Maesai is where my work took shape and there were many days that I spent just
in town, waiting for the opportunity to do the things that I wished to
do. I didn't always have the money to proceed. But there are many
things you can learn when you don't have money. From Maesai I learned
of Asia, Thailand and the north. From Maesai I delivered
services and made expeditions out into the Akha villages.
Maesai is a gangster border town known for smuggling, drugs and
hookers. There are more catholic girls in Maesai than there are at the
mission in Keng Tung where they come from. For them and the people who
send them it is an acceptable contradiction.
One of the beauties of Maesai was its straight street to the bridge, the main
road, knowing every shop, and the mountains of Burma straight ahead. I got a feeling like it
was the deck of an aircraft carrier, launching people into Burma. Small enough to be comfortable, there
was everything here. And the greatest part about it was that after you had
been here a while and got to know people it was fun. I went there for
breakfast, here for afternoon coffee, there to the bank, over there to get
some item, and it was like one big living room, with the addition of lots of
Here in the north the Thais were some different, and Chiangmai changed faster
than Maesai, in part due to all the foreigners. Chiangmai did have that
forever tropical feel to it, but I didn't like all the foreigners, how they
were endlessly busy getting into hassles with their hookers or trying to
screw everybody else over. The foreigners who came to Thailand were often cast out druggies or
alcoholics. The missionaries were just as twisted, without so much alcohol.
They came from places in the south of the US, to give you an idea of their racial
perspective, and you didn't see any minority missionaries, just very white
missionaries. No one else was blessed to be here. The missionaries had long
histories here with the CIA all the while pretending that they didn't, that
they were really normal spiritual people trying to do God's work, like anyone
here for long would buy that.
of a small town
Everything went on here, if one thing could be said for Maesai, it was its
tolerance, its very wide acceptance of different perspectives on life. Yours,
mine, everybody's. What I like about the orient is the way in which people
make in their society and minds so much room for other people. Like the
Thais might not like the Akha, but the Thais in Maesai who worked with the
Akha had a different perspective, were accepting, depending on who they were.
Some Maesai merchants were unable to see an Akha
beyond a person to exploit, a household servant. Others were different.
Sometimes one could see conflicts going on in town,
and knew once again that it was best to stay out of it. But generally the
Thais tride to negotiate things, resolve them there at the very moment, the
system was not always trying to pull your life completely into the gears, not
to say that some cash was not required. However, even this began to change as
Not counting the problems, if there was something distinctly
nice about Thailand it was that Thailand was different from the west. The
problems with Thailand were the things that it did in response
or as a result of payoff by the west. When it came to hazards to the
indigenous, many of these hazards started from the west, the World Bank,
western farm chemicals and fertilizers, western style prisons, the drug war,
vaccinations, the western take on property, western land and forestry
practices, consumerism, missionary hospitals that the indigenous could not
afford, the CIA, DEA, the war in Laos, the war in Burma and China and the
"opium" wars to name a few.
Lack of city planning often plagued Thai towns, that
had started out small and just sort of spun a web of congestion. Lampang was
a hard town to park in. I went there to see Akha prisoners in the two prisons
Lack of education infrastructure was visible, like a
library in Maesai, that took a long time to happen. The park was limited to
the one near the hospital, an excercise park. Keeping streets clean would
take a street sweeper, but one could not be found. Just people swept the
street, they didn't do it often enough for a main thoroughfare and the dirt
and dust blew everywhere. The people in Thailand didn't spit as much as some other places.
Like China. But quite a few people did their spitting in the
street, mixing with dust, and passing on TB where possible.
As congestion and traffick grew lack of planning on
the intersections, lights, location of markets, and cluttering of the
sidewalks became a bigger and bigger problem. But that didn't change the fun
of walking through an older Thai food market, smiling at the vendors, buying
favorites of this and that, having some soy pudding with ginger syrup and
just forgetting about it all for a while. The people around didn't
bother themselves with most of it. They were not from the west, they hadn't
to worry so many things, they hadn't so many things whipping around in their
minds. This became even more comparable when one got out in the smaller Thai
towns, a temple in some beautiful lush green place, coconut palms, rice
fields of the richest green the human eye can imagine, quiet lanes, and small
gatherings of people in the noodle shop. One could slip quietly into one of
these places and if you could speak Thai a little, didn't act like a
demanding rude foreigner, then you could just slip in there mostly unnoticed
and have fun like as if you were a local. That was fun Thailand. Being white and western was an
automatic obstacle to many things, people took you different, and when you
saw how foreigners acted, or remember how you had acted yourself, you
could see some of the things they attatched to that, they swung WIDE and made
big allowances for the western people who they saw as blind, big or fat,
uncaring, rude, demanding, smelly, selfish, mono optic, stingy, quick to think
they had been cheated and most dangerous of all, very quick to get angry.
One thing I noticed about Thai communities was that few will give up the
personal for the betterment of the collective. So that would mean that
one might not see much sense about community, care of the streets, addressing
community problems, fixing congestion, driving safely to keep other people
alive, paying attention to other people in line, waiting your turn, putting
trash where it belonged.
To take care? You must be joking, and because we do
they are always amazed. Not that all foreigners took care, but some did. The
Thais always wondered why we took care at an accident, involved ourselves,
tried to help. They often just had the spectator look, stood by, pointed at the
body, or picked it up like potatoes and hauled it away with no sense of
concern. Their capacity to distance themselves was great. While the
western capacity to be close to the scene, was in obvious contradiction to
what western society could do to people at the same time as long it was hid
One of the nicest things about Thailand as compared to the west was that the Thai
mind and society could allow a LOT of contradictions. People were considered friends
and enemies on many levels, which of course did not require that you diss
someone or not talk to them any more. As well, people could allow you
or themselves many different convergent or apparently contradicting opinions
on something or someone, and did not automatically flip into a judgemental
position just because you had taken a position. At the same time they
didn't expect you to hold them to it when they took a position and then start
judging them harshly. Thais appreciated to avoid conflict and so if you
opted out, or gave them an easy way to opt out, or changed the conversation
or topic, they were happy enough. If one overstepped ones self and said
something rude or too harshly, one could immediately smile, change one's tone
of voice, speak softly and slowly and be pleasant and the Thais were very
glad to forget it all. Try doing that in the west. Do something and people
will make that their only impression of you and hold it against you forever.
Period. There is a black and a white view of everything, and that is that.
The other thing I didn't see in Thai
society that I always saw in America was the attitude of ego and
ownership. In the west, people were immediately ready to show you the
liine and enforce what they considered their territory. Ego's were enormous,
couldn't get bigger, big guts, big mouths, shoving you around, telling you
how it was going to be, you parked in the wrong place, you were standing in
the wrong line, it was enough to make you puke. Pulling rank at every turn of
the road, then concealing and hiding events behind convenient rules.
Ah there are many stories from Thailand that I am sure I failed to tell.
Afternoons at the market, friends. A marriage that ended or walked out
the door I should say.
Motorcycle rides to the mountains, Akha villages, staying over night.
New road construction. The genocide of Akha culture in Thailand . Pollution. Injustice.
Prostitution on a mass scale.
My friend, Hom Dwan, who went to Hatyai.
The beautiful Doi Tung and adjacent mountains
. Orchids. The many villages I visited.
Surin. The train. The Kmer's. Nan Kai.
After I began my work with the Akha, very seperate than my persuit of money
or wealth or business, it began to require more and more of my time, taking
it in small bits here and there until it left very little room for anything
As a result there were many hard times I endured in this town. By
logic, when I was out of money, I should have left. But I knew of a
reality that if I left, I would be in a different world and getting back to
this place would be hard, and much time would be lost, and who would know if
I would make it back at all?
Even in those times in which I did not have money, I had time to gather bits
and pieces of knowledge and experience that benefitted me greatly for the
work later on. During times when I didn't have money I saw things that
I would have passed by had I money, very important things. I was also
able to determine the emphasis on money between the times when I had it and
when I didn't. It was nice to get to know people that way. Later when I
had money I was less likely to get burned. But the important thing is to
follow life, not the money, to find some kind of peace in the heart, some
hope, some joy, and some ambition.
I was getting to know this region better in slow, forward moving steps.
Mental stimulation was the greatest lacking component. A conversation
or two wandered into town. Maesai had whore houses, a few bars with loud Thai
bands and a dirty movie theatre. No real new stories here I
sometimes felt. Burma grows and the Tachilek economy is busy
with Thai Tourists and cheap Chinese goods. Some times chinese good
were only 10% the cost of the Thai goods.
The maesai plaza guest house is habitually
empty. Only two or three Japanese guests, most of the others had rented
Sailom Joi finally got its road side drain system and concrete paving.
The few westerners here either get dumb like Cary and Joe, their elevators not
working, or they search for mental stimulation. There were the
occasional fifedoms. Joe always wanted one of those, enough money and
power so he could push people around and feel like a big shot. Joe
Esparza. Married a Wa girl, she was actually pretty nice, everyone deserves
some good things. Once he got pissed at her and cut off her hair. She ran
home to Keng Tung so Joe bought her dad a motorbike so that she would get
sent back. Joe had a smaller wife. A Shan girl, two boys with her, but
wouldn't take care of them, that is sad, wether you like someone or not, it
is sad to see someone abandon their own. She was pretty smart too.
I was working on the idea of an occasional Akha magazine, so much per copy,
when I get it produced.
Oh yeah, we had 7-11 now here in Maesai. Air
filled food at expensive prices. Great mark up. A three baht egg
and few greens called a salad, for 25 baht. An icy coke for 14 baht
instead of 8.
Donuts for 15 baht each. I figured if you had a backpack big enough you could
easily carry all the contents of the store out on your back, it was all so
The fried chicken stand was still the best deal in
town, great flavor, tender chicken, garlic, 15 baht. I would get me a piece
of this, some sticky rice, some egg plant and chili pepper mashed into a
sauce and take it to the Top North where I would pull up a seat, order toast
and coffee, and have a good meal, part mine, part theirs. They never minded,
I watched the street go by, sitting at a table on the sidewalk out front.
Sometimes I met friends there, sometimes I read the
paper, sometimes I just sat there alone and had a coke.
It was important to me to savor the food, to think
all day, that one day when my money came, I'd get a piece of chicken, some
sauce, and some sticky rice, and two cold cokes, not just one, and ice, the
condensation running down the outside of the glass. Fizz coming off the top
of it, the cold ice cubes. And I'd sit there and eat it and drink the
coke and think of how many days I had survived, or what had happened, or that
I was still alive, in this town so real, so human, so full of humanity and
life, at every stage, the winners, the loosers, the contenders, but all there
right in front of you in all the grime and intensity, the struggle for life.
At the south end of Maesai the road went into a curve. That was the end of
town. The man lay in the road dying if not dead, his pulverized twitching
body no match for the truck which had crumpled his nearby motorcycle.
The crowd of spectators did no more than gawk until a I approached and then
someone said "falang" like they were embarassed so they drug his
body like so much trash to a nearby truck and threw him in back, by legs and
feet, speeding away.
Maesai, What a
The morning was cool before the heat would come up. A killing heat. You
didn’t want to be out in it in the afternoon but around it could also be quite directly hot.
Those who had fever on days like this were unfortunate. I know of at
least two, in a very small circle around here who were dying. The old
woman and Ah Dtee, I suppose.
Goodness knew what was going on in the villages where there wasn’t
the best or enough food. Life was given up early, one unable to hold
onto it. I thought of all the ways people in the west talked about God.
But that was easy for them to say where they felt they controlled so
much. What about people who lay dying here, or watched their kid lay
dying, and prayed to God, and no help came? It put everything in a
different perspective when one shifted out of one culture into another and
had to take a second look at their assumptions about God. You got cerebral
malaria here and you died just as fast if not faster than the next guy.
Lots of people in the west took credit for their comfortable lives. I
wondered if it wasn't the inverse of all the plundered third world one
saw? If the third world was plundered by the west, then was the west
living on more than its share? And if it was living on more than its
share then was it always right for people in western churches to brag about
how much God had blessed them and how lucky they were? Were they
thanking God for their greed, their selfishness and their claim that they
didn't have any idea how the west got so much and how the third world
appeared to have so little?
Could one say that the western powerful and
colonial world had impoverished the third world? But don't we always hear the
west talking about DEVELOPING the third world? And don't we always hear
this sort of blame that is put on the third world for their own poverty, like
we really don't know how they got that way or what part colonialism and gun
boat diplomacy had on any of this?
Later Days In
In later days in Maesai, it became increasingly clear that much of what I
encountered in the difficult situation of the Akha was VERY much tied to the
missions and their relationship to the history of the place. Helping
the Akha wasn't just a matter of fixing a little poverty, but was in relationship
to a lot of people and forces who would gladly give them nothing while
grinding them to fine dust like between so many large stones. The
missions used them for money bait and cheap labor around many facilities,
whose wealth continued to grow and grow. The Catholics in Keng Tung were no
exception, and if there was anything noteworthy it was the possibility that
the protestants had copied the model many times over and put it everywhere,
how to exploit people, build a mission like a small franchise business in
Jesus's name, and get money and power. You could set up a McJesus
anywhere. What a scam.
Slow Days in
I have been here a long time in Maesai. I am not moving ahead with my
project as fast as I want to. There are various reasons for that.
My writing has gotten more difficult. Writer's block, who knows.
I have numerous language projects, an Akha word book, the children’s
phrase book and a collection of words as well. Mooh Dzurh's brother is
working on the NT to put it in the new script. There is also a 300 phrase
book and a 1000 word list. So there is much language work to do.
It took me more than seven years, working with the Akha, to complete the new
script. A concise phonetic script.
Most of the time that I have spent in Thailand those first few years I have spent in
Maesai for many different reasons. All though the time was not wasted
it was not always as productive as I wanted it to be. Never the less I
learned a lot about poor people from the experience and how they
behave. I also learned much about the orient.
Early on I gained frustration with my spare
time on hand waiting for orders and so I began to do first aid work and to
work with the Akha language. Some of the christian Akha often exploited
that effort as much as they could with no real responsibility that I was
paying for their assistance and wether or not they should deliver results for
money paid. Such a story it is. Never the less, I did make some
progress on the language, getting a system of phonetic pronunciation started
and getting a new tonal system designed. Wether I will do any more with
it remains to be seen. So despite the hardships I made progress, just
wasn't at the speed I would have enjoyed.
Much of my work in Maesai had to do with
beads. Other than that I had lots of spare time, too much. I made
a trip or two to Surin, visa runs to Penang, trips to Bangkok, purchases of
medicine, a trip to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, China at Kunming and trips
into Burma. At Bangkok I sometimes got over to the Thai
Pharmaceutical office and store and bought hard to get items up here in
Maesai, like fungicide. Clotrimazole or Mircanazole cream. Very
effective against skin fungus. Skin fungus could get out of control, and
when it did, people really suffered.
In Maesai I didn't feel I got as much done as
I wanted, but I saw and wrote about many things. Other than these
stories that occur in a border town there was not much else to talk
about. My experiences with the foreigners was the same as theirs, none
of us got along. I found early on to avoid them, to be careful, one
didn't know who one was really dealing with and weird things happened. Nuts,
kooks, criminals, wackos.
Occasionally I was of service to a tourist but
this usually took far more time and energy and money than it paid.
In the end the bead business died.
The ruby business is a possibility which I learned something about.
The bead business may be resurrected.
However said or done, the loss, the closure, of the bead business was a great
loss to me, both in friends, but also in opportunities that I had only begun
I tinker with the idea in my mind, that someday, after the project here is
running well, I could very well put my hand to this again.
To have experience in the orient, being from the west, is very valuable, the
more varied the experience the better the view on life.
The street lay empty and mostly still except for a lone somlor creaking
slowly down the gentle slope from the closed gates at the bridge that crossed
to Burma. A few last stragglers made their way home as
if trying to get there before the powers that be threw some imaginary switch
and brought everything to a halt.
The long road that led up through town and ended at
the bridge was lined with merchant’s buildings on both sides. The
town had a special feel to it, like it had many stories to tell, some
obvious, some not so obvious. When the street was empty like in the
evenings there was this wild west feel to the place, like everyone and
everything was getting ready for another day of relentless events, too many
for the mind to keep track of, as so many things and so many peoples crossed
this center of the earth as it were.
Back at the
I went down to the 7-11, yes, Maesai had one now. Didn’t
hurt. Someone had learned the idea about clean, well lit space and not
too much of any one item. The place was cool and I got a slurpee like I
did when I was a kid of 7 so many years ago at the corner of Jurupa and Adams street in Riverside, California.
The slurpee was cool and I stood in the shade out front and watched people
come and go. Parking their motorbikes, shuffling inside in their thongs
and out again. Sometimes I squatted against the wall, on my
heels, and ate a hamburger there in the shade.
Beggar women from a different world came by. The shop owner next door
signalled to one to come and get some food that he set aside for her. She
I got back on my Honda motorbike and drove down to the fish supply shop to
get some food for my two fish that were in the large crock outside my door,
room 61. I had made shade there with sun cloth above and plants of
green and cool below. Then a stack of little turtles caught my eye so I
got two for 80 baht each and some turtle food as well.
One more stop at the copy shop near the old post office on the way out of
town and I picked up 500 more sheets of paper for my printer. Lots of
computer work these days, getting some office work caught up and some writing
The weather was hot and dry and not too long till April, and they would start
throwing water. I didn’t care for it much, so I just stayed in
doors and wrote. Was suppose to be for three days or something like
that but it lasted for two weeks here it seemed. Part of my year.
Now I had a tv and vcr and could stay in my room. I wish I had a little
portable air conditioner like they make because my room was small, stuffy and
hot. Quieter than concrete but hot.
When I got back I cleaned out the one large crock where I had tried to grow
some veggies but there wasn’t enough light so they didn’t do well
and the rats ate the tops off. I replanted some nice ferns, scooped out
an area and put a shallow pot that I filled with water and let the two
turtles go. I would probably have to protect them from the rats
too. I remembered the possum that chewed the legs of that turtle my
friend had in California and woke me up with its chewing on the shell outside
my trailer, trying to get the turtle to stick its head out and feed on some
brains. I chased the overgrown rat off, finished the hideous job with a
shovel and buried it and went back to bed.
The rats came to my room a lot. Dinner was always there, bright pink
rat pellets. They loved them. Then sometimes they liked water
after to cool their hot little asses or whatever the pellets made hot and
they drowned themselves in the fish crock or the water dipping crock outside
But sometimes they ransacked around my room and I was obliged to get up and
go after them with the fish spear, the rat jumping about and me trying to see
where they got behind and then I killed them if they didn’t make it to
some hole under the sink.
But I caught on to the sink and put lots of pellets under it so they could
get at the pellets without even coming up into the house. That seemed
to help. And no visiting children could get the pellets either, which
always worried me, the little crawlers.
The Akha family came over earlier in the day, watched a video of a Japanese
girl who ran away in Australia from her miserable little husband with
the tight shoes.
My room was not a mess, but pull anything out of its place and and it soon
7 - 11 Red
Next door to the there was a red head and her friends at the clothing
shop. had these different prizes and coupons and stuff,
which I never kept up with so I always gave them to these gals. Part of
the life here, knowing different people in different ways, all in a day. They
always stopped me to take my children away from me, to hold them, to play
with them. Sometimes I didn't get to see my kid for quite some time as
they passed the child about. This clothing store belonged to the owner
of the 7-11 and her brother and folks. She never quit working I
noticed. We noticed it about each other.
The "25" was a restaurant on the main street in Maesai towards the
movie theatre, where the sign said Sakura House which was up the side street,
a massage parlor. The "25" stayed open very late. If you
wanted a meal at two or three in the morning this would be about the only
place to get it.
