard the church bells.  Then I worried that maybe it was only still midnight.  But the weather had warmed considerably in the last days and there just happened to be hot water so I got a good shower and headed out for breakfast.

I always had breakfast in the same place, India bread and goober peas.   Reminded me of the friendly talk I had with the sihk hindu last night.  One of a couple left in Keng Tung and he was moving soon to Daungy caues there weren't any left but his family and his sister's family in Keng Tung.  She would stay and take care of th e temple.  He sold occasional motor parts.  That was all that he did all his life here.  Grew up with many Akha students.


The Bread

There were at least two places it was best it was still warm and stretchy like waht was called an elephants ear.

This was a nice place to meat the locals, not so many army hung out here now, and just watch the people go by or like on this morning write a little.


Keng Tung Market

The air was cold and crisp time I got there to the market, no one quite set up yet because it was so early, but I was eager for something hot to drink and warm to eat as I had  been battered brutally all  night by that tractor, which hauled me over the mountain after all the cars got stuck and the drivers didn't know how to negotiate the mud holes.  Good old stiff Massey Fergusen, what a ride.  For a while I clung on to the awning post behind the driver but after some time that was too exhausting so I got in the cart in the tiny space available with belongings and other people and did my best wedged in there to sleep and get some cloth pulled over my head as it was bloody cold.  Across the flat rice fields to Keng Tung had cold fog.  My knees pulled up to my chin, the blanket coming only to my nose if I clutched at it and my spine banging against the raised corner of the tail gate which beat meanly against me with every bump in the road.  Only a solid wheel cart could have been less comfortable, oh comfort aside, pain!

So when the first piece of India bread and hot horlicks was before me I ate with no small amount of joy.

The market was one  large square.  Some  business to the outside particularly in back where much vegetables and fruit were sold, but mostly the outside was taxis, motorcycles and waiting transport trucks.

Inside the walls of this square were rows and rows of long sheds, full of stalls, selling all the basic components of life from shirt flannel to raw cotton, to lead shot, rifle barrels and the compuonds for making gun powder.

Many stalls sold every type of tabaco, tea, dried fish, fish paste, canned goods, medicine,  bees wax, paint, gold, silver, army clothes, shoes, iron cook wear, and metal boxes of army green.

Two long stalls sold m eat.  One sold pork and one sold beef.  On occasions beggar children would come in and pound a tin bowl on the counter until one of the block choppers threw a scrap into it and waved his knife in mack anger with a harsh voice cloaking a chuckle.  Well, chuckling because I was there maybe.

Outside the chidkens and ish were sold, the Muay women all in the isle with more dried fish and oranges.

And everyone spit.

One thing the Burmese admin had no eye for.

In the last years the gates had grwon too small and the goods and people too many, too little new planning.

The number of Burmese people invited to the Keng Tung area had swelled enormously.

Out front a motorcycle went the wrong way and the taxi drivers all yelled for him to stop for the Burmese policeman.  A tall fellow of few years he hesitated then thought to goose it and go but the policeman thought of this as well and ran quickly catching his motorbike from behind and cocking his fist back to punch him.  The driver jumped off the bike, caught by the neck from behind, but the motorcycle had its own throttle and no key so soon was throttling and jumping abuot on its own.  The policeman soon let go of the man but each time he caught the motorcycle like a  big black chicken it would throttle fiercely and hop about again.  Finaly a taxi driver helped kill the motor and it lay still, the rear wheel coming to a stop.

Music could be heard from a stall selling tapes.  I had bought two Akha tapes, hadn't listened to th em yet but hoped they weren't too scratchy.

Several men sat about their shops clacking old silver ruppes together with a jingle that you could hear from some distance when trying to locate them.  the square market was divided into quarters, but even within one quarter it could be very difficult to remember where you had seen something.

Someone grapsed my arm, it was my Shan friend who sold silk sheets from China.

I moved to one silver shop and bought a French Indo Chine silver coin.  It was an old one, 1886, 77.215 grams it said on the back.  The 1900 coins said only 27 grams.