The late night party people came there after the hooker houses and bars
The place was sort of sunk down below the new road now, some tables on the
sidewalk, a dirty blue paint.
A fat guy slopping food out of caldrons, never looked apetizing to me.
But Jon knew what to order and we went there often after beer. Nam da ju or something like that, soup with
pork and soi curds and greens.
There was real good food in Thailand but the best stuff was expensive.
The average fair on the road and in the restaurants was greasy and tasted
bland. Spice was often a cover for not knowing how to cook at all or
the meat having gone bad. Well I shouldn't say that. A lot of food on
the street was better than food in the restaurants, and safer. If you
got to know the carts you could put together some pretty good low tech
fare. One could always put together a meal, and not have to walk far to
do it. And the experience, the people, each place with a different
personality. Mostly, people in restaurants always were good to me, I
liked them, I liked to sit and wait, to watch, to enjoy, and to come back
again and they recognized me. Its nice when people recognize you, saw you
once before, they smile, that is the test, or maybe there is a frown behind
it, but it is nice, and I smile back to them, compliment them on their good
food, sah bai sah bai. The small things in life between people.
There was this dark pouty girl in there, many young women actually, racing
around, moving the food real fast, your food could be at your table before
you sat down. I liked the eggplant and curry chicken over rice, that was spicy
but real good, a kind of milky green curry. The girls moved hot trays,
put your food in a small pan and fired it up even hotter, all looked
dangerous to me. But in years it closed, around 2004. The dark pouty
girl was gone. I'd go in there just to smile to her, as it seemed to make her
more pouty and all the other girls joked her about it.
The ancient massage was a two story building on the south end of Maesai that
was strung with long laces of lights from the top floors to the ground.
There was always a security guard out front, girls, guys and
motorbikes. Going inside you would have a photo album thrust in your
hand and a bunch of pasty faced bored girls who would offer to chew gum while
you watched for an hour for 150 baht, while they pretended to offer a
massage. Really the place was a brothel, and foreigners were not
considered customers, and massage wasn't the real job, so to go there for a
massage was in their mind wasting THEIR time. It sure was a waste of one's
own as they didn't know anything about massage. Much of Thai massage
was uncomfortable. The girls had stiff mechanical routines. The concept
that massage of the muscles and tendons could make one feel better, that the
hand should try to perceive and the eye might look to the person to see if
the grip was too strong or painful was totally lost on the people in even the
genuine massage houses. More often than not, the massage could be
painful, or so boring and meaningless that your brain hurt just looking at
this person who pretended not to be there. On more than one occasion I
said to the lady, look, you lay here and I will show you what massage is
about, and spend most of an hour giving her a massage. Fingers were
eyes, looking for painful muscles, tension, taught skin.
Of late years you could buy apples from China in Maesai, they came down the Mekong river and were cheap. An apple from
WashingtonState cost a small fortune for one while you
could buy a whole kilo from china. The Washington state apples came in clearly marked boxes
with little stickers on the apples, the apples were bright red and waxy
polished and weren't very fresh, already mealy. They looked very well
preserved, almost artificial, unhealthy. So normally for an apple that
looked like an apple and tasted like one, I bought the Chinese ones and made
apple pie when I had the time and energy. There was a lot going on for
me to be able to do this all the time. The most time consuming part was
mixing and rolling out the pie dough. I had thought to make a press to
do this. But I made up a couple other tricks instead that made it
pretty easy. Everyone like the pie.
Most all the bicycles seemed to lack for brakes and people use their sandle
on the front tire to slow it down. Some people ride on a jump seat on back or
even the men will ride on the front axle while their friend peddles, anything
to get back across the bridge on time. There aren't as many bicycles
here as in China, but still quite a few. On the Thai
side, ladies rode bikes, ladies rode as passengers, but on the Burma side the bicycles were the family car.
Dreams and memories of California. Memories of friends who died,
people you grew up with, teachers, students, relatives. Amazing what a
swarthy black skinned fruit can remind you of. That is the way they
were here, don't know if they came from Burma or through Burma from China. Occasionally I would buy one and
cut it, put salt and lime juice on it, was really great that way. They lined
up the street in boxes, and fruit, mushrooms and nuts of all kinds in season.
Of late years lots of confection fruits packaged fancy from China and tea, teapots with little strainers,
fancy Tea shops for tasting.
The avacados sold near the bridge or they could also be found cheaply in Keng
Over the years there was more and more fruit in Maesai than before,
everything in its season. For anything else one might say, Thailand had more fruit than one could
imagine. One of my favorites was the mangosteen. They had a fruit
like sharamoyas here, but it wasn't quite as good as the ones I had in Whittier, California. And I hadn't seen any St.Johns
bread. There were powdered flat persimons, dried persimons and oranges.
A lot of food on the main street like nothing but a big market. Then
sometimes the city fathers would push them all off the street. But actually
the city fathers started it, because when Burma closed the bridge with Thailand, the people of Maesai lost their jobs and
so out of compassion the mayor asked people to sell what ever they could in
the street at the bridge to boost everyone's spirits and this is how the
market started. Simple joys.
Axle repair shop,
dead trucks on the Keng Tung road
Up the river road just a short way from the bridge there was a machine shop
for a long time. He repaired axles and differentials from broken trucks
on the Keng Tung road. He wasn't a pleasant fellow. Normally one
doesn't associate machinists with sleaze and greed, there is too much work
involved, it is an artisan trade, but in this case I found an exception. He
was rude, greedy, like a shark. I would some times bring by a piece of steel
for a pump to have it cut or welded and he was rude and dismissing. His
son was on the ugly side in this same kind of way. There wasn't as much
work these later years as the road to Keng Tung got better, but one could
still see the broken trucks with men pulling out the axles, engines,
transmissions, differentials, some major breakdown that had stopped them.
Maybe when there weren't so many hostages to be taken at the machine shop,
business slowed. For what ever reason the shop was one day gone, maybe
moved. I don't know.
Over by Boom Street mini market down the side road there was a wrecker,
he had lots of parts for everything, engines and more piled everywhere, he
knew his stuff pretty well, an older man, reminded me of George C. Scott.
The trucks coming down the Keng Tung road were very old and very
overloaded. They groaned and rolled from side to side and they had many
buckets, drums, water tanks, fuel tanks, spare tires, blocks, irons and of
course a shipload of stowaways for taking care of all this should part of the
truck break. Once broken down they set up camp beside the road for the
days it would take to make the repair and get the truck underway again. There
was a kind of invincibility to the process. Everything prepared for. Life
where you can taste the dirt, the oil, the dust, and see the steel up close,
rather than polished paper thin sheet metal like is on everything these days,
hiding its increased vulnerability.
The road to Keng Tung, repairs and breakdowns, these things were important.
There was this wild west feel to it, the frontier, which it certainly was.
To me the road was great, it was an awesomoe experience each and every
time I went down it. The best times were when I went with friends or by
myself. When I took guests they were generally annoyed with
inconveniences, like they missed the whole point of where they were.
There were long distances of jungle and farm land
where no one much appeared to live and then some more villages, primitive in
a world that had forgotten primitive, in a world that was all about
manufacturing and the un-natural earth. So this road, Keng Tung, I loved
it very much.
Sad music wept from a truck escort megaphone as another young man goes to his
smoky funeral. Now quite common from AIDS.
Some towns have more people dying of aids than new births.
Once again cut off from the land of the living, not much ceremony to it.
Wasn't quite the same as going to a grave stone to visit a loved one who was
gone, thinking of the times long forgotten, the harsh words, the moments of
joy, the unfathomable loss of dreams realized too late to do anyone any
good. There were bridges between humans. There should be, and
often we didn't even realize what someone was about or meant to us until they
were gone. Even people who we didn't know and didn't pretend to like,
they were actors on the edges of our life stage, ugly people maybe, but still
crucial to all the memories. I wondered if these ugly mean people
weren't sometimes the people we looked back at the most, wondering why we had
so misjudged them or felt so threatened by them when now they were dead. And
we hoped those in life to whom we had been or still appeared to be ugly,
didn't judge us too harshly, that as long as we had breath, we still laid
repair to our life, to do better, to be kinder, more patient, more helpful.
I had buried my share of people, and at no time did I find it pleasant.
Not because of the smell or the site, but because of the incredible
contradiction to the beauty of life in our eyes and in the bodies of those
all around us. Life was fluid. Death was very still. It was
this incredibly unexplained collapse of all that was good and lived out,
taken down to the cold in a final defeat. Maybe not so final. And
maybe not so much a defeat, depending on how we lived it.
But there was joy in life, holiness, and people forgot to know this, to think
of this, and lived in a puny way, there was so much more.
As humans it was hard sometimes to know how to bless people, to give all the
thanks and gratitude that one could to someone. Some cultures had barriers up
to this, so that people couldn't easily receive the good you wanted to give
them. To accept it was to allow you to get some credit maybe and they
begrudged this too. Some people even wanted to stand there and quibble if
your good was good enough, or if it was good being it wasn't the exact
package they felt they had coming. Maybe they would prefer a good case of
Speaking of which, there was a leper colony in Keng Tung. Run by the
catholics. A priest at Camillion social center in Chiangrai said nothing was
as good as a leper colony for raising money, money just poured in when one
had one of those. An interesting note, since the missions at Keng Tung always
pretended they had no money at all. But they did have a leper colony.
Above Maesai on the west side there was a mountain ridge, and this was also
the border with Burma. This ridge ran south all the length of
the Thai Burmese border, a road on top in many places, dividing the water
sheds and the countries. From the top you could see into Burma so very far, and the mountains there were
beautiful. Looking east back into Thailand one saw flat rice fields, the valley
floor, for miles, as Thailand didn't have so many mountains, but more
rice. Rice lands everywhere, sometimes full of water, a deep emerald green,
clouds, rain, rainbows.
Once I was up in the border mountains near Maesai on a bigger motorbike and
this incredible storm hit as I was driving up the ridge above Maesai.
It was so fierce I stopped the bike and ran and hid in a very thick bunch of bamboo.
The storm raged, at incredible speed there where it crossed the ridge and I
waited. I feared it would even throw the motorbike over on its
side. When the storm was over many trees were broken including one big
banana tree. So I cut through the great banana stems and loaded the
bananas, two very large clusters, across my handlebars, to where I could
barely control the motorbike, but made my way down the mountain anyway and
gave them all to the guest house staff. They squealed when a rats nest
fell out full of baby pink rats. These were pitched into the klong for safe
The Akha At
She was rude and laughed, reminded me like a retired hooker, how she treated
people. She made fun of all the customers and didn't help them so
finally she got thrown out. She would often carry on bawdy conversations with
the one Thai woman there about all the men she had taken, what she liked, and
didn't like, all between emphatic phrases and roars of laughter.
"One kilo. No, No, that will never due, not enough, never less
than two kilos!"
Ahm the wa
girl, scabies and TB
Later I think she worked at a whore house and died, surely must have.
She worked for me. For a few weeks only. Couldn't have gotten
thinner. She chewed a huge clot of tobacco at all times, I mean huge,
it filled her mouth, and she had TB and wouldn't take her medicine and
left. I saw her later walking with all the girls from a hooker house,
and then didn't see her after this. Getting these people to take their
medicine was very hard. They were over run and didn't take much of
anything seriously, like survivors of a plane crash walking around in a daze,
maybe for years. TB required that you took your medicine sometimes for
six months. I had heard enough stories. One woman telling me that as a
child she traveled long mountain trails with her mother and father and they
came down this one river and they could see down into the river from the
ridge. There were many Yao tribes people laying dead in the river, so many
bodies, they had all been slaughtered, far up in Burma. Burma had been at war for years, the old
Chinese, the new Chinese, all the ethnic groups, the Burmese. Least now
there was finally some order to it. Even the Thai had fought the Burmese in Burma. Elephants and all.
The 01 Karaoke
and Bead Shop
The 01 Karoake belonged to Ma Ta as he was called. The 01. He owned the
bead shop too. His wife was chinese but he was Akha from China.
I bought beads at his shop many times and had a few beers at his massage
parlor where he "moved" Akha girls as well. Actually one half
of the place was massage, and the front half was a karaoke for chinese girls
who were high priced. A lot of sex selling going on. Once I got talked into
going to that side with a friend, by a couple of Thais, but they were real
drunk and got upset and we thought it was better to leave, which we did. In
upper entertainment places like this it was more polite to leave the Thais to
their peace, not intruding, even if invited, it was more wise and in the long
run polite to refuse.
The massage parlor in back became a rather boring
place as Maesai commercialized. Before one could get a good massage, but that
changed. It was obvious they were interested in only the kind of transactions
that made the motorbike payments on all the new motorbikes parked beside the
But then Ma Ta got killed in a gun battle outside
Chiangrai in Jan of 2001. The Karoke closed and became an computer video
arcade, the massage place continuing on. His wife's brother continued to tend
to the businesses. However, by this time the family had so much wealth
stashed, sending their kids to all the best schools, that it didn't look like
it affected them much.
A lot changed around Maesai as the army moved in close.
The Akha beggars from Burma had a "train" that they took to
Chiangmai. I wasn't sure who or what it was but they were always able
to get to Chiangmai to beg on the streets, make some money and come back. I
ran into them often and would buy whatever medicine I needed to fix them up
if they were down on their luck, or buy them a meal.
For many years my project was so poor that I didn't often get to
Chiangmai. The road was bad and the bus ride horribly slow and
weaving. Only after I got the truck did I go there much, driving down.
Akha on the
The bus attendants always said that the Akha got sick on the bus and they
did, even if they stood in back, and the attendants were always kind to them
and doused the area with water as a kindness to the rest of us.
When the Akha rode with me they by far prefered to ride outside the truck,
rather than inside. And if they did ride inside they consistently
rolled the window down and got sick.
Vans came up to the villages and markets, full of fat white people all
wanting to shove their $1200 camera in the face of an Akha woman, but seldom
wanting to be of any help. The had a camera, that was their
"permit" as they traveled about the world consuming. Sometimes
I wanted to think that they were not mean people, they just didn't know, but
when people spend all their lives intentionally "just not knowing",
then I think that like it or not, they are mean people, deaf to the pain of
others, much of what they make advantage of. The tourists with their
spendy cameras always got pissed off when the Akha asked for a ten baht coin
after the tourist took their picture. "No, NO" the fat tourist
would say, "I don't pay for photos, I'm just a selfish fat f--k and I
take what I want for free".
Akha Hand Bag
I had bought an Akha hand bag call a "peh tauh" from a girl on loi
tung. It had sunset colors and design to it. I bought it because
of the pastel effect upon the eyes that the pattern had. She sold near the
temple on the Doi Tung mount along with the other Akha and all of their
wares. The mount was a beautiful place full of bells that you could
ring. I don't know what the history of this tradition was but it was
beautiful enough. In the later years the Akha came and set up tables along
the walk and sold many beautiful wares, I got to know so many of them, they
were such fun to visit and talk to and find out if they had problems of this
and that sort, what news they had, what they could tell me about conditions
Shan Attack on
The attack on Tachilek for me was without warning, though some reporters knew
and were already in town waiting for it, as if it was a killing carnival,
pictures of killing for fun.
Many people died, more suffering was brought on the poor and the bridge was
closed because the Thais were involved and the Burmese suspected this.
The attack started early, before six I think, and I woke up to look out my
guest house room window and saw tracers and explosions and gunfire on the
other side of the river starting at the left and moving up the street towards
the center of town.
The big gun on the hill opened up defensively, had no downward angle, so
could only fire skyward.
I could hear the men yelling as they stormed up the street, much shooting,
and then big clouds of black smoke from something set on fire.
Not knowing it was still going on, I went down for breakfast. As I sat beside
the railing in my usual space the Shan soldiers soon poured back across the
river to the Thai side and got in trucks. A few stragglers came out across
the field, a Burmese soldier or two chasing them, and some didn't make it in
time and got stranded on the Burma side of the river. About five Shan
soldiers hid in the houses.
The Burmese took up position and fought to get them out of the houses, firing
with bazookas and 50 caliber machine guns into the houses, ripping through
brick walls, tearing up tin roofs. The non fighting Shans came out with
their hands up and ran to the river. When a bazooka hit a house, the whole
house thundered. The Burmese army used a bazooka on one house, quite a large
explosion but the men were not in that house at the time.
Finally the Burmese army burned the neighborhood down to get them out. I saw
the long bamboo pole go up in the air with a white flag on it, and the Burmse
took the prisoners away.
People fled across the river to the Thai side with some small
belongings. Smoke poured skyward, thick and black.
Mortars fell in the river and the Riverside guesthouse was struck by small gernades.
After the attack a Thai army man stayed in the guest house for many days with
a special video camera filming the other side.
One man on the other side had lost a very big house and two dump trucks which
he had no chance of getting out when the fire came. After a while he rebuilt
with a bigger house than before.
The Burmese quickly built pillboxes of concrete on the other side and strung
up much barbed wire but there was no more action between the two countries
for a very long time.
This was the spring of 1994 before Khun Sa surrendered. Khun Sa had put it
all on for show, and alerted the media, which was all up on top of the hotel
we found out, and many people died that day, just for a show.
Akha man at
market I split fish with
I had many Akha friends at the market. One fellow was very thin, a hard
working Akha in his 40's. He was energetic and fun to talk to. He had a
deap scar on his face where he was cut by a knife one time. Sometimes
his wife came, sometimes not. I would buy a good cooked fish or some fried
chicken and we would eat it there together in the shade of the Akha alley
market, our backs against the block wall. I knew many of the Akha there
for years, many years, taking care for them with medicine, listening to the language,
which you don't have to understand to enjoy. Soft by times, poetic by
others and emphatic so often. I could still see all their faces and
remember them although many were dead and many had gone away.
All the new
shops on way to building
Sailom Joi was getting busy at one end with all the shops selling imported
items from China for very cheap. Video CD's were now
barely a dollar for each movie. I could barely get my truck down the street
on a busy day. Sometimes it required I either go under the bridge and
down the alley or up over the hill to the back side of town, and then out to
The Ant village that I knew of was east of Keng Tung and north a
little. I don't know much about the Ant people but they all dressed in
black with black turbans on the heads of the women. There were many
distinct tribal groups in Burma.
lost 100,000 baht
Oh yes, banking experiences, they deserve their own chapter
Well my friend said he was going to send me a large check which he
did. I told him how to go about sending it, bank check registered
mail. It came surface mail and on a personal account, a tax exempt
account. Well, he said send it back if I needed to but I went to the
bank and asked them how long it would take to clear. They said two
weeks. I didn’t want to trouble the donor so I said OK and gave
it to the bank. The Baht had been at an all time low of 56 to the
dollar. Well it didn’t take two weeks it took five and in that
time the baht rose from 56 to 44. So I lost about 100,000 or nearly
What can you do?
Sooner or later if you live here very long you open a bank
account. The Thai bank personell are always nice and you can make
a casual friend or two. Someone speaks english and they help at the
foreign exchange desk. There was the short pretty girl and then the
tall professional woman who I knew for so long. So you open up an
account. Then people send money and you don’t get it and so you
keep checking Bangkok and so forth. I used to do business with the Krung
Thai bank, it was close to the bridge, but the money got delayed so many
times and they always told me to wait two weeks or a month for it after it
had been sent so I switched to Bangkok Bank. But another problem is that
the people sending it often don’t really send it. I know they say they
did, they really are going to, but it doesn’t get done and it sure
didn't happen this time either. But you go and check anyway, and about the
fiftieth time you really convince yourself they lied and really didn't send
it. Later they may even tell you they didn't, like the six weeks you waited
was no big deal, could all be fixed by them telling you now they never sent
Generally most foreigners consider the bank people as stupid. They aren’t,
they just don’t know enough english to tell how the whole things
works. Generally they are pretty good people and always so
polite. The foreigners on the other hand come into the bank in any
condition, from the sweaty outside.
Maybe the money didn’t come so you had to walk everywhere and maybe you
had to check once a day and it was all a lot of bother. Maybe you weren’t
eating and your shirt didn’t have air conditioning. They didn’t
have the auto scanners in those days where you could check your account
yourself like they have now. But many foreigners don’t bathe or
change their clothes and they come into the bank poorly dressed and so forth
and then become angry at the bank people, sure, your money didn’t come
and you aren’t going to be eating or paying for your room or whatever.
Add to that you might have a stomach problem and gee you’re happy
now. So I did that a few times, looked like the angry foreigner because
all that I hoped and all that didn’t happen all came together there in
a moment of stopping time at the bank desk in that nice air conditioned bank,
a sort of contradiction to walking back out onto the hot sweaty sidewalk
which was what you were going to be doing next, still broke. The trick
was to prepare yourself for it, like jumping a big wave, so that you didn't
get stuck with just that sinking feeling when you went back out and hit the
street. Maybe I had twenty baht left in my pocket, and on the way to
the bank I would spot some good mangos and tell myself that after the money
didn't come I would console myself there. Even if I had no money at all, then
I would plan something else, like go sit on the bridge, or talk to a friend,
or hope somebody I knew would show up in town.
In the lobby of the bank a big black grandfather clock ticked nearby, and
there was the one guard and then there were a few Thai newspapers and a tv
for all the employees to pass the time with as they worked. Some had
sofas while you waited for your bank book to be processed. I was a cultural
genius when I first figured out how the Thai line system works. It goes
like this or at least it used to in the bank. You walk in, you crowd to the
front, you make eye contact with the teller you want and push your book under
the teller's window or on top of the pile there already. It was his job
to remember who was next, etc. If you stood in the line like a stiff
goat, every body crowded past and you got all irritated at these smaller
pushy faster asians who didn’t respect your size or that couldn’t
see you thought you were in a line. And then the bank teller usually
took compassion on you as some big dinasour without eyes and got ahold of
your book and got you out of there as fast as he could, because they all knew
that foreigners blew up like that day in the post office.
Some foreigners even made a point of competing in the line like it was a
contest in which he thought the other people there were in a line but they
weren’t. So he would try to prove that they couldn’t cut in
front of him, oh no, that wasn’t going to happen, the world had lines
and they would just have to learn, and so he would make all these obvious
movements with his big sweaty smelly body exagerated to put them all on
notice of what they had done and that he wasn’t a manican standing there.
That was always funny and embarrassing to watch if you were also a
foreigner. I got to where I didn’t like going places with
foreigners because they always had some lesson to show off how they dealt
with Thais, rather than learning to go with the flow. After all, if you were
in Thailand you shouldn’t be in a hurry I would think, go
for that and run your ass off like a bicycle courier.
The time the
$600 got held up
Onetime someone screwed up at the US end. It was the Interstate bank and the
money didn’t come and had to be sent again after six weeks. I was
staying at Nimits, that turkey vulture. Why did I ever work on behalf
of these people? Not in a cold day in hell would they show the same traits of
sharing with another. Anyway, the clerk had typed the wrong number,
lost the money, and I was in a bad situation to have to wait. Couldn't pay my
bill in the village so of course the bill went up with each day.
Few people would imagine what it was like to live among the desperately poor,
and in this village the house I was in was full of heroin and speed
addicts. And then you owe them money, while you are trying to help
them, go figure. I mean, I was poorer than they were.
The Torn Bank
Money hadn't come in a very long time. Promises that it had been sent,
but hadn't. I was so furious one time that when I walked out of the
bank I tore the book in half. Course next time I came back I had to
have another one made and the bank staff joked that I and my girlfriend had a
fight over money and thus it had occured.
girl looses money
I knew this one girl in the Krung Thai bank.
We often talked. She was very talkative and civil. I liked her, she
Once we went to dinner with all the other bankers to the Riverside Guest
House where the food was good at that time. The view of the river was great.
I was shy, cause I spoke very little Thai, and this was all their back yard
and they were very polite, neatly dressed business people. She said that
normally Thai girls never wanted to be seen with foreigners, but she didn't
care. I knew what she meant, so I thanked her for the invitation.
She worked at the money changing window.
One time she came to the guest house at night with
one of the other men bank tellers. She asked for me. She had given one
foreign customer a sizeable wrong amount of money too much and wanted to get
it back if possible, but they weren't staying at my guest house. She
lost nearly $400 US dollars which would have to come out of her pay. The
person either didn't notice it either or saw it and said nothing. I felt real
bad for my friend.
The Shan fellow had just come back from the prison at Chiangrai. He had
taken cigarrettes to the markert on the Thai side in Maesai to sell and the
police had caught him. His family in Burma had to pay 50,000 baht which was two
thousand dollars and he had to stay in jail two months. He also lost
the cigarettes. He looked well none the less and said the treatment was
good. Just a business transaction. No problem. At least the
Thais weren't Serbs. But he cursed the Thais anyway, because people, people
with souls, just poor and trying to make a buck, got screwed this way. Some
of them even died.
In fairness to Thais, I must say that Thailand is very much an open country. You can
break the law and go to jail, but survive, and they do compromise, both the
law and jail. But if you are not lucky you can die in jail too, sometimes
mysteriously without a trace, many did, many Akha also, never had a chance,
poor all their lives, tried to do good for their families, got caught at this
or that and died. That was a poverty so mean, no one would believe it.
In the west no one knew shit about this kind of poverty and they didn't give
a damn anyway.
If you are in a Thai jail you can try and beg on their mercy and get a
reduced sentence, try doing that in America.
One Akha I knew had complained that he was habitually sick, so they finally
got tired of it and let him out early.
I saw him the other day, running his little store again in San Chai, happy as
a lark. He chuckled just a little, but we were both glad that he was
alive, he had been there for years, a long time, and it was happy to see a
friend alive when so many were dead. Everytime I went out in the
villages someone else was dead, some tragedy had eaten up more lives, that is
all there was to it, like clock work. That is why I kept on helping the Akha.
When I had time
or needed a break from the congestion of town in Maesai, I would take a
motorbike if I could afford it, and ride up on the ridge road. This was
unimproved mud and dirt for many years, but later steep concrete. The
views on a clear day could let you see far over the rice lands of Thailand
and deep into the mountains of Burma which were inviting and mysterious
directly proportional for the fact that they took you AWAY from western
civilization, things made of concrete and steel, painted buildings, things
that had to be "correct" square, fast made, uniform made, factory
made, all of this.
This once I saw this big scaggy tree lizard jump off the road. I turned the
bike fast and chased it down a side road, quite a job on a small road with a
big motorbike. The lizard was nearly two feet long, rose up clear off the
ground when it ran and hauled ass. Tail out behind, clawlike feet
whipping like you were glad the think wasn't any bigger. I chased it till it
ran off into the trees.
I often had to go to Malaysia to do my visa and once I chased a big
lizard that was more than a meter long in Malaysia that ran onto the road and then back into
the ditch. I chased it but the damn thing must have lived on chickens
it was so fast, and it shot through a sheep fence like it wasn't even there
in a blind rush to get away.
I was real lucky it didn't come at me.
Every year the hilltribe people collect the tassles from a tall mountain
grass with stems and broad leaves. They roll the tassles under their
hands on the ground till all the seeds are knocked loose, making a green
powder on the ground all over the road.
Then they sold the tassles by the kilo to the Thais and the Thais shipped the
tassles to elsewhere by the huge truckload and made brooms which ended up in
houses all over Thailand.
By pushing the hilltribe more and more out of the mountains and taking more
and more of the land from them, the hilltribe were not able to stimulate the
growth of this grass as much and broom tassle was getting more and more
scarce, the price going higher.
Army man rapes
One Sunday a team of Akha workers on the Tachilek side went out to do some
kind of city service working in the homes of army officers and one girl went
to clean house for a military doctor. He raped her and killed her and
dumped her body. The Akha looked everywhere for her when she didn't
come home at the appointed time in the evening and eventually someone found
her body. The Doctor was implicated and taken to Rangoon where he was later sent to CoCoIsland to serve time for murder. But to hear
people talk, you always thought that crime went unpunished in Burma. Try reporting a rape if you were a
woman in Thailand, you'd just get laughter.
Another time two soldiers raped a girl from Pah Luang village near Tachilek
where Ymm Boeuh lives. They got caught, the girl died. They had
to pay a lot of money to the family. The families often got to choose,
jail or money, and sometimes took the money.
Baked eggs on
the bridge with soy sauce
The coca cola drink seller on the bridge lost his wife and took care of his
tiny daughter by himself. I often bought soda drinks from him during
the early years that I was in Maesai. I could sit on the bridge and
watch all the traffic as there was hardly anything to do in Maesai as it was
a small border town. He had a red bicycle cart, with a big red and
white umbrella, and made drinks of different flavors. There was so
little traffic on the bridge that he might be there with his cart all day.
A cart also came along selling baked eggs roasted over coals. There were
little plastic bags of soy sauce to put on them. The Thais put lots of
things in plastic bags, rubber bands cleverly twisted around the top.
There was a bead shop in town, well actually there were two, but I did my
business mostly at one. When there was business I bought a fair amount,
sometimes cloth and a few baskets, never much cloth items though. But
there were old good beads and I bought what I could of them. Old Czeck
glass and bavarian stone, cobalts, whitehearts, etc.
An old Akha lady, the mother of the Akha husband, made Pah Meeh style head
dresses at the door. She could be seen there often. Except not
lately. I think her son was dead. At any rate, I caught Ah Daw
there sometimes and bought silver from her that she brought down from Keng
Tung. She was a story in herself.
The shop also sold Akha cloth, about 60 baht a loom, which is an Akha
measurement about as wide as your arms, more than a meter. I made a
stick for it so I got it always long enough. Some measured short. This
was the Akha woven cloth about 9 inches wide, and dyed in plant leaf
dye. The Pah Meeh village in Keng Tung was good at doing this.
The old ladies had it down to a science. From hand spinning the thread
to be really smoothe, to the way they got the thread ready to weave, then the
weaving in a small hut in the yard, and finally the dying process which to me
was the most interesting.
For the dying they had many crocks. The leaves came from two different
plants, which they mashed into a paste. One plant you propigated by
cuttings and one plant you propigated by seed. Once a mash was made the
Akha women added Akha whiskey to it to keep it from spoiling. One crock
with the pure mash, then several with various mixes of the mash and
water. It was into these latter crocks that they dipped the cloth and
then hung it on the fence to dry. They dipped the cloth as many as 30
times in this liquid to get a proper blue looking cloth.
They also sold the Akha women's dresses at the bead shop, the synthetic ones
and the traditional cloth ones. They had assorted colored cloths for
making the designs on the Akha jackets. All of this was still hand dyed
in some places. The women cut it into small strips to sew onto the
Beads in surin
In the Thai town of Surin, near the Cambodian border there were the
silver filled beads. I went there once to buy, don't remember if I went
there twice. It was a very interesting industry all done at people's
homes and they seemed to get good money out of the deal, as compared to other
things they might do. Kaow Sin Arin was the name of the village outside
of Surin. I didn't see the beads around so much anymore, so I don't
know if they are still making them.
The villagers rolled out strips of silver in a metal roller after pulling
silver wire through a die. Then they cut the silver strip into lengths,
which the curled around a wooden peg and soldered the side of. After
this they used a tiny hammer to tap the ends over to leave a small hole only.
Tiny wire shaped into rings was soldered around the end hole to make the bead
more attractive Once this was done they took pine pitch, pork fat and
sifted dirt and heated it in the right proportions till they had a thick
taffy like substance. This they made into long stick like pieces.
One it was cool it turned hard, so they would heat one piece again, and pull
on one end till it was in a taper. They would take each bead on a hot piece
of steal, and press the taffy mixture into the end of the bead till the bead
was full. Then they took a hot nail and made a hole through the
bead. Once the bead cooled they would take a shaped piece of wood and
make designs of flowers by pressing into the bead, impressing the design in
the thin silver with the taffy fill. One particular house might
specialize in one size or style of bead while another house did another
style. They would make beads in batches, and after each batch decide if they
wanted to switch production to a new style of bead that there was not enough
of. So all in all, in the whole village, a large quantity of these
silver foil beads were made.
The villagers were all actually Kmer as the area had been Cambodia territory before the Thais took parts of
it over. One could see the Kmer ruins here and there. The villagers
also spoke Kmer as well as Thai.
The owners of the shops in Maesai who were Chinese, which made up most of
them, were a hard bunch. A chinese shop is a very strange arrangement,
like a few items set in the mouth of a very large sea bass. The owner
and their elderly folks always live in the dark back, sometimes in view,
sometimes not. Occasionally they wander out. The children of this
family fortune are prisoners of the shop, and seldom get time off. In
addition there must be bright smiling faces at the sidewalk, so always for
this you need slave girls, otherwise no one would ever come in and buy from
these people. Of course the slave girls are not Chinese, least not in Thailand, they are Shan or Burmese or
Hilltribe. The Chinese shop owners don't know how to smile much.
Now if you should come on a day when the slaves have quit or gone home, then
the lady in the curled hair will be more in view and when you ask her if she
has this or that she will just reply "no". That is all.
You are looking for something. You have money. You want to buy
it. "no". Do you have it? Do you know where I can get
it. Doesn't matter what the question, only "no".
Being the monkey
is no fun
So in the early years in Maesai there were seldom any foreigners who lived
here and I don't think that the Thais were really used to foreigners so no
matter where you went you stirred laughter, no matter what you asked.
This was annoying sometimes, and always you heard endlessly
"Falang" as the Thais called foreigners. If you could
understand Thai you would hear even worse things sometimes. The Thais
could say really stupid rude things with you right there if they thought you
didn't speak Thai. Always it was something super dumb. My friend Jon,
who understood Thai better than I did, often understood what people in
restaurants said and it always made him mad, leaving me the feeling maybe I
was better off not to speak or understand Thai better than I did.
shirt, I fall down
So I got this bicycle to ride around town for fun, nice bike, little long on
the straight handlebars. They had these sticky rubber grips. I
wasn't sure they weren't magnetic. Anyway, they had an affinity for
this man's shirt as I went by, caught just a little and then really bit into
the shirt and whipped the front wheel, me going off to the right. Gee,
was I really that close? He of course was unharmed and we had an
excellent laugh of the ridiculous matter. I was some scratched up, and
a little sore the next day, but otherwise unharmed.
The Chinese bicycle shop near the top north was quite useless, but the one
down by the market in the middle of town was very helpful. The owner,
she spoke fluent english and was always in the shop and always very polite.
But then a friend stole the bicycle and I never bought a second one.
About the same time they stole my boots.
There was this old barber behind the gem market. He had a bad eye. He
had been a Maesai cop. Someone shot him close up, but didn't kill him.
Damaged his eye though. He wasn’t the best but I enjoyed relaxing while
he took his time. Sometimes he knicked me because I don’t think
he could see all that good even with his glasses on but he was friendly and I
always like a good close shave now and then and get all my whiskers trimmed
and kick back in the heat and close my eyes while he worked. Least they
always put in a new razor. But after a while he got the shakes and
knicked me so much I stopped going to him. He moved shops, was there a
while and then I didn't see him anymore. But I remember his wooden shop
house, wooden doors open, pin up calenders on the wall. If he was
sleeping his wife would call him out, in this way, Thais were very nice. He
was always accomodating, while other barbers were better shaving but not so
relaxed in their shops. So for me to go to his old shop was always a
treat, he was always pleasant, told me he had a daughter in America or Australia, pointed to her picture on the
wall. Or he would be busy talking to some old man hanging out in the
shop and I could pick up on this and that part of the conversation.
Maesai was getting built up and so was Tachilek.
New tall buildings got built on the new concrete road we had here on Sailom
Joi. Now the road was wide and nice and everyone began building nice houses,
tearing down the old ones. Soon you couldn’t see much of Burma, but Maesai wasn’t sleepy anymore
so I wasn’t so sure it even mattered.
Edward the Pakistani had a shop in Bangkok now and I hadn’t seen him in a
Once we stopped in at this restaurant for a beer. He was fast with the
girls. He made this one girl and took her to the back room for a good
poke. Asked me if I wanted a turn which I diplomatically turned down.
Edward was one of the most enegetic obstacle overcoming people I ever
met. He was very careful how he wired his vocabulary. He was very
conscious that the words he picked and used, if not fully positive and
success oriented in the beginning would bring about certain defeat. I
went far and beyond lip service, he put it firmly into practice, running on a
self produced coffee at all times. Did this mean he didn't have
setbacks? No, matter of fact a deal had gone bad in Bangkok where he lost all his money and then the
people came and shot him over and over, but he didn't die.
I saw the bullet holes. Chest, arms, back.
He never used the NO word. Not only didn't say it much, he never used
it. He always used the YES word, religiously, a solution to everything
in every situation. He was an excellent salesman. He saw quite
surely that people need to give themselves permission to succeed and that it
is simply a matter of mental paper work being shuffled to make a sale of
anything and that is what he did as a salesman.
He showed me how it worked, I wished I had studied it more because it was so
clever. There was sure a lot one could learn from this guy.
He ran a clothing business, and also was married to a Thai, and also ran an
English school in Maesai, one in Mae Chan and one in Chiang Saen for a
while. He was very fast at talking to people and helping them out.
He could move quickly from one sales job to another, not miss a beat.
He had grown up in Pakistan and was now working back in Bangkok.
I never met a more energetic smiling person, quick to talk. He grew
however more on the dark side, not using his insight and gift always in a
I got my first baking oven with the first school and baked bread and pies and
all else. Was a humble beginning and everything here was very hard to
start up and keep going. After a while the man wanted the oven back and
I was willing to be done with it so he came and got it.
I let the school go and would start it again later.
The Akha and the Thai both played an energetic bamboo kickball.
Sometimes played in a circle on the street or in the village center, it got
most energetic if a net was set up with a team on each side. This was a
favorite of hill tribe and motorcycle taxi drivers. Sometimes when you went
to hit the ball with your hand, your hand in fact would get nearly kicked off
by the foot of a high flying young man on the run.
Coming down the Maesai river like islands of green, these rafts made of many
bamboo pieces tied together was how the jungle men got the bamboo down the
mountain to Maesai to sell. The rafts were heavy because the bamboo was
fresh and green so water swept across the tops of them and the men poled them
along. West of Maesai in the mountains from where they had come the
river was very rough and full of rocks. I was reminded of Huckleberry Finn.
Bats and bugs
There were lots of bats here in Maesai. Once some kids gave me a tiny
baby black one, soft black like leather, it climbed up whereever you put
it. Finally I left it outside, not much I could do for it.
Sometimes I hit the bats at night on the motorbike. They would swerve for a
bug in the motorcycle light, I don't know why, and not pull up in time and
hit the top of my helmet very hard. When they did this they would let out a
tiny frightened cry.
There was a big buzz bug, cicada, that flew aggressively around a light at
night and made a buzzing noise. I caught one, and their entire abdomen
was an empty shell and they had two hammers inside that vibrated together to
make the incredible sound inside. A drum of their own. The Akha pulled
the legs off these bugs and gave them to the children to hold after tying a
thread around them with a stick. The Akha kids let the bug fly madly
around buzzing as it went.
Bear at house
of man who Atookala bought truck from
This guy lived up against the mountain not far from Som Pah Sak Akha and had
a bear in a cage, bears get into lots of trouble otherwise. But the
cages are too small and the relationship between a bear and a cage always
seems to end in cruely.