There were rupees from Queen Victoria when she was young, 1840 .  I bought all three.  Then there was a chinese coin that was olnly metal, not silver, but was stamped "One Yen" from the Japanese Occupation.  She didn't have a price for th is one.  Made it hard to buy.  She had two b eautiful silver thai coins with the kin on the front and three elephants on the back but they weren't for sale, just there to tease.

There were four fat faced chinaman's as I called them.  These were coveted by the Akha for their head dresses in front.  I bought two, I could still make out hair on his head, they were in such good condition.  He was a four star general from h is lapel.  I wonder what his story was.

I went to the seed shop where the old Akha woman sold much and bought a selection for gifts.  Just in themselves they told a wonderful story about Akha food, nutrition and herb growing skill.  This was always such a pleasure.

I bought some shredd cut tabacco for one old grandmother who was my friend in an Akha village in Thailand and then a bundle of leaves for making chewing tobacco to which I would add brandy liquer I thought and a little honey.  Cloves, that sort of thi ng for long leaf chewing tabacco.

One shop sold pieces for Akha head dresses, actually more than one shop, but you had to be careful now becaue people were adding either tin, zinc or copper to the silver to rip the Akha off.  Some of the silver pieces in thaiand were tunring red with time, rather odd for pure silver.

I stopped by my friends stall and had a glass of hot milk with raw hegg, one of the few foods I trusted in Keng Tung.  She was a Christian lady who knew the pastor, one of them here, and he was a nice man.

Off to one corner of the market nearly a shop full of sewing machines was busy with women making garments.

To one side every imagineable basket was piled high.

Another shan woman sat in her shed with a simple collection of beautiful green coconuts that she wrapped frowns around the stemps fo each for gentle handles, somehow making the entire collection look ornate, in an honoring kind of way not generally bestowed upon the lowly coconut.  It was about time.

Many women sat in the walkways frying all kinds of oily pastries, none of which I cared to eat.

An old chinaman, he spoke good Akha, his shop had shelves full of old gears, carefully ailed to prevent rust, pinion shapfts, pulleys, large  hooks, hitches and so forth.  In one of the old teal blue green bottles I found two old whistles stamped "Shianghai" and bought both of them.  He gave great dignity to cold steel as though remembering the human care and record that went into making each one years gone by.  The vintage of all the parts was that they were all well rounded, before machining time and expediency eliminated extra metal. 

I needed writing books and pens so I stopped at a book shop, and purchased two rumpled books.  Made in Burma, which were old style.  Newsprint like paper with lines.   I liked their crudeness very much.  They welcomed writing and a good crumple with the hands or pocket. 

I soon got the cover of one soaking wet while climbing a mountain and it didn't bother me a bit to tear it off.  These were very friendly, useable writing books.  I bought two fat pens from Japan, because they had the fullest black ink when I wrote with them.  No point in sparing ink, then squinting to make out the writing. 

I bought some Burmese cigars from one shed that sold only that.  Maybe the old woman over charged me, I wasn't sure, but she came out and suffed a handful of extra cigars in my hand.  The old Akha men liked these so I picked them up when I saw them to have as gifts. Green cigars.  Oh for a Macanudo.

One Muah woman set her basket full of thin rice breads down  in the lane and a man in grey uniform promptly came over an dsmacked it very hard with a thin bamboo switch.  The basket shook, as would a child, and the woman grabbed it and moved on.

I spotted many motorcylces driving into one shop, which I thought odd, till I saw they were driving through and out the back door to avoid the policeman on the corner.  I suppose it beat a good punch in the face or painting a narrow lane line of yellow on the street.  It was this kind of short circuited thinking that screwed things up.

Rows of bikes clogged one entrance to the market, the front entrance.  Several men looking at a newer mountain bike design from China.

On one occasion when I had donated an EKG machine to the hospital we had lacked electrodes so I bought one flat Akha silver piece and we had a silver smith braze snaps to these for the electrodes.

Located across the street from the back of the market on the steep corner, he cut round pieces from the plate.  Years later the surgeon told me they were still using this machine.

One stall had very nice brown leather traditional burmese sandals with the true gum soles, they made very nice gifts, there were many immitations.