Two young men came up who were working for a wildlife project as
volunteers. They were traveling around Thailand and looking for caged bears. They
couldn't release them yet or buy them to freedom, but they were making maps
of where all these captured unfortunate animals were. Many of them were
from Burma of course. Once I saw two small cubs at a
Chinese Circus in Tachilek which were for sale. They were small, muddy and
stinky of course, about a foot or so long.
The Wang Tong was a big pretentious hotel near the bridge. They said it
was five star, surely was no better than a four star. The owner was
said to have sold icecream on the street in Keng Tung many years before.
They built it while I was first here in Maesai. About eight floors up
under the roof eaves there were some big honey combs hanging with bees as is
the asia style. I took an Akha up to the
balcony to see them, he had never been in an elevator before.
The owner left them there because it was good luck for his building he said.
Maesai had a beekeepers association but Chiangmai had an association shop
right across from the night market and compared to what things cost in the United States, the boxes and wax and all the tools were
Bit by dog
I had these high top boots, and I was walking down the street one day when
these two big mean dogs jumped on a smaller black poodle like dog at his own
house. This happened right at my feet and I kicked at the two big dogs
because they were just wailing on this smaller dog and he was flailing all
about to save his life, in which event he caught my boot, just above the top,
and hooked my leg. A few days later he was still alive so I didn't give
it any worry. The owner's son at the guesthouse had gotten bitten and
taken all the shots for rabies.
rounded up by police
There were lots of beggars in town and occasionally there was a round up by
police. They always came back and so I always wondered why the police
bothered since it didn't seem to be for more than a moment that they rounded
these beggars up. The beggars pestered everyone on the main street near the
bridge. When there was war or something they didn't come, which of
course was great. And that only got worse with years. In a casual kind of way
you could teach them nothing, and they wanted to learn nothing. Had one
set up to work with them over many years, there might be some progress. I did
what I could. Many of their parents were addicts to heroin or opium or
both. In the later years the boys got into sniffing gas and glue and
messing about, which was rather sad. There were a lot more sad stories here
than good and so many events and people willing to pull everyone down.
But the fact of the matter was that the beggars still made more cash for
their families than many other families earned working hard, so the street
always supported a number of them. Be it Thai or western tourists, the
beggars hoped to get some coins.
Some people came to town and feigned to help the children, but never in any
way that had any continuity to it or took the time to break the cycle.
You could throw all the money in the world at it and yet if you didn't stick
to it persistently long enough it would do no good or even make matters
worse. You had to be hard and caring both at the same time, nobody's
fool, but always quite a lot of grace and mercy for the human condition.
press, the missing answers to the book about Naga and Lahu
So I paid this guy to put together some dictionaries for me, actually small
pocket books, more or less. He was suppose to do five hundred, and
distribute them. In the meanwhile I had to travel and was in no position to
know for sure if he in fact printed five hundred. But I didn't doubt him. But
one day years later, when I was checking at the press shop I saw some left
over covers from my book behind the press. It occured to me that I might have
been tricked and to ask the printer how many he printed. He said sixty
maximum! Oh well, so much for that story. Probably, what I wanted
to get done, was ranked less pressing than what my "friend" wanted
to get done and in fact if that had been the case, would have been nice if he
The guest house offered a great view from the balconies and one day I spotted
the typical battery pack electric fishermen going up the river. Soon
someone had a big turtle, big as a football and another had a very large
catfish nearly a meter long. I was quite surprised and this was into
the dry season with not much water in the river at all. I then heard
that this is when they go upstream.
Western dress standards are not exactly the same for asia. Asia tends to be more polite. On this particular
occasion a black woman in her thirties came up to the bridge in very short
cut off jeans. I mean these jeans had pockets in back, no more cloth
than that. "Big baskets", yes that woman has "big
baskets", said the Burmese women as they roared in laughter that was
difficult to conceal.
near the afternoon market
Not far from where I bought soy pudding from the old Thai lady in the
afternoon Maesai market there was an old Thai man who was a blacksmith, lots
of charcoal dust and ash around his place. He made knives and whatever else,
an old man now. He could help me with this and that, heating things up, or
forging something. Knife and other work was integral to any Thai or Akha
On the super highway I had friends at a hardware. This is where I got
concrete and rings for my well projects. Generally they were dependable so I
continued to buy from them and have them truck supplies locally. They
did not however like to go to the mountains. If it was at all past
three in the afternoon the likelyhood that they would go was remote. If I got
there early enough they would haul just about anywhere, for a price.
The owner's husband died. She knew Buay in Maesai, the woman who was married
to Tom, the American, who ran off with their son. Well Buay went to the
Bahamas to work as a nanny but later got fired.
She took the people's son all over the island without permission. And
she apparently didn't do her job very well, so she had to come back.
She was going to go to the US to find her son, but apparently that
didn't work out either, or she went and couldn't find Tom, who was living
near Spokane or something. But Buay was sort of
weird. Word was she had hosed the town pretty well, something people often
did here, as I had seen. She went back to work at her mother's small drug
store near to the police station.
head, lumber to town, sailom Joi
Skinny withered men walked down Sailom Joi bringing cut boards, cut by hand,
that they floated down the river and then carried through town and
sold. They carried a few at a time on a donut of cloth either wrapped
on their head or on a shoulder. Very hard work, trousers wrapped up
above their knees and nothing but sinyew. Almost every man had been doing
this for too long, ankles and knees swollen from the weight. The wood
was green and wet, and it barely floated it was so heavy. The price on
boards in the lumber yard was so high, one was not surprised there were
"other" suppliers for the occasional board. Lumber in Thailand was very controlled in the later years,
illegal logging had always been a problem, and now Thailand basically stole as much wood as they
could exploit from their neighbours. When one went to the lumberyard
the wood was all incredible hard woods, some of it now even imported from Borneo and places like South America. As long as wood showed up, no one
cared where it came from seemed to be the attitude. One could buy
boards of dark almost black wood like teak and other such, which one would
not be able to touch in the west. I didn't have much need for it, but
couldn't help but notice its value. The stuff was hard as rock to cut
and very beautiful.
Bomb next to
the burmese building
There was a big bang a few nights after Tachilek was attacked there in
94. We went and took a look, and someone had laid a bomb up
against the new governemnt custom house on the Burmese side. Of course they
didn't know what they were doing and it didn't do any damage, just left a big
Boo is fresh
Som Tom. I ordered it when it was hot weather. Green papaya
shreddings. Tomato. Peanuts, garlic, sugar, lime and chili if I
wanted. Normally people put fish paste and crab in it, the dark ones
from the creek but I avoided them, they weren't cooked, not a good idea I
thought. They also put a kind of granulated sugar paste in it. I
learned where to go for the best stuff, this or that woman who could make a
good mix depending on where one happened to be when they got hungry for
it. Usually there was this glass box with all the green papaya shavings
in it, and tomatoes and pieces of egg plant. All the fixings were
there, I gave the woman instructions on how I liked it, then took a chair at
a table where it could all be served up, and relaxed.
Up on the hill overlooking the river and maesai there was a border line
outpost that the Burmese ran. There were Burmese monks there and just a
couple of huts. I got there by walking up the trail to the left just
before the Maesai Guest House.
Religion always thinks it owns tops of hills. Never wants to leave
anything to nature. In Thailand it is temples, in the west it is shrines
of another sort and crosses.
The monks had this beautiful spot, I think it was some effort to find common
ground rather than fighting. But when I took the super tall guy with the
green hair and his girlfriend from England up there, just for a hike, turned out
there was a Burmese intel guy there too. Didn't look too happy that we came,
but the view was spectacular, so it was worth it. We left after a while, bid
the monks good bye.
There are some trees here that have long red tassles on them. It is a
flower of sorts. The Akha copy this for their head dressess by dying
chicken feathers that they weave into the threads of a cotton cord.
They dye the chicken feathers red and it makes a tassle. The long red
tassles on the bushes are about the same length, around 8 inches long,
hanging down all over.
and small kiln
Well, for a while someone was going to order brass cast beads and ornaments
from me and I was going to set up a kiln to do it. A good idea but
Once in the market I saw how drunk Thais like to fight, they like to break
the end off a bottle and go for the face. Sort of stupid. Generally
when they get drunk and angry they can't back out and things go from worse to
worse, a good time to get a long way away and stay away. Just because
someone walks off in anger, don't suppose that they won't be back in five
minutes with a knife or a gun.
rebuilt bigger and one was shack brothel from taxi newyorker days
This was a brothel you passed on the way to the market. Poor, there was
always a girl or two laying on the benches in the early afternoon, getting
ready for the night shift. In some ten years I had seen as these owners
built their business. Their buildings were torn down to replace them
with bigger and more working rooms. TV's, refrigerators, cold beer, all
the trimmings of brothel prosperity. Hard to say how many girls had
come and gone, how many lives, how many of them got aids and died.
Dying, didn't have to be by aids, they all appeared quite dead even while
A curse for them, a curse on them, few would escape it. It was
frightful to see the places, deaths door, hope destroyed, put out in fire as
it were, and only the shackles left. The girls were simple mountain girls,
Shan girls, girls who tried to make something better for their family, but
their family didn't look long to the future. Many men took the girls
till each girl could take no more. They came in soft, fresh, pleasant
flesh and happy hopeful faces. But with time the sorrow carved into
their faces and they tried to distance their face with a mask of white
powder, festers here and there, many rabid things racing wildly through their
bodies, their health declining with each man, their future, their lives.
Men, caught between desire and observation of the tragedy looked on. It
was hard to understand the driving force except that there were a lot of men
who could not afford a wife, and came to these places instead. They
were instant satisfaction, an endless supply of young flesh, always looking
permament but never so, and over the years hundreds of girls moved through
these places to never return one could suppose.
When I looked at tragedy I was filled with the thought of why it could not be
turned around but also at the subtle way in which people took part in the
tragedy, not looking at the bigger picture, but looking only at the window of
time that appeared to them, so that they felt as though it was no tragedy at
all and that they themselves were not contributing to it.
From this one brothel with the dirt floor and the tourquoise painted metal gate,
the New Yorker had met his lady of love and lost all his money, sad, he went
back to New
to drive taxi once again.
Collectors gathered the buddhist images and cleaned them, traded them,
selling them on the street from little stands. Was rather interesting
the different people who took to some specialty job and tried to make a
living at it. I never knew how they did make a living but was always
thankful that people tried different things which appealed to the eyes and made
life more interesting to the rest of us.
Usually a middle aged or older man, with his little stand set up, a lense in
one hand for looking at detail, maybe a strong light, and repairs for people
passing buy. Men stopped by to look at this and that neclace and the
detail of the images. There were also magazines published that had many
details of lore about these Buddist images.
The images themselves were enclosed in a silver or gold locket, with a glass
front window. Some men, maybe men with greedy bad lives, wore many of
these around their necks for a kind of protection. Humans were always
looking for ways to protect themselves from the retribution of their own
in brothel steel door
One of the brothels down in the Koh Sai District where all the brothels were
had big dents in the steel doors from where a drunk cop fired his gun off
when he couldn't get what it was he wanted. I had seen this same
telltale trace on gas pumps as well. No one there, well just shoot the
gas pump, take me to your leader or else!
Bullet tracks could remind you just what all kinds of other lives this place
had, dark sides, sinister sides, the stories abounded when you got around a
bit and listened to the tales.
There was a man near the antique shop on the corner. In the porch area out
front, with a sewing machine, been there for years, hardly noticed, right on
the sidewalk, and the man next to him made keys. This was a busy corner, on
the main Maesai road, right in the middle of town, east side, and this road
led to Chiang Saen if you took it out of town. Used to be there was a fish
shop around the corner, a guy who repaired TV's after that, and all along the
street the blue pickup trucks waited for riders to Chiang Saen. On the
opposite corner was an old drug store. A friend went in there one time
to show me how they sold tincture of opium.
The antique shop sold silver bracelets, some quite large with porcelain
inlaid flowers, and other items. I bought an Israeli medalian here
once. They had textiles and old battered wood things. I wasn't sure who all
the customers were and I think, like all the other stores in town, it was a
front for something else, some other real business.
Next door to the antique shop was a book store and a newpaper stand.
styles, concrete replacing Thai teak
Some nice concrete building styles are making their way to north Thailand. The new stuff sure has much more
class than the ugly boxy chinese style.
Burl wood was plentiful in Burma and some Japanese marketed it to Japan or Europe. These later days I even saw burlwood boxes
showing up in Maesai, I had thought it beautiful for years and now that I saw
them for real on the street I couldn't imagine why I would need one or what I
would use it for?
Burma in revolts
Bertil Litner wrote "Burma in Revolt". He was married to
a rebel Shan.
The Burmese didn't like him. They thought he blamed them for conditions
in Burma, but western people were always criticizing places
they couldn't go. The Burmese were glad they weren't america maybe. I was glad Burma wasn't America. But Bertil didn't write a book
about the slave girls of Thailand. They were everywhere, but it wasn't a
The Burma market on the Tachilek side was cluttered.
Lots of animal parts for sale. But also lots of great bronze,
particularly bells, cymbals and gongs that had fantastic bronze sounds.
You could not find nicer sounding bells. And they also had many designs on
them, some crude and some fine, or some unusual scene.
Burma runs its own show Burma ground along, a slow economy and
everything poor and very conservative.
Didn't seem to care what Thailand wanted, Burma always did its own thing. If the
bridge closed, it closed, everyone buckled down and that was it. But
now in these later days Tachilek, though still dusty, showed lots of
prosperity, lots of business, full of trucks and cars, many with Wa license
mate, no log entry
There was a oil tanker captain who often stayed at the Maesai Guest House for
a few weeks at a time. Once I met him. He told me that as a Brit,
he like the Americans. He was captain on an American tanker and one
time his Burmese first mate took the helm, while he went and got a
shower. The tanker was on autopilot going north up the west coast of Saudi Arabia. While he was in the shower he felt a
So he came up to the bridge to take a look and the ship was off autopilot.
The tanker was heading due east instead of North, as it had been, and they
were run aground off the coast of Saudi. He asked the First Mate what had happened but
he could not answer. So he called the US office, where the man told him to have
some champagne and take a break while they decided what to do.
Scavenger ships were soon pulling along side. In the end they pumped
off a large quantity of the oil, which the scavenger ships took, and they
refloated the ship and got back on course. All told, including repairs,
the incident would cost the company millions of dollars.
According to maritime law he offered the first mate two choices. Leave
the last log book entry blank, or write it in. The first mate chose to
leave it blank, then took leave of his job and went back to Burma. Many people in the merchant marine
were from Burma, even the crew I met on the mediteranean
ferries were Burmese.
airplane to tachilek
Twice a day there were flights to tachilek and the plane came in over the
river. Once it didn't make it. The pilot tried to land a second time in the
rain, was given permission to go on to He Ho, but tried one more time,
possibly on command of an officer on board, and struck the mountain near the
airport. No one spotted the plane for five days while the Shans looted
it. Many people lived but were either killed by the Shans or died of
their injuries. In the end several people were said to have been
executed for taking part in the looting. It was even rumored that some
of the women were alive and were raped and killed. Many photographs
circulated of the wreck till the Burmese army tried to collect them all
up. Pictures of Burmese Army officers caught in all the twisted metal,
gruesome pictures of humans in their final pose. A junk collector salvaged
the air plane metal.
keeper, knife tooth, this was tin tin
The book keeper was a pain in the arse. Her name was Tin Tin. She would
come out to the tables while people were eating and say rude things. Once I
went into the kitchen and got a big knife and she wasn't ever rude after
Later she had a very bad tooth and I helped her with that, so we became good
We were friends many years. Then she got a Japanese boyfriend.
After a while her sister came to town to work, a very beautiful Burmese
woman, but when she got involved with a Canadian Tin Tin got angry and beat
her very badly.
She left from the guest house and went to work at the boss's shop. She
was very sad, and the Canadian man let her down, not having any experience at
goods to sell on maesai sidewalks
They clutter the sidewalks endlessly, some are rude, some are not, but the
burmese like to rip the customers off or talk badly about them behind their
backs in english if they don't buy. Generally don't bother to have the
pleasantness of the Thai, even if the Thai don't mean it. But this was all
part of the hard life of hawkers at a border, working to make enough money to
feed their families, one could not judge them too harshly. We were many
friends, and we always talked about what the latest news was, who was in
town, what was going on, and what the cops were up to.
home bits of construction debri wood
In the evening, before the bridge closes, the Burmese workers head over the
bridge, bundles of wood tied to their bikes, or carried on backs and
heads. Little blocks of wood, a rolled piece of corrugated tin, some
bundled cardboard, some twisted rebar, bundles of cut binding strap. All of
it spoke of the poverty on one hand and the resourcefulness to use everything
for something useful rather than abandon it.
A few days after the activist and Burmese renegade Johnny was out of prison
in Bangkok he got together some other guys and took
over the Burmese embassy. Then they were flown to the border in helicopters
and released so the "hostages" would be unharmed. The Burmese
figured Thai complicity and so they closed the border bridge, during which
time many people drowned trying to get across the river. Later Johnny
and others stormed the hospital down that way to get treatment for their
wounded. The Thais over ran them and captured the hospital, and after
the process killed everyone of the ten Burmese with a gunshot to the
head. Johnny escaped. Later he was caught by the Thai army and an
officer executed him. He ended his career this way. The Thais were in
part making it clear to the Burmese after the fact that they wouldn't
tolerate these guys after the embassy raid. The Thais were always
kissing Burma's ass when they wanted a favor. Otherwise
they didn't like the Burmese, but the feeling was mutual. The Burmese
had lots of raw resources and ultimately to get it, the Thais would do quite
a lot of ass kissing. The Burmese got jerked around by the Thais but were
much tougher people. Lives in this region were always cheap.
Mawdsley's Time In the Keng Tung Jail
James Mawdsley was up our way, this protester to Burma, he brought difficulty to the Burmese
government and the Burmese government put him in prison. James ended up
in Keng Tung, in his own little building, in his own little cell. Some
of the Akha I knew had seen him there, were quite sure what it was all about,
but it did nothing for their lives. James went home and wrote a book, that
was his fifteen minutes of fame, a westerner trying to make the world like
they want it, overlooking all the inconsistencies of their position. I
never saw the Burmese turn down help. Here Burma was right there at the edge of Thailand, there were lots of tourists, but never
anyone bringing aid to take across to the other side. Why not? If they were
so concerned about Burma, why didn't they bring practical aid?
There was no law against it, no moral law, and the Burmese were in fact quite
appreciative of this sort of help. At any rate, James stunt cost his family a
lot of grief, and generally made everyone around the border more jittery.
cutting forest near shan area
Up in north shan state near monglar area the burmese were cutting every tree
for firewood for charcoal or the brick kilns of keng tung. Bricks for
construction everywhere. Later however, concrete construction became
more popular as the road from the boarder got better, and the last time I
went up there I found a big fancy officer's center in Keng Tung.
house under water
The single guest houses across the river in Burma all flooded every year till they filled
the whole place with dirt and rock and started building a casino. The
casino was large and right across from my place, the work stopped for the
mini border war but would start soon again as the bridge opened and they
could buy more concrete. Rumor was that it belonged to Chavalit's wife.
Bus runs over
beggars boys leg
The main street of Maesai in the old days had a lot of buses on it. The buses
came to the end of the street, turned around and then parked to one side.
This beggar kid sat down behind the bus to Chiangmai and then the bus backed
up over his leg spitting the flesh but not breaking the leg of all things. I
could not imagine how the bone was not broken. I wonder if he lived to
grow up? I think the leg healed. Those days near the bridge were really
poor, back then this whole region was quite poor and the road to Maesai was
nothing more than a small battered ribbon of blacktop.
Bus trips The long bus trips around
Thailand or from north to south to get a visa were mostly horrible, not the
travel, but going without a shower, the cramped seats, bad food, and air
conditioning that made you sick, the slowness of it all.
Burma rock pit On the Burma side there was a rock pit where workers
blasted rock from the mountain side and workers broke the rock into pieces
with hammers and it was used for mixing with cement.
I knew many Akha who worked here when they didn't have any other work, but
many were injured by rock chips. One man had an infection in his leg
which damaged by a piece of flying rock when he was swinging a big hammer.
The infection exposed the tendon from one of these rock chips. I got
some medicine for him and hoped that it healed.
Kids played it on the main street of Maesai in front of the top north at
night. Without cars and motorbikes and food hawkers the street got very
big and empty. But of these last days the street stayed busy later and
later into the evening with people setting up a small night market, selling
this and that, having fun too.
motorcycle woman and the spoke in my tire
I rented a motorbike with a friend and didn't get far when the rear tire went
flat and I had to have it repaired. The owner, when I came back, she
didn't believe it was there when I set out. But I hardly picked up a
motorcycle spoke off the road when one from the wheel was missing. The
shop owners were quite ready to blame you for damage, but then when you
saw how foreigners treated their bikes it was no wonder. People who
nearly destroyed the bikes would take them back and plead that the motorbike
was exactly as it had been before they shot off the cliff. I showed her the
piece of steel I pulled out of the tire and she relented.
charlie knife fight
This guy got drunk and fought with Charlie at his house, chopping charlie in
the face with a knife. Charlie pulled out a hidden knife that he had in the
house just for such events and stabed the young man in the stomach. The
man lived but charlie's face had a huge scar. The fellow was the son of a
rich man and came back later and apologized after his stomach was all sewn
Charlie married an Akha girl from the guesthouse, a nice girl who cared for
him when he had malaria. They had at least two kids when I visited
their house the last time.
Charlie somehow ended up with a baking oven and ran himself a little
bakery. He said the bread spoiled, but not if he put a lot of chemicals
in it. He hired a baker to bake all the bread for him.
pitches 2500 baht powder in river after searched by cop
I was sitting near to the bridge in a restaurant and I saw the police were
searching this young Burmese guy who worked in the other restaurant next to
the bridge on the downstream side. They didn't find anything but just when
they turned away he threw a small pack of heroin into the river. Later
I asked him about it, he said he lost 2500 baht.
Many foreigners came here and used the heroin which was too strong or
polluted and they died. They didn't know how to mix it in the blood
properly and their hearts stopped while the needle was still in their
Other people put a small amount of heroin on the tabacco of a cigarette and smoked
it. If you put too much this would kill you too.
Burmese guys I
There used to be many hawkers at the bridge. Some of them, many of
them, had an eye ailment, where their eyes were very red and there was this
tissue growth covering up part of their iris.
On this particular day, I and a German friend were
investigating an alley to find a woman that had a little soy curd making
operation set up. While we were looking for it, this blind boy came down the
alley with his sister. He played this wooden block by clacking it on
another block. The one block had been cut in a certain way so it made a
resonating sound I think and that is what he did for people to get a
The hard wooden block had cuts the length of it, side by side, but not all
the way through. At least he did something. He sang and she guided him along
to where he would sit down in front of the next house.
Sometimes one would see blind people with a small
amplifier, singing traditional Thai folk songs as well, an old woman or
sister leading him, holding out a tin cup for coins.
We moved on and next to the river we finally found
this little hut, boards nailed together, the place looking like it was nearly
falling apart, and there in side were all the pots and workings of the woman
who made soy curd. I can't remember now if my German friend bought any
or she was already out for the day, but the whole operation was most
interesting, what people do, how food is made, what the rest of us get to enjoy.
Burmese girl, American Fry from Colorado
This American man named Fry was in town to buy gem stones. A Burmese
woman from one of the shops near the bridge came to his room to see him
because she was with this big Burmese guy who she did not want to be with and
hoped that the American would save her. But he had not a clue and the
Burmese man took her to his room and she got raped all night. The
Japanese man who lived next door told of it. Once such things happen
near my room as well. I went up and banged on their door and told the man to
leave the girl alone.
merchant marine man, the submarine commander
They were friends of Jon's father in law. One was in the merchant
marine, his friend called him the submarine commander, I have no idea why. He
came to the border to see Burma without officially going back to Burma. He always wore heavy black
glasses. They took us out to dinner many times and were always lots of
fun, having traveled the world finding many ideas. Jon's wife on the other
hand was not near so cunning or nice, an incredible loathesome bitch.
Finally Jon got fed up and left her.
Bootie: Her baby,
now lives in the upper village
Her father lost his sight now for some years.
His legs got swollen in the hot season. He had short bristly hair and
always puffed on a pipe and tried to perceive who was there and speak quickly
and friendly to you. He had lived at Hua Mae Kom before the army moved
his whole village. Hua Mae Kom was a beautiful Akha village near the Burmese
border where the flowers bloomed yellow in November.
The death of his father's second wife came some years later. I bought
her a new Akha dress. Often I would find her resting on the back porch
with her frail hands clutching a cane which she would let go of long enough
to take hold of my hands. She was such a sweet old woman.
I played her to the sand man, but that is another story.
That someone in no pain, could ask for death to come and take them?
Here long enough.
Bootie, she got married, and moved to the upper
village where the mission was. Her baby was born deformed, I figured it was
all the herbicide exposure in the area. The Akha who were relocated, often
had to work for Thais on their farms. The Thais had the Akhas use all the chemicals
that the western countries shipped in since they didn't like to use them
theirselves. Many babies were born without an anus, which is what happened to
across the street is a pit stop for Akha
The girls were hookers anywhere they could find it. They tried this bar and
that bar and this restaurant or whatever, then a small store where the Akha
even bought this and that. Then it closed and changed again. For
a while one of the sisters was married to an American Pakistani. He bought
her many motorbikes to rent and she scammed it long enough that he grew tired
of it, sold everything and went home. They of course, went back to Bangkok where one of them got the big boobies put
They built another house for their parents, and then kept using the old house
for a bar, every sister a hooker.
The oldest sister, the one with the fake boobies, she used to have a cop for
a boyfriend, or he volunteered her services for some debt, so he showed up
every afternoon like clock work, took a little bit of time inside, and then
was off again.
Bananas Big ones and then the
little ones in the villages with the seeds in them. Big seeds! There
were many banana varieties in Thailand. I could only eat so many.
The Akha were always giving them to me for gifts in the villages but they
only got battered to mush in the truck. Best in shakes. I heard
that the Dutch had collected many varieties from Thailand and now brought them back to Thailand for the Thais to rebuild their banana
The Christian Chinese tend to look down on everyone. They are brilliant
money grubbers. No one is quite so equal to them. They also have
an incredible twisted version of theology and the world, I think it is called
racism in most places. I met this Jewish fellow in town. He said he
didn't want a Jewish wife, cause they had big boobs and were pushy. But
the Chinese, he said all they cared about was money, they were worse than the
Jews. Least that is what he said. I tended to agree with him, though someone
with savy about money is better than someone who isn't and is broke.
I knew of only one bottle brush tree here in the north of Thailand and that was at Martin and Goi's old
Martin was from Germany, living in Switzerland, and Goi was a Thai woman he married.
They ran a small guest house and restaurant, bread, cheese, use the computer,
stuff like that. Later they got deported, I don't know why, but the
police gave them enough time to gather themselves together.
He was a gem cutter from the US married to a Shan girl named Da. I
left an Akha headdress with him to keep safely, but when I came back he said
some bill this and that were not paid and that he would just keep the thing,
which cost nearly a thousand dollars. He liked to laugh and cackle like
a bald headed chicken, then laugh at his own joke, but the joke was on you
and your wallet. He ripped a lot of people off this way, for thousands of
It was sort of strange, cause he was smart, smart enough to have a life
without stealing from people.
But then maybe he was dumb too. He was always going on about how the
Akha believed in free sex, just like he loaned out his wife or something,
talking shit about other people when he knew nothing about them, the epitome
of a stupid white man. Some people said he "section 8'd" out
of the US military. One could find a lot of his
type all over Thailand, bragging about killing people in Vietnam and Laos.
At any rate, he knew well how to cut gemstones, and had a pretty good life in
Two miles from Maesai, we can do visa's there. Least used to be able
to. More guest houses of late, on the river, crossing to Laos.
The drive is quite long from Maesai and the road not so good. Once
there was a big flood come out of the mountains and rocks the size of cars
washed down the road and tore up half of it.
There was a pepsi stand next to the boat ramp and
immigration box. The pepsi stand took care of visa arrangements
normally. This was easy enough and it cost up to 1800 baht. Then
they got to cheating somehow, so rather than just get on with business the
Lao embassy made everyone get a visa at Bangkok first. Well, this was fine.
One fellow in Chiangrai did the whole thing for me for the same price and I
didn't even have to go to Chiang Kong.
My one friend took his passport to Chiang Kong to send to Bangkok and they
then gave him the cock and bull story that it was stolen, so he had to go to
Bangkok himself and get a new one.
These were the difficulties of living in Thailand, always on the visa chase it seemed. The
Thais didn't really want us there, though they liked our money.
Chiangmai had a big night market, but in Chiangmai there were also many
things you can buy in the way of equipment.
Chiangmai had many things that the north didn't have, like selection, ovens,
equipment for jewelry, bulk silver, and ideas.
Chiangmai was great to me. But especially because of the air and
temperature and the old fort like city, the ancientness of the place and a
sense of a laid back feeling. A feeling that things weren't built of
concrete just yesterday, but that there was a civilization here, over many
years. I could drive through old neighborhoods, old teak houses,
shutters, tilting, listing, trees, many things stacked about the place years
in the gathering, and so many specialties. You know when you see one
place that has a ton of merchandise all along the same line, all used, that
it has been there for a while, that the manufacturing was around for a while,
that many people bought the items because they were good, and maybe now the
old ones are collected from people who die to be used for parts for those
still in use. Otherwise, who collects Edsels and stacks them in their
yard? No one needs the parts.
Old shops, when you walked in and the tiles were worn, the tables were worn,
the walls had dirt on them, but it was of an institutional kind, dirt like
what had become family, ok dirt, and maybe the dirt was like a ear that
recorded all the voices of the people, growing in time, memories fond, late
night chats of lovers and newly marrieds waiting for their first baby to make
up its mind and be born, waiting till the rain outside stopped boiling into steam
on the sidewalk, people chattering by, kids playing in disregard, cars of
every make and vintage passing the door, and the motorcycles which were like
the children of Abraham, as stars in the sky and sands of the sea, without
number. They invented the wheel. And then they invented the
motorcylce wheel, and that was a whole different thing. Girls sitting
side saddle behind their boyfriends, long skirts, always the warm Thai
smiles. The Thais can be forgiven all their failings for their
addiction to the kind and soft smile on all occasions, even in times of
stress and strife. If you don't speak Thai much, and only live on the
smiles, then it be easy to say you seldom hear an unkind word.
Bus journeys to Chiangmai were long. The station battered. The big
building complex. I wonder who built these, some government contract
scam because the shops were always empty and run down, full of squatters and
the upper stories never used.
Ten years, now the same busses were running, never upgraded, other buses in Thailand of a tourist sort were plush and
beautiful. Even the Blue VIP 999 buses were old now, worn, dirty and
rumbling. Big engines, the doors open for air and cooling, looking to
be huge and heavy, a second diesel rattling to the forward section running
the air conditioning.
Fungus lived in their vents, giving you a fungal cold almost
immediately. To run chlorine through them just once in a while would
kill it all and be better for everyone.
Chiangmai had gotten all that much more huge over the years, the ring road
all around the city, and now you could get lost in any part of its guts.
Foreigners had made it a city of their own in a way, dominating aspects of
the commerce and spending huge sums on nick nacks and this and that finely
made hand craft item in the night market, the Thais always full of colorful
creations to catch the eye in one mini industry after another.
Good western food could also be had in Chiangmai. If you wanted to see
a fat missionary this was the place to do it, in MacDonalds, Pizza Hut or one
of the many hotels with bakeries or internet cafe's.
The Chiangmai night market also had a disturbing side. Many artists
exploited the hilltribe for art and such. They all had signs
posted. "NO PHOTOGRAPHY". I found this funny, since
they all worked off photos taken of the hilltribe. A travel booth here
and there selling tours and treks, all to the hilltribe which got little to
The Akha sold on the steps and grannies sold nicknacks, the booth people
acting like they were a nuisance while making their living in many cases off
images of the same people.
The foreigners were sure interested in these people.
beggar, after all these years
Pesistent, bold, had a browning of the lower legs and feet. Always begging,
limping, had a walking cain, hit the kids who begged to drive them away, had
a big pout on his face, shoved his hand in your way in the most determined
beligerant manner, demanding a coin. If you gave him a one baht coin he
looked at it and then shoved the hand back out and asked for ten baht.
He begged as long as I could remember in Maesai, the most persistent
beggar I ever saw.
Watch in the
This guy was wandering around in the road. When I got there he told me in a
drunken slurry that he had dropped his watch in the puddle there. It wasn't a
very big puddle, I thought he was joking, and then he staggered off. On
second thought I went back to the puddle, and fished around in it with my
hand, and sure enough out popped a watch. The man was no where to be
found, so I sold it.
in Joy room 28
28, not yet knowing a lot, simplicity, a simple perspective
the magic of that balcony
Don't be bitter or cynical
I never lived in 28 again, it was like a memory though I went up there sometimes
to have a beer on the balcony. People make places.
I had gotten older and much innocence of not knowing this and that was
Sitting there was a measuring stick of time that had passed.
So many changes with time, we want to make it mean good things.
When I came to 28 I believed in good happening, when I moved to 61 I learned
to realize bad happening.
It makes me think deeply.
The guy at the
northern with his tourquoise and his burmese hooker
This American bead collector was staying at the Top North Guest House in the
two story concrete building next to the river. He said he was waiting for a
hooker he ordered to be delivered from the Burma side. He was powerful. He had made a
special arrangement, like half the hookers in Thailand weren't destitute from Burma. I always wondered about these guys. They
bragged about this gal or that gal they were able to get and then finally
went back to the US to live like the typical western person with nothing and
no one at all.
Sustainable guys, is it sustainable?
She worked with kids, and tried to get Meeh Juuh to go to US.
Parents saw Meeh Juuh as a cash flow and didn't want to risk that. She never
went, what would she do in the US anyway? Parents were afraid of
never seeing their kids again. Debra, she was very good hearted and we kept
in touch for quite a few years. She worked with some refugee sponsoring
agency in Colorado.
Meeh Daw Meeh Daw had five
and five sisters plus her. 11 people. She worked in the school for a while,
cooked, made good, made trouble. Finally ended up married again to a taxi
driver and then some second guy too. She was a widow, poor, kids, many
stories though, she told so many stories. I asked her one time about these
marks on her hands, around the finger nails. She said that the rats came in
the night and they chewed all the callouses off a person's hand, around all
the fingers, careful not to bite and wake you. That is how poor it was in Burma.
Joe borrowed the four wheel drive from the landlord and drove it up into Burma so many times that he ran it to death,
just beat it to nothing. Then he got his own truck. Drove it up from
Chiangmai, but didn't notice that the oil cooler for the engine was mounted
directly above it, never did cool, and the engine fried. So he ended up
buying an engine. Nick towed it back to Maesai for him.
someone should sugar his engine
One time my motor went dead in my truck. A guy in the guesthouse next door
named Rob said that Joe said it would be real funny to sugar my engine. I saw
Joe near the truck, so that is probably what happened. I had to replace it,
cost me 70,000 baht. But that was Joe, he had a heck of a time getting away
from himself, made a lot of enemies and sold a lot of snake oil.
The jeep the
guy wanted to sell me
There was this one guy in town, son of rich people.
He drove a red Jeep Wagoneer. He also had an old US Army Jeep. He wanted to
sell it to me, said the brakes didn't work well and that the noise deep in
the motor (sounded like the crank shaft) wasn't anything to worry
about. Foreigners apparently were such suckers in Thailand that the
Thais took it for granted and would tell you just about anything, thinking
you would believe it just like the guy before you.
When joe was at the big building downstream from the bridge, he rented the
upstairs attic which was hot as hell, and started a guest house when he first
came to town. He had a mongoose there which he had caught, but it got away,
ran away through the building and found its way to the river no doubt.
Later he had a monkey when he moved to Sailom Joi.
But it was a mean monkey, just like Joe. He thought it funny that it could
visciously bite the working girls.
Chiang Saen and Uwe
Christian was this Swiss guy from Chiang Saen. He was living in Chiangmai
now. Married to a Thai. A good fellow it seemed.
Uwe said he was dead, but I met him on the street
after that. A lot of what Uwe said was trash, but he was not a half bad type,
could be good friends, if a little psychotic, but he was also very
intelligent. His greatest weak spot was that he exaggerated a lot, fabricated
a lot, and said bad things about people behind their backs for the purpose of
creating evil, which of course he did on occasion. Bad feelings for people,
things like that. He had an alcoholic wife, ran a few guest rooms, and once
they found a guy dead there. He liked Tiger beer, and kept tract of just
about everything, but some of the connections were bad and I didn't go there
too much after that.
Wasn't much going on in Maechan sept the hilltribe coming to the market to
buy and sell. The town was sleepy, flat and often flooded. It was
a northern junction town, taxis and the battered green weenie buses pulling
through. Lots of students on the buses making them crowded.
A Royal Project school which had many hilltribe students boarding nearby and
learning there, the quality of education and future not so much for these
students. But as the MaeFaluangUniversity was being built, maybe that would change
Maechan has a well known bead shop where the Akha buy and sell beads, cloth,
silver and thread. It is also the junction for Taton.
A quiet concrete town. Shops close together, small streets, no
planning, congestion, and ALL concrete. Most all the wooden houses and
shops gone, only a few wooden buildings were still left.
The government hospital was large and congested. Care was poor, rooms
full of the sick, full of mosquitos, no mosquito control effort. The
infant ward was a nightmare of disconcern, seriously ill babies which would
die due to lack of care. I extracted a few Akha babies from there and
always felt bad for the hilltribe still stuck there along with the Thai
babies that got the same care. It was so hopeless I would not take another
baby there or go back.
Sleepy town. Had old temple ruins, a moat wall all around the city that
of late they were cleaning and repairing. There was a similar large earth
wall south end of Maesai. I wasn't sure what that was about.
A favored dish. I got it on occasion for the flavor, garlic, ginger,
chili peppers, the dried red ones, and chicken of course. Usually they
put way too much chicken in it, with a few mushrooms. I didn't like to
eat meat all that much. I could never correctly pronounce the Thai name for
At the Chinese circus there were two bear cubs used in the show. Not sure
what role they played. They were small, size of big footballs, stinky,
chained to a metal tent stakes driven into the ground. The stakes made
of an old truck axle.
cracker funeral, rockets, fire kites
At the Chinese funerals they fired phospherous bomb rockets. During some
festivities, like the Chinese New Year they sent up box kites with candles
that went high into the air. In later years one could see many of these
hot air boxes, colorful cloth colors, beside the road. They were like a
big cloth sock, you got a candle with them, and they filled up with hot air
and slowly went high into the sky.
jewelry tool supply
She had a shop on the corner of Sailom Joi at the bridge.
She had several workers who built much of the nick nack that the hilltribes
sold at the mountain markets. It was cheap, the hilltribe pushed it off
as made by them, and they didn't have to do more than quickly go to maesai
and buy it. This woman was shrewd, sold jewelry making gear as well, but
limited, and always had Akha or Yao waiting outside her place to finish buying all the
things they needed. She once wanted me to teach her burmese
worker how to speak better english to attract tourists but I didn't have
time. Sure enough tourists passed her corner.