A burmese man repaired TV's and radios with his wife, said he had trained to be a lawyer but there was no work, no safe work.  Finally one law school graduate had ended up in a just place?  Oh, actually he was a very nice fellow, probably for the same reason.


A Close Shave

I stopped at the barber, there was a row of them under an awning, sort of hard to see them in the shade, so I picked the one who looked up at me, a dark man from India.  I took my coat off, hung it on the nail he motioned to, then he took my hat and tried in vain to hang it on a short nail in a post, just this way then that, till I took it back and put it on a shelf.

I sat down in the tiny bright blue wooden chair which was mounted on a post in an old ox cart hub that was fixed in the ground.  He plastered my face with a horse bristle brush, took a new razor, something I always made sure note of, loaded it up and looking over tiny half lense glasses in a way as if he was taking aim which never left me comfortable, began to cut the wiskers off my face, cutting because he did as much of that as shaving.  His hands carefully feeling my face as if looking for a sine on a pumpkin.  I think he got most all of them and more than his pound of flesh than most creditors.  He turned the chair around to shave the other side, and I slung over to that side, the chair loose in the hole of the hub, not sitting up right. 

An old man sat on a stool there near the street, he had a small tin box out of which he pulled tiny sheets of papered foil, and on this foil he rubbed a little cone of metal that looked maybe like magnesium or something.  I couldn't tell.  But soon as h e had done that he slapped the paper side of the foil on the back of this Shan man's neck where the metal rubbings immediately grew into a funny mold producing some kind of heat.  The Shan man howled, grabbed at both his ears as though to reach at the foil, while the burning of his  neck went on.  Soon the reaction exhausted the old man would rub the metal cone on the foil again and do t his once more till all the foil appeared dull at which point he pulled a new sheet from the tiny tin box.


Keng Tung 2000

I had been coming here since 1993.  The town really hadn't changed much.  There was just as much dust and dirt as before but now everwhere offices with brightly paineted signs tellying you what that office was for.  In reality it did not appear that they managed much at all, as the place was as depressing as it was years before.  Tehre still was no decent place to eat, and all the existing places were filthy, rats running the floor.  Ah Burmese socialism.  The bright shining light of all the peoples.

For years they had worked here on the road to Tachilek and Maesai if you could call it working in any organized sense.  So the real connection to the outside wourld was very limited, one could bet the government wanted it that way.  The people born into enduring and dying in poverty.

I always found it difficult to figure how a dctatorshipo could not order people to sweep the streets and pick up the trash while ordering them to do all else?  Maybe even pay them?

And spitting, like in China, people spit all the time, everywhere.

Keng Tung itself was nesteld near hills on one side of a large valey.  From a place like the Catholic hill one had a beautiful view of all the surrounding valley and mountains.  Of late it had been clear since the cold days had ended and one could see clearly quite far to many Akha villages on the slopes more than twenty kilometers away.  The catholic hill itself was over 1000 meters altitude.

Keng Tng was a grid of streets which like badly twisted spokes went to many different places.  Lwe Mwe, the old British officers camp and lake.  We used to go there, us foreigners, but the Burmese Army didn't like that any more, they had a gate and were gruff.  The Catholics had a church there of course, and a convent.  They built a church everywhere it looked like.  But they also had a leper colony which was the more useful.  I had visited nearby to the Lahu Baptist Compound.  An old stomping ground of Paul W. Lewis none the less.

The lahu man who lived there now had been a widow some years since his jeep discovered a land mine in the road on the way to town, killing both his wife and a worker.  At theat place the road was very rocky and there were also many slides, near to the place where the power generator and water flume are.

I always find it worth noting when prejudices enter the daily life.  I asked the lahu pastor what happened to all the trees on all the mountain sides.  The hills were bare and dry as far as eye could see, and his immediate reply like a china cup falling off the mantle with a clatter and crash, was that the AKHA had cut them all down.  This despite the fact that the Lahu were better known as loggers and lumbermen, and that there was only one tiny Akha village in as many miles.  Currently it was easy to find Lahu headed out every morning down the slope with water buffalo towing boards. 

After the Lwe Mwe road another road headed north to China via Monglar.  I had been there a couple of times.  Monglar itself was controlled by the Wa and Chinese posing as Wa.  A flat valley with gaudy casinos, desolate land, tribes, and ahuge unfinished gambling lodge of red across the valley on the hillside.  Maybe it was done now.