This younger chinese man worked with his brother in his father's house and
old shop in the main market. He was kind, but I checked his prices over
what I could buy the same things in Keng Tung and his pricing was enormous.
Looks can be deceptive, no wonder he was pleasant to me. A metal wire
pulling die what would cost 300 baht in Keng Tung was 2200 baht at his
shop. Later he told me that he didn't know they were available so cheap
up there. He got all of his from Bangkok, the long way around.
He had hammers for jewelry, burners, billows, scales, grinders, mandrels for
rings, all this sort of gear. I bought the billows and charge chambers
that used gasoline to run the torch. Seemed dangerous but OK if you
knew what you were doing and had a concrete shop where you mounted the little
Pumping the billows caused bubbles in the gas which fumes were used to burn
in the torch. A very simple conserving system, many shops used this
througout asia without the need to buy special
equipment. Even the billows could be hand made. Near to his shop
there were fire rings, lead weights, fishing nets, people actually hand tied
these, and beads and thread of different weights and material, and
needles. Across the way was the Indian fabric shop that I got cloth
from for baby blankets for the villages and cloth for the Akha flags and
I had heard this story when I first came to Maesai from a woman named Julie
who did a little research on it. The CIA sold helicopters and 2,4,d to
the Burmese to irradicate poppies, which was sprayed from the air, and many
people got sick and poisoned and the water was polluted. Julie was looking
into it, but in those years I did not yet know the scale of what was going
on, and people were only passing through, so we did not keep in touch.
For the Akha, this is getting better. Not refugees so what are they?
The hilltribe were refugees in Thailand. Refugees of the KMT wars in Burma. The CIA sure knew this as the DEA did
yet they allowed Thailand to never classify these people as
refugees, and for years, even to date, many of them are extorted over land
rights and other human need issues, as people without a status. The
Karen and other Burmese get UN recognition and some aid, not these
people. The forgotten people. In fact, many of the Akha are refugees
but many are not, and have been in Thailand over one hundred years.
Sold coffee, iced coffee, etc
Mobile coffee service, long before Starbucks and their fancy yuppie shops,
which Maesai still didn't have. A cart with stainless steel water heating
tank, cloths for filtering the coffee grounds out, funnels, all kinds of
things, you could get hot chocolate, condensed milk, tea, iced coffee, just
about anything you wanted.
I loved all these different carts, some the same, others not, you could find
this and that to your liking at most any time of day, and the cart vendors
themselves were most interesting and fun to talk to. They got to know
you, know what you wanted, and it was a good life.
But I had coffee at top north mostly. This gave me opportunity to watch the
people, write a little, relax, remember things I had to do, and meet new
Collect calls were always a pain in the early days, getting or sending a fax,
Sometimes I paid the fifty baht at the Northern Guest House to make collect
calls. The northern was an old guesthouse by the river. I was
told the wife of a General owned it, hard to say. The land was now like
a big park close to the river but it always flooded each year to nearly a
meter deep, wiping out many plants, bringing in new fresh rich soils and the
workers would clean up, plant more and the place got thicker and thicker with
plants each year despite the floods. Rambling huts and rotting boards,
and one or two concrete buildings.
house, wooden houses
Wooden houses are nice but dark and full of mosquitos and take lots of trees.
Concrete houses are damp, but light, and maybe less cost on the environment?
Course I hear there is not enough cement. And cement is slow to recycle
itself. Cement reminds of a kind of arrogance that people can be and
will always be around, yet it sets the form in fixed style of the designer,
and then we have to put up with it for years, not as a comparison to wood,
but does seem people are more clever with wood.
Wood breathes, feels dryer than concrete, and the temptation with concrete is
to pave everything over, leaving no rooms for soil or plants.
Concrete doesn't burn, but falls down quite readily in an earth quake,
cracks, takes on water. The concrete buildings mold and turn black, the
paint peals, the smartest people being those who don't paint it the first
Lots of tiles and railings are used with concrete in Thailand.
These poles would stop a car or bus fast. Sometimes they got broken off
by a truck or bus. One fellow was unhappy with his life situation so getting
in his car up the street, he revved the engine, than drove it full speed into
the power pole out front of my place, chopping his face to mincemeat in the
windshield and leaving a small girl rumpled on the floor in the car.
She had a big bump on her head, hit the glove box, then slumped on the floor,
that was all, while he was taken to Chiangrai.
I don't know what happened to her. The impact was immense and the car
totally destroyed, a little Dihatsu.
Shops were full of them, every gimmick one could think of, even flavored
condoms for those with not enough to do. The stores had them stacked on
the counter, encouraging people to use them rather than get AIDS or other
at the Plaza guest house
The owner was always building in the early years, making new cabins but now
the good years are over and the place is mostly empty. The owner does well to
keep ahead of the termites which he doesn't, and then some concrete here and
there to repair, finally concreting over all the flower beds so he didn't
have to weed them. My garden was gone and moved away from the place, to
the Akha fish village. Rags wrapped around the wooden posts that
precariously held up the cabins contained chemical to drive away bugs and
ants. The wood was old hard teak, so it had a good chance of lasting
for some time. Overall the place was an incredible fire trap if a fire
ever got started there. Few would escape the heat that would climb up
through those cabins. There used to be fire extinguishers, but they
seldom worked, and the water line system wasn't up to anything.
All of the police of Thailand are corrupt the Thais say. Extortion of
fees and fines from motorists and others. I had gotten stopped and
inspected many times. Once I had this old man and woman with me and
they got totally searched, and then we went our way. I sighed in relief
and then asked if the man had anything. "Oh, a ball of opium, but
they didn't find it", he said. Whenever I got stopped I watched
the police like hawks because I knew damn well they could plant speed pills
in my truck.
These were murals with cloth and sequins that were made in Burma, but they were murals about Burmese, Thai
or Shan life. Sold in a shop at the bridge that the chinaman from the plaza
leased out. He couldn't get the guy to leave when the lease was over so
he asked him if he would move out while retiling the floor and the man did
and then he wouldn't let him move back in and renew the lease. These
kinds of disputes where someone walks all over you are bad here.
So he had to do it this way to get the guy out. Then the guy gave the
police 30,000 baht or something and the police made the Chinaman pay some
money to the guy, but it was finally over. Money could sway the police this
way or that way, depending on whose ear you had.
I took my camera into the Fuji shop to get it cleaned. But when I came back
there was a "mistake". He had sold it on accident.
While the Tachilek war went on for one day in 1994 the Burmese Army could see
us under the Riverside Guest house with cameras and kept firing m-70 grenades
at us. They blew the pipes off the water tank and hit the hillside and
a couple of rooms but we were still there. I could hear the grenade
fire and duck low in the concrete pillars before it hit on our side.
They could hit above us, but it was hard to get right on us with a direct
hit, but had they the little pieces of shrapnel would have eaten us alive.
Finding painting canvases in town was hard, someone made them but mostly I
got mine in Chiangrai.
I liked to fiddle with oil paints when I got time. Which I didn't get
for nearly two years now.
Moving cars to
To move a car to China to sell at a profit they would tape the
whole care with packing tape to protect the paint from scratches then
carefully remove it when they got there. But I figure it was a mess
cause it got hot on the trip up and might peal the car paint underneath. I
saw it a couple times, cars taped like this when the road was bad, but here
of late the road was made huge, dumping dirt in the rivers, and rock, and
then the trip took 3 hours instead of 15.
My friend finally left his wife because she wouldn't stop playing cards and
loosing money. Gambling for the Thais was a big problem in this
regard. They would kill, steal and cheat to get money for their bad
card habbits, which were mostly a loosing venture, but their social psyche
was heavily invested in the face they showed at the parlors.
The catholics don't appear so jerked around by the wind as the protestant
Akha here, but they are destroyed just the same.
The chiangmai taxi driver played this ccr music tape, then drove me to Doi
Suthep and after we came back he gave me the tape. That was many years
ago when I first come to this Thailand. There were certain tapes, music that was
played in Thailand, and then you heard it over and over, but
with the advent of quickly duplicated CD's the music business went full boom
with bootleg CD's.
The cemetary was a chinese kind out of town just a ways. There were
hilltribe christian cemetaries, thai christian cemetaries but not so
often. But I had to say there was something kind about a cemetary as
compared with fire. Same could be said for Akha burial grounds though
you couldn't see them unless you knew they were there.
The Chinese buried their dead in either vaults above the ground or vaults
that were buried with one face showing out the side like a door. One friend I
knew, he was married to an Akha woman, he worked full time making these
chinese burial vaults for people. But then the Chinese started putting
them on every hill all around and it got to be a bother. One here, one there,
a vault everywhere. The Chinese guy was married to this goofy Akha woman, a
christian, who lived next to Ah Zeh's place in the flat village. Word was the
hut was plenty busy when he was gone. She prattled a lot so a lot of other
people did too.
Yeah, this girl with plenty ample breasts sold bras of all things at the
central department store in town. I always thought that was funny. I
think she knew a lot about it. The Central was a big store chain in Thailand.
He had a guesthouse. He was always in the face till I ignored him long enough
that he finally stopped speaking. A real nosy guy. Thought it
some kind of hero job to rebuild old army jeeps but then they lined the
street and mostly people couldn't sell them. He had a guest house too. Not a
nice place, his family always hanging out.
But then years later we became friends, talked to each other. He told me
there were lots of bad things going on, very disturbing, spooks and all that
kind of stuff.
Once when I was walking up the highway, out of gas, he gave me a lift. We
talked after that, when we met.
their right and their obligation to steal
The Shans stole more than the hilltribe did, this is what heard. Even
the Shan were afraid of the Shan and said they wouldn't go late into a village
or people would throw stones at them if they were drunk and wanted to
fight. And heavy drinking you could always find in one of their
villages. But in the end, you make your own friends, and the local
prejudices go away. I had a Shan builder, he was a real good guy, I liked
him, he did good work.
For many years the owner of Chana book who was married to one of the Top
North daughters, had a bright yellow vespa. Then he got a tiny
car. He was in the Lyons club. A pleasant educated fellow.
The ruby dealers from chantaburi brought with them their need for sunglasses,
a fancy gold kind, so all the hookers who worked with them needed them too,
till after a few years. Then aids spread around a lot and it wasn't
such a big deal to be rich and buy what you wanted when you wanted it.
Chang mai man
at shop The one Akha man in
Chianmai sold beads, but also sold other stuff. He would see the Akha
coming with something to sell and then rush around the corner so the
westerners didn't see how little he paid them for it which was just about
nothing. He got his beads from his sister in Maesai, sometimes I bought
from him if maesai was sold out.
He had a second wife in a village in Huai Krai, their first baby had a skin
ailment, where the skin was shinny and always shed.
catching the wrong chicken
So the guesthouse owner had one of his chickens escape and asked us to help
him chase it down, which we thought to help him out with. Finally I got
close enough and really got after the chicken and it kept on going but I kept
up and then it hopped right into the hutch and I grabbed it. The hutch.
Yep, and it was the wrong chicken and I was in this guys back yard with his
chicken in my hands which I had hounded there. I obviously looked
surprised, let it go and retraced my steps back to the road.
Beside the road from Chiang Kong to Chiangrai, mean looking as hell, big, in
iron cages, went up the trees for coconuts, traveled in caravan of three
bikes, three monkeys. A rope tether brought them back to owner,
naturally they looked like they could bite the hell out of you, big as dogs.
I think the owners beat them with sticks when no one was looking, it took a
lot of work to get a monkey to look that mean.
Cut and burned
These two germans had this prostitute to Maesai from Bangkok, and she had all these burns and cuts on
her arm, hard to tell what from, she said someone did it to her and she
didn't want to talk about those days. It was healed now but looked very
ugly, scars on both sides of her left arm mostly, the back of the hand with
She lost her wallet on the Burma side and the two germans left her on her
to san chai, drunks, no money no ride
Those were the hard days. No one would believe
me now. Pasang is some 27 kilometers from Maesai. I would have
twenty baht. Enough to get to the junction one way, with ten baht left
over. I would take the computer and printer that fit in a case together
down there with me. Then get out at the junction in the late afternoon,
early evening and start walking. And the computer weighed total about
22 lbs or something like that. Anyway, I would walk all the way to San
Chai, so that I could get the next part or some fragments of the language
finished. I was working on the alphabet at that time.
And it is a long walk, not much of a shoulder, some 19 kilometers to the
village. After I did this many times I sometimes got offered a ride at
the very end if I could pay, which I couldn't so I just refused it.
Sometimes I didn't get to the village till like in the morning, braving more than one
nasty dog on the road. Seems a long time ago when I think about it now.
I don't recall it raining on me, for that I could be happy,
Sometimes drunks came weaving down the road on their motorbikes in the dark,
two people, then would ask me if I had any money for a lift, but I didn't
want to ride with them.
Some of the people got to know me in the area, and I got a few lifts that
way, but it wasn't anything I could depend on.
ground rod, armature
Later I moved all the computer equipment into the village because I had art
work to do and the layout of the first children's book. Mind you this
is several years ago. Getting the alphabet was an ordeal. Nimit
was totally wacked out on heroin the most part of every day, the place was a
mess, and getting the last of the alphabet took a lot of time. I was
not convinced I had it all but put the book together anyway. To do that
I set up in a tiny house, that had electric. Big old bugs flying
around. The scanner needed a ground wire so I pounded a copper rod into
the ground out behind the place. I didn't have a hammer but had brought
the armature out of a motor from an old pump and used that to beat the rod
into the ground.
There wasn't much organized effort to get coffee growing in the mountains
yet. Doi Tung was doing it a little bit but this was quite silent and
Coffee grew well in shade areas and there was a lot of places around the Akha
where it would do very well. I hoped to invest in getting some going in
some of the villages. Problem was that the villages that sprouted it or
had the skill and access to the beans sold it for more than I could afford to
buy and I wasn't handy by to see what beans they bought where for how much
The villages that sold the sprouted plants were also a long ways from where I
need the plants and transport would be costly, more costly than the plants.
It was the best story in Maesai yet as far as I was concerned.
I had just spent my last 100 baht, gave it to her older daughter to go home
and buy food with.
She also needed a 1200 baht sack of rice cause it was all gone from when I
bought it last.
I had been saving it. The hundred baht. Put it in the flap of my black
leather passport holder.
But they needed food and I was out of money.
So I grease up my boots, they were cracked and dry from so much walking in
the mud and the dust, the heat and the dry and the sweat.
And my friend John Fernquest came by with his new Burmese wife to see if I
wanted to play badmitton.
And then after they left it was about two and I went down and had a coke in
the eating area of the old rambled guest house, and then I had a chew of
tabacco and sat next to the klong and thought and thought but could come up
So I went back to my room and asked my cook a few questions of the day.
(She had been living off of my house and money for the last year with her
family of 9 counting her.)
And then out of the blue she says to me ‘ I want to go work in the
I couldn’t imagine it was anything I said, or did, so it wasn’t
exactly like cutting Sampson’s hair. But close.
So then I asked her what she meant.
Well, you see I have this bunch of land up in the mountains near here, big
chunk on this side of the mountain facing that way and another big chunk on
the other part of the mountain over there facing this way and one other piece
of land with a little bit of water on it. I got a lot of land. But I
did have a piece with a lot of water on it but I sold that when my husband
died and I needed the money. 7,000 baht, to Ah Murh’s father.
You could have blown me out of the room with a small gust of cool air.
I had struggled, I had given up any money I had over and over to feed her
family, I had bought sewing machines to try and give her kids opportunity, I
had done anything you can imagine to meet their needs. And I had been
And that is why she said with such confidence that she wouldn’t send
her kids to work in the mountains and farm. It was because she had
better and didn’t feel the need.
While I had been looking for ways to help her, she had the key, and wasn't
even willing to show it.
But most of all I asked her why she didn't tell me, cause I would have bought
her fruit trees for the land, that is how I am.
She was soon gone, bye bye.
Canvas for painting
I saw these two girls with some new canvases and before I could find where
they went to ask them who made them, they were gone. Sometimes I would go to
Chiangrai and buy at the one book store near the clock tower but they quit
stocking them. Apparently didn't sell enough. And when talking to the
artists, didn't appear that any of them had any Japanese dryer. Linseed
oil was hard enough to get. All the oil paints came from England.
There are a lot of boats to watch and it is just one more peaceful Thai
situation so I never minded it. Some times I went down the river on the
boat if I had the spare money. The boats are fast speed boats, colorful
in the Thai manner, and loud. If it is raining at all you should have a motorcycle
helmet with a face shield because at that speed the rain is like bullets in
A friend of mine told me about these large horses they had on the Burmese
side, so I went over and sure there they were. I got permission to take
one for a spin and that was fun and when I got back to the street from the
field the place was covered in Burmese Intelligence officers. Boy did
they get excited, then seeing all it was that I was doing, they went their
Lets see, what does the manual say?
There is also a monk on the Thai side who has some horses. He gets lots
of money from people. Looks like a good business.
I sat with him while he wrote A, B, C, D on little wooden penis's and hung
them around people's necks after they gave him a big envelope of money and
bowed to him.
He was mocking them no doubt, but also maybe it was deserved. Here
people came and gave him money, probably for some great greed or wrong they
had done, and wanted him to make everything cool, while they kept right on,
sort of like buying off your sins. Maybe he figured that such pathetic
people didn't deserve much sept to mock them and take their money.
His horses were ill kept though, many of them were sick. Then they were all
gone, and it was quite a while before he got more. But for his temple
operation the money just kept pouring in. Sin is good business.
On this particular trip to Bangkok and Malaysia for a visa I took the train
to Bangkok and then bought a seat and sleeper for the next day from Bangkok
to Butterworth on the Malaysian end station where one takes a ferry for a few
coins over to Penang Island and spends a couple days getting a visa for
another two months in Thailand, which one could extend for another month. I
took the bus to Chiangmai, caught the train from there. The ride on the train
to Bangkok was exceeding slow due to the hot
weather, and the diesel needing to stop every ten minutes to cool down.
So slow I sat on the steps of the passenger car, a few feet from the ground
enjoying the breeze. Besides I had a full fledged flaming transvestite
in the seat beside me. Boring rather than particularly offensive.
Going somewhere with his otherwise perfectly normal looking parents and
sister. The trip south from Bangkok was slow but offered a sleeper. It
always began with a long gentle curve out of Bangkok with a wonderful view of the backs
of poor housing where the better people of Thailand lived along the klongs which are said to
be rapidly disappearing along with the ouster of those poor good
people. Somewhere near the border, especially when coming back into the
country the border police search for contraband, and foot passengers hop on
the train with goods and race away half a kilometer later with their bags of
However this night in Bangkok I got a hotel near the station, walked
into the neighborhood of Chinese and coffin makers, and had some soup.
I sat on a corner, watching the traffic and a man next to me on the sidewalk
table shoveling rice into his groper face in a wolfing fashion that would
have put a starving dog to shame. I always pity the woman who has to
put up with this sort of buffoon, based on the assumption she must be a good
woman, yet in reality she might be a devil on his back, an impossible oaf
never satisfied, manipulating, every ounce the unsightly hagg, a far cry from
his first satisfying grunting above her.
I asked for a massage house and I needed one. I was directed to the
local brothel, a block or two away where a slew of motorcycles testified to
its popularity and use. A row of lamposts marked the street, round
globes lighting the way. Inside a milky blue fish eyed man met me, suggesting
a girl, while I picked another, and paid for only massage. First
though, I had a piss in a common bath where girls shot it into the wall
urinals as well as the men it seemed. The stairway was ample proof that
this was a constant race track of hell. The girl took me past a maze of
rooms, some doors open, operations in full swing. At the top of the
stairs, a door was open and a monk in saffron was busy rolling over.
The doors had their bottom six inches cut off and a hole to view
through. For security I suppose, at any rate one doesn’t fear he
is being watched so much. The tile floor, black vinyl massage table,
bath and walls. I climbed in the tub of water she drew and got a good
bath. I got my massage and headed back to the old battered room with all its
red vinyl furniture.
Catching up on
what happened while I was gone
So here I am talking to all my Akha friends, catching up on old times,
finding out who went where, who got married, and who isn’t around much
any more. The weather is hot and the memories come back slowly.
There is Booma, Meesu (my favorite from the bridge), Alley (Attur’s sister’s
daughter), Bootee, Boosaw.
Meesu has grown much bigger than what she was as a small kid on the bridge
but still small for her age. There aren't so many boys around, no idea
where they go, probably to the fields.
I hear Appa got married and is pregnant.
It is nice to see them move on in the human line, giving births to hopes when
you know that the despairs are sure to come. Yet here I think that the
despair is different. That some how they cope better with it than in our
culture which is a cash economy and in which it is a crime to be poor. The
tragic part of it is that there is just so much more despair. Hard
grinding despair. The amount these people survive on is a few dollars a day
at most. Maybe one or two. Two is pretty common, for the whole family.
But there are not so many ruthless aspects built in here. By western
standards the average Akha man has nothing, is nothing, yet he is better able
to feed his family and himself than his western counterpart in the same
circumstances. Yet I don’t think that he would have too much difficulty
surviving there in the west as well. The gift that they have is that they are
able to get by on nothing and make something of industry out of nothing,
while us westerners have advanced to such a complex level that we have a hard
time returning to the simple, just to survive.
Just adding on some here. Its been a long time but I am finally feeling like
I am getting some structure to what it is that I am trying to do here and I
am finally getting some assistants with the Akha books.
Meeh Kong is still there, but her older sister became a prostitute. She
came to me for medicine for blisters all over her face but later died of aids
as did her brother.
Work is going well here on the translation, with a new alphabet from
before. Also I am trying out a new, more logically recognized tonal marker
There is much writing to do. I am hoping that the bead business will
pick up again. Slowly I am getting some catalogues sent out.
The maid was back, not much for her to do but I paid
her by the month anyway.
Sometimes I did just casual things for the street kids, like buy them little
rolls of colored yarn to play with. Course they loved that though it
didn't last very long at all.
Books were good, crayons, and then they would sit
down on the street somewhere and use them all up.
restaurant girl take me to eat
This one daughter of a chinese family that owned a restaurant at the Thai
Tong hotel, invited me to eat numerous times. But then later she got on
speed pills and I didn't see her much after that. Many of the youth in Thailand got on speed pills and ruined their minds
or killed others and themselves. Then this last year I saw her again,
very heavy set, her hair short and unkept, wearing baggy unsightly clothes.
Her sisters told me she was on meth, and didn't speak very well of her, I
wonder what went on in that family.
Grew it, roasted it and canned it, sure the Akha didn't get most of that.
What about carpets?
I was told there was a fancy carpet factory for export, making big bucks on
fancy carpets for hotels. Part of the Craft Project.
Just how much income was going into Akha households?
There was a DEA office in Chiangmai.
With all the goings on here, one wondered what they did or supervised.
Brian Barney in Chiangrai often played basketball with them in Chiangmai on
sundays he said. They would call him to alert him of raids on this or
that Akha village and warn him. One hand was supplying American
missionaries, one hand was killing their men, and one hand was taking their
children. It was a great American tradition, being two faced and claiming not
to know what was going on. What one had to rely on was that one American
would report on what another son of a bitch was doing.
Doi mae salong
Doi Mae Salong was a ridge community of KMT, tea, fruits, flowers and
hilltribe with a great view. They said once a year they let the old men
parade their tanks which they had driven all the way down to there at the end
of being driven out of Burma, but I had never seen any evidence of
that. I knew where the place was where they said they were but didn't
go in to check it out. Had lots of other things to do.
Dark side of
In the very poor days I first lived in room 28, happy, exploring, learning
about all this place and trying desperately to survive. I depended on
funds from the US and they were seldom coming and I was
trying to help these people, build a work up or build a business up or
both. To go back was the same as to quit and I never knew when I would
get this way again.
Getting defense department maps of this area are really hard. I find
this really interesting, like what could there possibly be to hide? I
had two, they were quite big scale, but they covered the Thai Burma
border. With a GPS they could be used to plot the border areas.
Doors, I like
Especially in burma, the doors seem to get theselves noticed.
There were doors that were long closed, painted over or even bricked
shut. Other wooden doors that were seldom used. Locked. There were
doors that were used so much they seldom closed. Always open, maybe
hardly hanging on the hinge. Paneled and worn with dirt and hands. Some
doors were two pieces but very narrow. In a wooden wall or a house wall
of brick and stone, plastered and thick, like walking into a castle.
People stood in doors, like half in and half out of two worlds at the same
time. Looking, not decided, just holding the door open or the wall up,
and doorways lent themselves to this on lazy days.
I remembered the tiny house we lived in there in Riverside, down there in California. The screen door always banging shut, or
the spring creaking while it was opened. Mostly the screen doors were
wood built well or flimsy metal. Nice for the heat, but often as a
child you looked out doors at a world big and busy and going by and mother
said it was too late to go out again for the evening and one wondered when
they would be big and free. Going back to that place many years later I
wondered how we all made it in that tiny crowded neighborhood. Doors,
they could take you anywhere.
Drip irrigation shows up a little in Thailand, not much yet. Would be suitable for many
crops like trees, etc.
Drunk tuk tuk
driver The drunk Tuk Tuk driver
whipped me down the road and to the place where I wanted to go, very drunk
though. He skidded into the parking spot and I paid him and he left.
Some Tuk Tuk drivers had a lot of flair, they could help you find just
about anything. Some were dead beats, and some were more than just helpful.
Tuk Tuks, you had to duck your head, sort of lean back, in order to fit back
there. Propane driven, loud, sputting, smelly, and hard to see out of.
This was one shop that sold duck soup, a specialty in Thailand.
The ducks hung up by their necks, all cooked and ready to be sliced into
little pieces of dark meat with some rice.
Like I said, I used the specialty shops to change my menu, rather than order
something different and confuse them. Across from the police station in
Maesai they set up a duck soup shop on the street at night. One got used to
the different flavors of the different shops, and settled with one that was
most enjoyable. This one had jelled blood, dark broth. In a lot of Thai
dishes there was too much meat for my tastes.
There was a noodle shop down the street a ways, on the east side, past the
corner, a Thai guy set it up, he was real nice, I always had my chicken soup
there, and he had good spices on the tables. Sour chili peppers were my
You can go down the Mekong on a speed boat as I mentioned, the mehkong is big
an powerful with lots of big rocks to go around and wide across and Laos is
there, the buildings a few here and there, the kids bathing and swimming and
then the long wood boats barging up and down the coast. The water is
muddy and powerful and you can see the marks it leaves behind its wide width,
a mystique all of its own. There are giant catfish they catch during
the hot season when the river is low and the fish are running, hundreds of
kilos, very large in visual size even. Even the sight of so vast water can
relieve and ease the mind, bring back memories, looking at moving water,
remembering other places of moving water like how the jade green hues of
water would surge in whirling clouds under the piers in Seattle when the
ferry boats came in and reversed their motors.
They were a lot of fun. Thai owners loved to stand idly by while their
dog with its back up went for your legs repeatedly. I tried different
tactics like persuing the dog, and dressing down the owner. Once I made a
whip out of rope that I could crack in the dark and they understood that. One
wasn't too bad, but three or four could gang up and work you on a dark
street. Getting bit was no fun. Dogs tended to tell you about the local
economics, and if the economy was bad, the meaner the dogs were.
Often I ended up walking from the highway at Ban Prasang to San Chai.
However, as I became better known in those parts, the closer I came to San
Sook the more the odds increased that I would be picked up, most usually by
the motorcyle rider going back to the village. But often it was the
case that they would know that I was going to walk the whole way so they
would even turn around and pick me up and take me way back up the hill on
occasions. This always restored my hope, especially when I thought of
all the times I had needed to go back to the pharmacy for one of the sick
Akha when I would just as soon not have bothered. I was glad that I
could be on the receiving end on occasion.
When I had money I was generous, but when I was out of money I often felt
lonely and poor. Black fog plagued the mind, thinking oneself up out of
the well without a ladder, the feet aching and blistered, maybe the wind
blowing the rain to every thread of cloth on my body and making me feel badly
about the leather in my boots which always got too wet or too dry or too
dirty to last as long as I would need them.
I always strove to pull more from my own internal
resources, finding better solutions to the problems of the project.
Knowing what step to take first was always hard for me. Especially when
I felt that no matter what I did there wouldn’t be enough money.
There was so much that I wanted to do here in the way of learning the
languages. But for me for some reason learning them was difficult,
maybe I had just too much on my plate, but that couldn’t be helped.
Now it was almost August and soon people would be coming back to do more work
in this region and to see me and I couldn’t afford to leave now unless
I was sure that I would be able to raise more funds and get back.
Death of the
Jon said that one fellow would get calls from the soldiers asking him if he
wanted to go up behind Maesai where they shot Burmese guys and dumped them
over the boarder. The soldiers and other guys took turns shooting them.
They had been caught for this or that. Killing was cheap, dying was cheaper,
being discarded where not even the birds cared.
The Akha would tell of finding bodies in the fields, and just staying away
from that section for a while. You might even find mounds where such a body
had been covered over beside the trail.
They shot up the Royal Hotel during the democracy riots. 1991
I was headed there to get a room, but didn't have enough time before my
flight, so I wentto the airport instead and then saw it on TV. I was
headed back to the US.
When I came back to Maesai I saw a soldier at the border watching the
river. But when I said hello to him he quickly said, "No, I not
same army" without really hearing what I said. People were that
embarassed about all the students killed.
Run over in the road, like a rag. I first thought that was what it was
when I went driving by. But it was someone dead laying there in the dark very
small. A car stopped and they put him in it, but he flopped over out of
site. I followed them to the hospital and they checked him
roughly. Dead from a broken neck. His family came and cried
loudly and so the nurses put amonia under their noses to make them stop.
Drowned boy of
A small boy played on the steps near the bridge. I didn't see it
happen, but he got too close to the lapping water and maybe thinking it was
safe or shallow being very young, he tested it and fell clear out of sight
and was quickly swept away. I don't know if they ever found his
body. Many men came with long poles, diving in the river, probing, the
young mother there in tears, but they did not find him then. The Maesai
river has taken the lives of so many people, it looks so deceptive as
to what it is and how strong it is because it is not so far across near the
bridge there, but it is actually quite deep and powerful as it gets narrow
enough to go through there.
Dang had a bakery near the corner of the Sailom Joi just before you got to
the Northern guesthouse on the right hand side. Sometimes there were a lot of
motorbikes parked out front of her place, jumping snakes. Not sure what
became of her. Hadn't seen her in years. She ran the bakery very
well but then married someone rich they said and closed it all up.
A Thai man crossed the river during one of the disputes and a burmese soldier
shot him. The Thais immediately took a Burmese dishwasher from the Thai
Tong and shot him in the head and threw him on the river bank. He had
nothing to do with it, was only poor and Burmese, that was all. My
friend at the Wang Tong reception was his good friend. He had a wife
and family on the Burma side. The Thais had no problem to be
cruel. Sarayud had killed many that way.
There are embasies in Chiang Mai like the one for China. Also an American consulate near the
river. I had gone there a number of times, a small office and only open
for US citizens twice a week for a couple of hours. Course they had to
mount a major security effort to let you in.
This is called embassy row, there is a moat in this area. The embassies are
big, take a lot of time at security, like fortresses, and the main buildings
are back quite a way from the road. But you can see they have been there many
years. The road is called Wireless Road. The ground is low and has a high
water table from the very old days of Siam. Wars and new wars have all bid
their time coming and going past these embassies.
The embassy has a newsletter for Americans. It seemed very
official and I never availed myself of it. People who work in embassies
tend to be very stark Americans, like the world is near as pleasant outside
as inside. I did meet one fellow, he was most helpful, I forget now
even what the problem was. Overall embassies don't like to be bothered
regarding the trouble their citizens get into.
The lab assistant from the hospital ran it. A small room at the street
in the front of a house, where some old people lived, they made the deal for
some extra income. Sometimes the hospital would even send me there
instead of at the hospital to make sure she got enough business. That
was a hassle, so I only availed myself of the place a few times, once to test
for malaria for one of my workers. Later she closed or relocated though
she still worked at the hospital.
Every bit of
Not very much wood is wasted. Scavengers come for every last piece,
seldom do you see wood debri fires. Can't remember seeing one, though these
were common on American construction sites. The wood is heavy like
teak, hard and a wonder that anyone can drive a nail in it at all.
Getting nails back out is even harder and they often break off in the
wood. The wood is so hard that it helps to drill a hole in it first
before driving the nail.
Eels River eels, the Thai eat them, sometimes you
see them in the river during or after a storm, swimming along the river
bank. Once I saw a bunch near the bridge all at one time.
There must be 700 diffferent ways here to shove rice into your mouth.
Many pause, like they can’t believe they are eating ant larva
again. Others shovel it in biting into the bowl, like a dog. I
get sick of the stuff myself. Akha rice is fine, but Thai rice has every
last bit of nutrition and vitamin milled out of it.
Some eat it in a way that makes the space between their nose and upper lip
tripple in height, for the event, like some charicature of Breshnev’s
With the diet here it seems no wonder they are small people. I
never feel full, like my brain is always going hungry. A snickers bar
off the newstand every now and then is good.
Today I got a berth on a sleeper for Malaysia. This is like an extended vacation
then back to maesai. Usually the trip takes 8 days.
I was staying in Wisid guest house in Chiangrai, really it was closed, but
they rented me a room. I was waiting for my money to make it to the bank so I
could go home. On the second night there was another earthquake like a
couple of nights before in the Akha village San Chai.
That time about the hut swayed and Asor woke up with an exclamation
as the whole village woke and voices could be heard through out. The
beauty of a village.
And on this night the two story guest house swayed and creaked in a prolonged
quake. I got up and went out since I didn’t trust the building
and the boards creaked over head and the fan rattled. Didn’t need
At the same time I felt like a little foolish, like I was over reacting, but
when I got out on the street, half the neighborhood was there.
I waited five minutes or so to see if it would reoccur but it didn’t so
I went back to bed where I could still feel the tremblers.
I had been in a deep dream when the quake woke me. I had just been
ready to go back for seconds.
thai young people about the hill tribe
This would help the hilltribe. The Thai young people didn't know. Youth was
like that. They only knew what the teachers taught them that was wrong
about the hilltribe but seldom asked questions themselves or tried to
identify with the people and what was going on.
They also found themselves pitted against the same problems of the glass
ceiling in Thai society that the Hilltribe had, it was only that they were a
rung above the hilltribe to start with, that was all. Complacency would
do them no favors at all.
Shown how their problems were similar the barriers could be overcome to work
together, though they might never be close, there would be common ground.
There are jade factories in maesai, carving factories, sculpture. Some
people electroplated gold onto copper too. There used to be lots of
weaving. There are also gem cutting factories in the good times.
I knew of one where a lot of Chin workers were employed. Zera took me
there once. Up the temple road at the south end of town, across from Boom
Street Mini Market.
Thais always called this out like Falangs were not human. No matter
where you went, someone called this out, not always rudely in tone, but
often so. Kids were sometimes the worst, yelling it loudly, such as in
a store and pointing at you, their parents amused, not at all taken back at
the rudeness of it. Sometimes I responded by saying "Thai"
"Thai" like that, in the same kind of voice and pointing back at
the children in the conspicuous presence of their parents.
In the you could often see the fat Thai children screaming
and shouting and having fits about what it was that they wanted. Mostly
the merchandise offered was of a light puffy air nature, which the Thais
bought much of.
But once again, I could not stress enough that I lived in Thailand because I liked the weather, the chill,
the mountains of the north, both the Thai and the Hilltribe, and the
culture. There were annoyances, but the benefits of being guests in
these people's countries far outweighted the disadvantages.
South of Tatong, a small town. A few Akha villages from there.
The food is interesting and you can find hilltribe in the market in the
morning, buying this and that. The noodle soup in town is scant and
very plain, the price the same as very busy noodle soup in maesai. In
this case Maesai is a better deal. But Fang was also a genuine Thai
town, nothing big going on, the highway even offering a way around town which
I never took, always prefering to slow down and bump through town and look at
it all and always the hardware or merchantile shop caught my eye. They
had many interesting things in the local farm shops, tools and items unique
to the area, that you might not see somewhere else. And always things
for rice, the principle food, and for fishing and catching small bugs, crabs
and the tiniest of fish. Some fish never got very big, you ate them
that way, you had to clean all the mud out of the silver little creatures not
much more than an inch long. I didn't like them because they always
lived in such smelly water, but the Thais and Akhas both depended on them for
a food supply.
With all the use of chemicals in the fields I couldn't help but wonder if
they were getting scarcer? Surely Monsanto or Zeneca would not mind
some of its chemicals in the eyes of a few small fish who didn't vote or
write law? Did God hear the cries of the small fish for their children?
Behind the afternoon market in Maesai there were all these huge snails that
could be seen in an lychee fruit tree orchard. I don't think anyone ate
them, but they were super huge, nearly as big as tennis balls. I only saw
them when there was a month of rain or more and the ground flooded.
The snails were yellow and blue, big round smooth shells. For some
reason the Thai didn't collect them, knew not to maybe. I never asked
but they were in the bushel basket fulls, covering the ground. The
orchard sat close to the flood plain so full on into the rainy season it
didn't drain well and filled up with grass and this clear water, not runoff,
just rain, and it didn't stink which was fortunate.
The lychee trees were also full of those big orange ants that could bite you
pretty good. They were everywhere, sort of a spindly ant, lived maybe
on aphids that they transported around or was it sap? They also had a
habit of falling out of the tree on you if you walked under it.
The field was soon being filled in with dirt, the trees cut down little by
little to make room for houses and buildings, the Thais not being very big on
sponsoring green inside their neighborhoods. Potted plants and plants
on the roof were as close as it came to this. All of which took a lot
of hand watering of course. If you couldn't get someone to do this for
you while you were gone all your plants would die.
for domestic fueders
This Thai couple came to the room behind mine, number 28 in the Maesai Plaza
Guest House and fought half the night. The man was drunk, maybe herself as
well, and it went on for very long.
So come about seven when I had to get up I set off a big firecracker at their
In the neighborhoods the drunk Thais fought a lot, family disputes, the
children getting caught in the crossfire, tiny units of concrete, crowded
together, hot, no air, ants, and little green for the soul. One needed
this to live. Planners of development for the poor areas had little
clue. Slums were one thing, because they were close to the dirt and
water a lot grew and lived naturally around them but building sites,
where all was built over offered nothing to the people who lived there.
Woe unto them who build house upon house and leave no place for man to be
flares, sparklers and bottle rockets They have these clay pots
full of phosperous. They flame up huge into the night sky in a geisure
of sparks when you light them. A Local Thailand and Burma fire works display. Often people
set them off at special times of year at the temples. I could see them
flair up way over on the burma side, still loud and bright from so far
Then there were the roman candles, and bottle rockets which were most
common. Certain times of year people near the main highway blew up big
fire crackers very close to the shoulder, and the explosions were so intense
as to nearly frighten you to crash your motorbike. In the night they
were punctuated with a large bright flash.
The bottle rockets amused, fired here and there, across houses, over to the Burma side and high into the air, popping with
a flash and a delayed sound in the dark of the night.
Concrete work in Thailand was scary. If a concrete form for a
support pillar didn't fill, you just plaster over it. Doesn't matter it is
the bottom end of a pillar that the concrete didn't get to.