The Catholic priest Father Lashwey was building a mission there on the backs of the Akha and Luay people as usual.  I tried to talk him out of it but he was convinced he would be "condemed" if he didn't do it.  So much better when people admit their true motivations.

I was told quite clearly that he got all his orders straight from Bishp Abraham.  Quite likely.  As I mentioned he stood behind the Bishop in every mission photo.

Father Norman claimed Father Lashwey was the old school, him and the Bishop, couldn't change them they were gonna do the Akha in Monglar the old way, no stopping them, it was so old fashined, course he wouldn't comment on the destructiveness of it beyond that.

Another road led to Daungy and another road back upt he valley to the north west and further into that area of Burma past a place called Wah Ta Po.  Would be nice to go in that direction, but sorry foreigners not allwoed.  I thought it sad that the Burmese took what was not theirs, a Shan land,and then were constantly constrained because they could not control it well enough with blunt force.

I had planned to go out to some villages to the north on the airport road but my ride must have found better things to do.  Course by that time the day was ruined, all the taxis back to Maesai already gone.

I picked up enough cotton to encourage the old women who wanted to spin in the Akha villages in Thailand, and could order more.   The shan woman produced a very large hand phone in a leather case and gave me her phone number.

Naturally I got to say goodbye twice to my Sihk friend, he was busy selling a long king pin to a man who needed to cut it down to fit his truck.  Yes, fit, cut, refit, that was how everything in Keng Tung was done, prehistoric trucks rumbling by on many a layer of leaf springs.

But since I had cashed in all my currency I would have to pay one more night  with a silver coin, much as I hated to do that.

Usually in the evenings, as it was now getting, I had some coffee to dring at the old battered coffee shop across from the barbers in the town square near the turning circle.  That was sort of down town Keng Tung to me.  The turning circle at one end around the silly military spear monument, and then the turning circle at the other end around a small temple.

As the sun dipped behind the same hill the sky was lit red from all the dust, not nearly as bad, but did remind me of Cairo and give me reason to wonder about how the British left their colonies.  In the dust.

There were occasional plane flights to and from town.  If you were lucky it would make it.  I remember one Burmese army officer telling me how one plane overshot the runway and crashed.  When it came to a stop nearly everyone in the plane was dead save the regional army commander who was still sitting in his seat when the workers rushed to the plane.

Taxis in town weren't much better, toyota corolla wagons, beat to hell, rattling and b anging down the roads in clouds of dust.

This time a friend took me to a shan restaurant where the food wasn't half bad, not too far from the expensive Banyan Tree Restaurant. A good place to eat and watch rats fight for your food before it makes you sick.  Hopefully you will make it  home to your spartan hotel before you need to use their horrid toilets.  The food and the toilets go together of course.

In the flat valley of Keng Tung brick kilns ate up what they could of the remaining forest.  Loads of trees cut into fire wood went by for both that and the sugar refinery, sugar cain being grown on the hills near to town. 

Since there was not much natural gas availeable here as compared to Thailand to the south, the trees were also cut and made into charcoal for cooking.  Every stick was cut down. 

Some of the old buildings in town were beginning to be torn down. Some had been damaged by the earthquake of about 1994 that came from Qunming that we felt strongly in Chiangrai even.

Instead of one buiding near the market they built a big three story building with harshly mismatched tile covering the outside.

The rest of town was old wooden or brick houses, big roofs, screened in porches, and generaly dark.  The most worn or stained doorway usually led to sooty kitchens.

One can hardly speak of Keng Tung without mentionaling the old ornate temples, wood overlayed with gold.  Then there is the very large shapely round tree that stands so tall on what is now the military command post hill.  If you are twenty kilometers from Keng Tung you can still see this tree clearly, big and distinguished, and one of the few trees of its size around.

There are the occasional palm or coconut tree but these are not so common. 

Little green three wheel carts pull cans of water to people's houses.

Keng Tung could have also invented taxi dancing.  Each young man bought tickets, gave them to the gaudy girl of h is choice, and then as he danced with her, maybe one fo several boys, a red light would flash with a finging bell like schools use after class and each time she would tear off a piece of his strip of tickets along with those of all the other boys with her.  The place was a floating wooden deck on the lake of Keng Tung.  Not far from the Jail.


Last night in Keng Tung

So then the old priest insisted to meet me for dinner at a restaurant so I went home, took a nap, and a shower, then did some writing before meeting him. 

We had a wonderful dinner all though I am not big on burmese food.  I picked at it, intentionally not eating myself full, whiel we talked.  I didn't like to get sick on a full stomach and often Burmese food did that to me, with a vengence.

He bought us a Myanmar beer while we talked.  He gave a few sips then pushed the glass over to me out of courtesy and let me drink that too.  Some priests drank, he didn't.  He kept pouring his glass into mine till it was all gone.



Menglar was the autonomous border town of Burma with China.  Dah Loh was on the China side, the distance here about sixty miles from Keng Tung.


Keng Tung Cotton

I had come to Keng Tung and asked many times about cotton and cotton seeds.  Always I was told at the last minute that it was "In the market" but I never found it. So this time I set out relentlessly to find cotton for spinning Akha cloth, and I did.  A woman in the market sold it, but she wanted me to follow her to her warehouse.  I could not have imagined, I just thought there would be a little in a shop in the market.  But she took me to a shop house up the street from the market with the large folding wooden doors and let us in, to where I discovered that she had great bales of cotton.  The place was shamefully close to where I stayed and I had not known all these years.  I was able to get her phone number to where I could call her if need be.


Keng Tung Findings

I spoke at length with father Norman, Apha and Clement Lashwey in Keng Tung about the situation for the Akha.  Father Appa stammered a lot, smoked a lot and drank a lot, but was a good hearted man if not in just a little bit of denial.  He had a stroke of recent and this slowed him down.  Father Norman spoke a lot all around  himself and Father Clement made no apology.

Nobody seemed to admit or be willing to admit that the Akha were being preyed on, that  they were being given no choice.  I came to the conclusion that here, as in Thailand it became rather useless to get through to them, they were so sold on their method of doing things and could not for a moment fathom any other option.

Father Norman was the most pleasant and least evasive at first appearance, who could know what was lurking there.

As I explained it to him on the left hand we had the Akha.  On the right hand were all the things that we could entertain to bring, give or show them and this was up to great debate. 

If we were to bring them Jesus, as some were wont to do, then could it not be mercy, joy, abscence of judgement, redemption, not just some futuristic redemption but redemption in our days caried to them as examplary servants, not as teachers.  Oh yeah, and not to speak evil of others. 

I asked h im why the church, ever talking in vague terms of conversion, could not even succeed in teaching good basics?  Why this so readily got overlooked, but building of costly churches did not?  All seemed like a misplacement of funds and priority to me.

Then I come to find out that the Italian priests had built the mission at Joseph of their own moneys, one by one, it appeared not to be so organized, least that is the information he gave.

I asked Father Norman about the library but he seemed to feel that it had been damaged by rats and that the books were not so good to view now, many Italian books.  Mooh Dzurh had told me about the library so now I felt Father Norman was hiding something from me.  He was hiding a lot from me. 

I asked  how it could be that so many Akha girls were prostitutes to Maesai from his village?  He could not soundly reply, pleasant enough once again, the whole lot appeared to be deep into covering something up.

I wondered as to just how much true structure there was here.


The Captain         

So there I sat in the little "flight side" restaurant at the Keng Tung airport, a different flavor in the air for these courageous enough to fly Yangon Airways.  Myself included this one time.

The head of security, an army captain, with the badge # 007 served me one gratus beer which I drank with Father Lashwey's brother.  Had a lot of fun, while the music played, talking to these two characters in the sureally clean restaurant near the airport.

Captain pleasantly sang karaoke songs off the tv, the whining burmese flavor that you can get used to when you have had enough beer. 

Also I spared nothing of the crispy fish served fresh from his pond.

I made eyes at the waitress, wouldn't today.

The karaokey blared on to all the pagodas and temples of Burma, which it did well of showcasing.

Issue army 45, knife, radio, the captain sang away the warm afternoon while we waited for the plane, turning to us occasionally to smile.  More rigs pulled in.  An air crew member showed up, I was gonna need to piss again before this was over.

More beer.   The captain sang on .  Cars pulled in.  Two Americans got out, an older tired eyed man with a younger woman.  So little simpatico.

She had a "Sailing Academy Florida Yaht Club" hat on.  The one burmese wman, ballistically endowed, maybe the captain's wife, kept nursing her baby.

The brightly painted baby blue cafe sported war ribbons from the Captains 25 years without an illegal act. 

A buddist alter was laden with green leaves and bananas. 

A shan woman cooked in the back, brush pushing against the back wall.  Trucks, cars, collected in the dusty parking lot outside. 


The Land Lord's Dream

The Keng Tung night was freezing cold, I got there late and the gate to the old western guest house was closed so I climbed the rickety picket gate as usual to wake the made and get a room.  I knocked on her window, glad they didn't have a big dog.  The maid turned like she heard something, looked  up, then rolled over and went back to sleep.  I knocked again.  She reluctantly got up into the freezing night and gave me the key to a creaking wooden room in the place.

In the morning when I came out into the night no other than my old Chinese landlord from Maesai sat there, welcoming and friendly.  We talked briefly and I headed off for the market.  Usually he was gruff, this time he had been kind and pleasant.

At the end of the day when I came in he was visible inside the lobby when I got there.  This time the maid got up and I didn't have to climb the gate.

The landlord had a chinese friend there and invited me to talk.  As the evening rolled on his story, so very interesting, unveiled itself.  He was born in Chiangr Rai Thailand but in those years of the twenties the opium that the British had brought was still very big social business in Keng Tung.  So his parents moved to Keng tung which was still full of opium dens for smoking.

Though the British had brought it, the Akha and  many other tribes had learned to cultivate aggressively in the mountains of Shan State.  At that time it was a Shan Kingdom.  Yaffin, they called it.  Best medicine going.  Black, as many varieties and grades as any liquer, it got exproted to Thailand, Malaysia to the rubber plantations where the workers required it, singapore and further on to the US.  Great stuff.

This now explained to me a great missing link in my work with the Akha.  For years I had noticed that the old Chinaman's wife knew many of the Akha old men and women.  I wondered why?  Now I knew.  It also explained why he had compassion on their children, taking in orphans.  Never give up on life.  The greatest next treasure is just around the corner.  Bury your heart break.  It happens and is there.  Sometimes it is like making a bridge the wrong way and then walking off the end before we know it.  Yes, the fall is painful.

But then the the Japanese invaded Thailand and Burma from one side and parts of Chian from the other.  So the old Chinaman moved to China's yunnan province for six years where he went to Chinese school and learned to write Chinese.

A great event occurred when the US dropped tw nuclear bombs on Japan.  It was a moment of joy for many under the brutal japanese occupation, s himself, because the japanese military presence evaporated over night, troops just lucky to find their way home.

And so did he, returning to Keng Tung.  At that time the area was ruled by five Shan Princes.   Bot for long.  The British in giving Burma independence signed away Shan State as part of Burma.  Ne Win or his predecessor promptly pounced on Shan state, everybody getting shot at.  "Shick Shack" he called it, no one knowing anything, just breaking everything.  Before that time all traveled freely.  NO passports.  The shan Prince of Keng Tung took his wealth and fled to Chiang Mai.  One of the royal family, stayed and his son owned this guest house.  They too had paid money to move their wealth from China to Burma.

Then Mao Tse Tung (sp?) had come and many of the Thai Yais fled to Burma also.  All the way down to Maesai and Thailand.

With the coming of Ne Win, the Landlord moved again, this time back to Maesai, Thailand.  Which was peaceful, where he had lived for so many years when I finally came there and rented a room in his guest house.  Room 28 and then room 61.

He felt that Americans were ignorant of what their government was or was not doing.  Common knowledge it was to him that the Burmese Government had the US Government really pissed off because of their treatment of minorities , the Shans etc.  But China with bigger plans held them back, "hands off".  He chuckled about that, but only shook his head at the state of the Burmese government and their conquest of Shan state.


Dead Class Mates Keng Tung

I think I mentioned that the Shan drive of the black van told how all his classmates were dead of AIDS.


William Wong

The desk clerk at the Wang Tong very pleasant fellow, he told me the Shan army was always after him to join up.  That was many years ago.


KT Funeral

This was Peter's Father

the last village


Night with police in Keng Tung

Here I was in Keng Tung with a hundred miles of the world's worst roads safely blocking me from any tired thought. 


Akhas In Other Places

(mission, Laos, Vietnam, China)



Akha who have ended up in lives outside of Akha villages, their experiences and how they have differed.


Akha's displaced in town


Bars Chiangrai

There are may Akha girls in the bars of Chiangrai for westerners and Thais.

Many of the girls come from the same places same villages or it can be very mixed, but always from the same story of poverty.

I am not sure they can rebuild their lives.


Fast Times

Now many Akha were finding that pimping themselves was a great cash winner.  Motor Bikes, phones, take a break in the village.


Meeh Seh - Ah Pymm = Girls of the "Order".


Capt. Menyo

I first met Capt. Menyo at the immigration desk up stairs in that old rickety building left over from Shan days in Keng Tung.  Climbing the wooden stairs, out across the open air porch into a small office with red cloth curtains.  Or this time, to the other side in the end office on the second floor, there he sat.

Later he presided over the year end festival, making the ceremony speech.

He was building a hotel on lake in Keng Tung for two years now according to Annie Tip

Then he got promoted to General Menyo of immigration but his wife finds out he has a second wife, a Shan woman in Tachilek, and writes the army and he has to step down.

Course that didn't get her anything but to be a woman scorned.


The Banyan Tree Restaurant In Keng Tung

This restaurant was built under a Banyan Tree.

Ang Ai is kachin girl who worked there.

The place is filthy most of the time, expensive and maybe a good chance of getting sick.  The worst thing of course was if you were already sick when you got there and then had to use the restroom, which was beyond the immagination in filth.


Done to here

Antibiotic ankle woman from New Mexico, Nurse, Keng Tung trip

What kind of malpractice are you doing now she had to say.



He ran Afect now but did not have a very tight grasp on the situations that were so badly effecting the Akha or how to organize to take action to solve them.

He liked big parties and fan fare, calling all these people to festivities which cost a lot but accomplished nothing for the villages. Course the villages had come to know this.  Whatever he did, he kept these events going which was of course better than nothing. 

Down in he admitted to fear of coming too strongly to the aid of the Akha villages lest he get squashed by the government. He went along at his own pace, came up with some good ideas and was a means by which I could find out some informations.


Affect resources

ad jew

adjew is Leo's son in law

adjew meeting first time at som mah kohm

Adjew's resources

The music

The concerts

Lack or organization or action on human rights issues.


Girl at afect who got sterilized after baby two

She was in the hospital to deliver a child and they sterilized her.


Agah and his brother at Pahmeeh Akha

This was related to the shootout at Bah Lah Akha


Ah Daw

Ah Daw was a gifted trader, she traded in cloth, and silver head dres ornaments.  Occasionally she traded in beads.

Her wares she carried to china anf far south into Thailand including chiang mai. 

I had visited her at her home for many years.  Once I brought an immigration officer with me and we styed the night, or at least hoped to, but the police came all night, different ones, to read over papers and object.  It was such a hassle we went to a hotel.  They didn't like foreigners staying in homes.  Top secret you know. 

Ah Dwa's husband was a striker and drunk, always beligerant and loud.  He drank her wealth, lost motorbikes in gambling, left and to her misfortune came back again.

Why she didn't throw him out I didn't know.  Once she went to china and while she was gone he took up some oung girl to the house over which the parents and police came, so when Ah Daw came back he was in jail. For reasons beyond the rest of us she bailed his sorry ass out. 

To this day he was a kicking, striking beligerant beast, a dwarf of a man.

Ah Daw had no kids and raised the daughter of someone else.

                I saw her many times now in Thailand selling silver.




Have a comment or question? Like to know more? Send me an email at akha@akha.org
Copyright 2004, by Matthew McDaniel