There was one building that was on such thin pillars on the highway to
Chiangrai that no one ever did rent or occupy the building, which was two
story. More often than not concrete was mixed on the ground in a
makeshift pile, a different worker doing it each time, with a different
concrete formula for as many different guys. Usually too much water was
added, and much cement seperated out of the mix. Sometimes a mixer was
used but not so often. In the rare jobs a cement and pump truck might
actually show up or you might find someone with a vibrating wand shoved down
in forms to make sure they filled. Rare events in deed, and it was little
wonder that buildings fell down in these countries when there was
earthquakes, and sometimes it didn't even take that much..
The women used them in the klongs. They were a net that was stretched on
sticks in a square, with a hoop to each corner. It lay flat in the
klong, then when they lifted up on it the sides pulled up. I think it
was mostly used for catching crabs or other small things different than fish.
coming into keng tung
This guy rented a jeep and drove it to keng tung from Maesai. When he
was coming down the curves off the last ridge he flipped it. Lucky no one was
killed. The road there is where you come down from the last way station below
Lwe Mwe mountain. There is even a backroad to Lwe Mwe that comes out
there. This became some of the worst road to Keng Tung when they tore
it up, never was good however, very steep and curving. The driver
obviously didn't have too much experience.
Apple Pie A favorite, loved to eat
this. Baking it was lots of work. Chiefly the making of the crust
took lots of effort, it was delicate and broke up easily. The rest was
easy and if you had workers all that much the better. I never had
trouble getting rid of apple pie. I would have sold it to the Top North
hotel but the woman wanted it for nothing and it was way too much work to
sell it cheap. Sometimes Yai at the Chinese Pharmacy bought a
pie. The Wang Tong didn't have any and didn't want to buy any either.
My pie was very good and I didn't like to give it away. It would keep
for days so if I didn't have guests I just polished it off myself. The
tins were deep and big and I used about a full kilo of apples, or six big
apples, in one pie.
Tourists often had the complaint that they had to pay more for everything
than the Thai people did. They were mostly right about this.
At the market, there was a flour shop. I always bought my baking
supplies there, cooking oil, flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and Kim Chee.
But the kimchee had so much strong chemical in it that it tore your stomach
up. Delicious never the less.
On the main street there was a frame shop that made metal and wood frames,
mirrors, windows, cart boxes of glass that people sold food out of. I
went to the shop on a number of occasions but the owner would just ignore
me. This could often be the case in other shops too. You might be
talking to the owner or paying for something, or waiting for an order to be
filled and the owner would constantly leave your order and go fill someone
elses order or take their money until you just plain yelled at the people,
told them to wait and then got the owner to finish your order.
Otherwise as the foreigner you would be ignored and walked on endlessly.
French shop had
a large hornet's nest
She had a very large hornets nest in the place, hanging as an ornament, three
She prided herself on the junk she sold. She always had her slave
girls. After many years she bought herself a white mercedes while they continued
to slave on for nothing. After many years her brother came once to stay
at the Plaza, not "rich" like her. She had a tiny house made like a
chalet on Sailom Joi. She had pictures of herself in France or some other such place, fifteen minutes
of fame. The slave girls endlessly did all the work and tended her shop
while she made sure she got the prices she wanted for the junk she sold.
with wooden sides
The freight trucks have very nice painted and varnished one slab wooden sides.
Some of the trucks are quite old and have ornamental metal work as well as
colorful painting of designs on the wood. The oldest trucks in Thailand had no doors but were solid open cabs
making it cool and easy to get in and out of the truck.
The newer trucks
were stacked very high and overloaded. Many of them raced through town
or down the highway at quite dangerous speeds. Many innocent people
were hit by these trucks, the drives often speeding on and not stopping.
She had been frying chicken for nearly 18 years she said. Always it was fresh
in the morning with sticky rice and chilli sauce made of egg plant and
onions, very tasty. Her carts were right next to the road near the
bridge, front of where they were building the new customs house now days. She
sold fried fish and pork, and of course I thought the chicken had some of the
best flavor I had ever tasted. I had been buying chicken from her for
ten years of that 18.
Friends die of
The Shan driver to Keng Tung said that all his high school friends got aids
and died. He was the driver for us to Keng Tung. Kevin Wood
thought he drove too fast for the dirt roads, but one would do anything to
make those roads come to an end early in the afternoon. His truck, a
four wheel drive van that didn't have four wheel drive, was battered and full
of dust from the road. It was a completely fatiguing filthy
experience. The van was nearly vibrated apart, nothing sealed so all
the dust came right in. At best the road was a twelve hour ride during
the dry season, clouds of dust covering you from the vehicles speeding ahead
of you. Many of the vehicles on the road were toyota station wagons, like everything else,
beat to death.
Many fruit stands on the main street at night in maesai selling every kind of
tropical fruit. There were so many in fact that between these and the
other carts there were hardly any places to park a vehicle if you owned
one. Street vendors blocked all the sidewalk, carts and stands blocked
all the road, not much of an order to anything, so more often than not I just
parked in front of them with my truck on the road and tended to business.
Women also pushed carts selling different kinds of fruit during the day, from
mangos to watermelons, a scale tied to one end of the cart.
Then other women pushed glass carts full of cut up fruit, or if it wasn't
they would cut it up fresh when you picked it out. They were quite
expert at cutting the fruit, putting it in a bag. Was enjoyable to watch
Fuji photo shop, akha women from doi mae salong I needed some pictures of
the Akha so I got these three women to pose for a picture, paid them
well. After many years I found out where they lived and finally got the
picture back to them.
Years later I took my camera to this Fuji shop to have it cleaned and he sold it
before I could pick it up. A nice Canon A2. Course I never did
any business there of any kind after that, but these people don't think that
cream, was there a herbal variety also?
Fungus cream was expensive, I wondered at a herbal remedy or what people did
in the old days?
A man called me. He lived in a tiny room on the river. It was a
long wood building, tiny rooms for rent. It had been a whore house but
now they rented the rooms out to couples. His wife had a huge fungus
infection from her groin all the way over her hip. All covered in
scab. Fungus medication was very expensive but the site was so horrible
and she was so badly afflicted, that I applied it all over the scabby wound
until it cleared up completely. He took me there every day to clean
it. It had a strange smell to it, but slowly it completely disappeared.
It easily covered a square foot of her body.
Fire ball over
One time when I was walking out of the village down the hill to San Sook
there was this storm coming, it was spring, and lightning was all
around. One could also see these webs of elcectricity running across
the tops of the clouds, shooting out in balls from cloud to cloud, very
different than lightning itself.
Fog on mtn,
akha woman wants to buy rice
Lwe Mwe in Keng Tung Burma was very cold the time I visited it with the
people from Singapore. We took the bumpy ride up the
mountain and got there in the early afternoon but it could have been
evening. A few shops, that were made of wood was all that we could
find, and in one I looked to purchase a blanket for the guests cause the car
was so cold. In the shop that I went to buy it in, a tiny Akha woman in
very worn clothes was asking the owner how much the rice cost. She
wanted to buy only a couple hand fulls. I wondered how poor she must be
if she had to ask the cost of a couple of hand fulls, dreadfully poor.
There was a lake up there on the mountain top and a leper colony not too far
away and a convent as usual, everywhere the catholic church had imprisoned
souls. Scattered around the lake were the old twin houses that the
British had built when they were there. But there had also been very old
trees. Burmese army soldiers with nothing to do cut them all down and made
them into charcooal. This was the mentality of the Burmese Army for the
The old man
with the funny white cart
There was this old man with a white food cart on the street at night, parked
it down a side alley from Akha alley, where Cary once chased a girl up her skirt.
He sold drinks, icys I think, spun the block right there to make the carved
ice for the drink. The pharmacy guy remembers him for many years, way back,
and his cart had wires, lights, everything sort of strung on it.
Fat beggar at
night market with stick
He was fat. His face was wide and thick, he waddled more than
walked. His feet were dark from the ankle up about a foot. Some
kind of ailment. He would walk up to you and stick his fat hand in your
face and ask for twenty baht. Yes, he was fat, a fat beggar, with a
stick that he used for a cane and also to try and chase the young beggar
children away if he found a popular spot to beg. I drove him off a time
or two, gave him a good crack for sticking his filthy hand in my face a time
When the river came up Sailom Joi would completely flood. Sometimes a
foot or more water on it in front of the guest house.
Booh Burh tilled it, so did I.
After she dug out the bamboo stump she and I tilled it all up.
We were going to plant it. Romolo came in those days. The place was
noisy and I couldn't sleep so I moved out and left it all behind. The
big house, the guy had a restaurant and every night they came back at around
one or two in the morning, unloading carts, banging, talking, starting the
dogs to barking. Not nice at all.
People would get some money, from maybe a daughter in bangkok and then build
an absolutely horrible looking house like a large tile bathroom turned inside
Started me in beads. I met him in the line at the Chiangmai airport and
asked him where he was going. He told me Maesai, and I had never heard
of such a place and had not traveled in Thailand much, so I joined him and came up and he
showed me how to buy beads and it worked for me to a great extent.
Zera asked me to buy a generator for their village. They had a diesel
motor for it. I did buy it and they used it for many years till they
got normal electricity from the government who bought it from Thailand side.
Blew a hole in the wall.
Nearly killed Tin Tin who just stepped out of the shower.
She heard something and ducked, and a piece of shrapnel went right through
the mirror where she had been standing and buried itself in the cement wall
one beer makes him happy
The glasses son, he was happy after one beer, could laugh at the TV.
He baby-sat the counter at the guest house. Didn't appear to have a happy
life working for his father and the family. His father looked for wives
for his sons, but could find none. People didn't like his house.
His grandfather died and they built a big wooden coffin that they carved out
of a log for his bones more than a year after he died and buried them at some
chinese cemetary. I wasn't sure, but his father might have been dead
many years. I was told the log was buried for a good long time too
before they dug it up and carved it. The Akha often buried wood to
season it for carving so that the moisture would be cured and there would not
be splitting and cracking. The wood for Akha spindles was treated in
Go to Laos
Something I wanted to do to see Akha there. It was part of the dream
here that I had which I put off for many years because I did not have the
money. There were said to be some 30,000 Akha living in Laos.
The green bus
Starting up and pulling down the main street and out of town so slowly
yeah, this is how they get the last passengers. You won't miss the bus this
way, there is a ten to twenty minute slowly rolling interval where you can
still catch it from your motorcycle taxi. Seems to work. You know when you
go to the station that you can catch one bus, just the way they do it.
Girl from Adaw’s
Family, prostitute, maesai
I had nursed her when she was sick once, she still knew some of the old ways
which you could find in a catholic village still, Sah Kauh Pah Urh, stuff
like that. She was from the really messed up catholic village in Keng Tung.
Anyway, she came down to maesai and became a prostitute.
Guess that is how it all goes.
The mission location had a very big involvement in the shipping of girls.
I asked the priest about it, he was very evasive, I wondered seriously that
the church might be involved in this.
of black nasty water
Anywhere one went in Thailand they were likely to find canals or gutters full
of trash and black grey dirty water, very stagnent. Breeding disease
and always an eye sore. Maesai and other towns were doing a little more
to clean up in the later years with trash bins everywhere.
Gatow , gatai,
old man upper fvillage, 13 days to remarry
Two shan villages in the Keng Tung valley. I went to an Akha village way up
in the mountain side above this valley and visited my friend a headman.
His daughter was home after splitting from her husband. She had
thirteen days to remarry. That was all she could stay in her father's
house before she had to remarry or move out. It was the Akha way of
saying they didn't encourage divorce, and it was the married women's way of
saying "don't be after my old man."
som pah sak I saw the days they
brought the big grafting crew to the orchard near Som Pah Sak Akha.
They worked on it for days, but then years later I saw that they left the
very large orchard to grow to weed. Looked like a peach orchard, which
of course was too low an elevation around Som Pah Sak to grow peaches.
For that you had to be in the mountains to do, up where it got at least cool
if not cold in the winter months.
One did not see these growing in the north, not sure if possible in the
mountains or not.
The grapes in the market come from california best I can tell, come packed in styrofoam
The people here in Thailand liked cut up pieces of any green fruit
dipped in salt, sugar, spice. Mango was a favorite, or pickled
fruit. Sometimes plums, they were now grown in Doi Maesalong too.
Small and sour most of the time, an ornamental plum. Just to think what
our mothers would have said if they knew that all those green fruits we ate
as kids were quite normal? We just didn't know about the salt and chili
He owned one of the pharmacies in maesai, couldn't understand very well and
couldn't see very well. Had thick green lensed glasses. His wife and
son were pleasant and came out to help. But he was so hard to
understand or talk to that I went to the pharmacy across the street.
mosque in burma gets gold
For many years it was just green. An american disappeared over there,
he was muslim, or wanted to be. I never saw if he left or not. I could
see the mosque from the guest house. Later they did the turrets in
gold. I went there once looking for prayer beads. A woman wanted
like 20,000 sets but when I gave her a price she never replied. The big
man that was often at the mosque actually spoke Hindi.
Gems Near the bridge many gem
stones were sold, mostly they were glass or misrepresentations of the real
thing. They were always overpriced of course as were Cary's gems. Cary had sold many people gems at prices that
they could not possible resell them at, which they didn't discover till they
got back to the US.
The cowboy bar
with potion drinks
This skinny dude, friend of Edward, set up a herbal liquor bar behind the old
theatre in the back of the Maesai market. He spent a lot of money and
effort on it, but did not survive. Many people set up cowboy bars in
Maesai, they never lasted long. The buildings might even be the nicer
part of the operation, but were soon closed. One wondered what these
people were thinking as it had been done and failed so often.
She and her brother or husband ran the brothel where the New York Taxi driver
lost all his money.
He took the kids to school and back on a motorbike, the children enjoying a
future that the girls who made it possible didn't enjoy.
Once I took my girlfriend toward Chiang Saen. They police stopped us, THE
THAI POLICE just in case you wondered. And they took her hostage for
money. She didn't have her ID card with her so they said I had to pay 3,000
baht. I of course didn't have it. But it didn't look like she was
going free without it. I raced back to Maesai to see what I would do and then
I met my friend from Colorado and he loaned me the money and drove his
bike back with me and all this in record time some 10 kilometers. My
girlfriend was crying and said she counted every motorbike that came back
until mine came, the 5th motorbike. I paid the police and we left
together, the three of us, but this is just to say that Thailand will never be taken credibly until it does
something about police corruption. As it stands the police are above
the law and extort from people non-stop in Thailand.
I was new then in Thailand. They are counting on the times
they can get away with it.
kidnapped over beads
This fellow from Burma wanted me to buy beads that I did not
want to buy and when I wouldn't buy them he asked my girlfriend if she could
stop by the house. He then took her to the Burma side where he had her call to me
that I had to buy the beads or she wouldn't be coming home. I peered
across and there she was standing on the far bank of the river, on the Burma side. Finally she tricked the man and got
away, but in the end he got a very bad life, split from his wife and many
other things went bad for him. I of course never bought the beads. Day
traders, all these people, one half day, one deal. They didn't think as far
ahead as the afternoon.
There is a great drink made of the pennywort leaf. The Thais sell it
along the side of the road from their carts, which also have coconut drink
and an orange tea drink, all of which are tasty.
Kevin wood from Australia, he and I took the speed boats down the
mehkong and then had to wait a long time after that to get our visas done on
the Laos side. They really wanted us to stay the night,
get a room, spend money. That sort of thing. But we had to go back, we
insisted on our visas and got them and left again but it was already past
five in the evening when they finally got done, then we took the taxi back to
Huxai on the Lao border at Chiang Kong was also known as the site of a large
heroin factory in the KMT days after they had gotten driven out of Burma. There is reference to the Opium War at Huxai
when Bill Young led a raid to intercept a Shan opium shipment at Huxai. The
Lao airforce came up and bombed the story goes, and the shipment made it no
further, leaving one to wonder where it went, and how it was that
missionaries showed up at such events.
I asked Bill Young about this at one time, on the phone from Chiangmai. He
said that no Americans were involved in drugs in Laos because they didn't need the money,
unlike the French. God, what a bullshitter. He said his second
cousin was Marcus Young in Maesai, the guy who pretends to be a missionary to
After the attack on tachilek, there was one explosion at night, injured a
burmese soldier when he messed up with a grenade. They told us the next day
that his hand had been torn off.
his Isan Wife
A young man from Hawaii often came to Maesai. He married an
Isan girl. She ran away after a few months in Hawaii, didn't even phone for weeks.
Went with a guy to LA. Then divorced him. He was naive, but I felt
sorry for him because he meant no ill. He got married to another woman and I
never saw him again over the years.
Heroin addicts in Maesai
Many heroin addicts bought their supply behind the Maesai Guest house next to
the border. Not a good place. You could see them injecting along
the trail, passed out, or sleeping. Once they broke into John's room in
the guesthouse and stold some items. Many of these people died of aids
from sharing needles. A word to the wise.
You could also see them injecting under the bridge or under the piers
of the restaurant next to the bridge. Sometimes they sat down up on the
bridge, deep in a stupor, their heads hung down on their chest, closed off to
worry and the world yet next to death's door.
Hillside fire at guest house
Really burned, I went and fought some of it, could have set the whole guest
house off. It was in the Bamboo above the place next door.
motorbike on way back from Thatong So I am coming down the
highway from Thatong and am almost at Maechan. There is this car pulled
over on the left shoulder with two people standing next to it talking to the
passengers. I go to the right. On the right shoulder their friend
is on a motorbike and talking as well. Just as I arrive to go by the
man on the motorbike flips on his light, does a u-turn right in front of me
into the road. I braked hard and swerved to the right. He was
nearly killed. I hit him right behing the leg against the rear wheel of
the motorbike, he slammed up against the side of the truck as I went by, and
I went off into the ditch before I got stopped.
He was very apologetic. The drunks in the truck were cops and called a
leutenant who could speak english. One Thai guy wanted me to pay.
I told him no way, it was the motorcyles fault. At which point the
driver, the one hurt asked me to never mind and thy cop said that since the
bike driver had no mirrors, no helmut, and didn't look before he pulled out,
I was free to go.
If he had mirrors or even bothered to look he would have seen me
coming. The Thais always want to blame an accident on any nearby
foreigner or if a foreigner is involved have the pay. "Pay
money" "Pay money" is the only words they know.
"Are you ok, are you hurt" are not words you will hear.
Otherwise, if a foreigner is not involved they resolve most accidents rather
in a friendly fashion, looking at the damage, fixing it, hazards of traveling
the road together, not particularly anyone's fault.
Hornets I had just rented a new
building for the school and money didn't come in. I had to get some
money for food and there was this huge hornets nest hanging off the
eave. I knew that the grubs were very expensive, that I could
sell them, so I made a long pole with a net to catch the nest, but had no
idea how massive and heavy it was.
I tried once to pull it down but the super big hornets got really angry, saw
me some three meters away and attacked me. I ran through the house, the
hornets in my hair, welding my skull over and over. I finally killed
them all. They were huge, three or four of them, more than an inch
long, great black and red. My head throbbed and hurt as much as it can
I took a pole, wrapped a rag around it, doused it in oil and burned the
bastards. The nest fell in the river and floated away when I tried to
catch it, was really heavy, probably fourty pounds or more.
Afternoon Maesai The afternoon is hot and
the sky hazy from un necessary burnt fields and mountains. Army border
police types drivef by in light trucks to check the border to the west with Burma.
Children trudge along the road, motorcycles speeding past in the heat and
A man from Switzerland stops by for a chat about Burma and then goes his way.
Japanese long term guests relaz at tables enjoying sips of fresh sugar cane
juice cooled on ice.
All the road has a orangish hue from sunlight filtered through haze.
Whatever gguests may be appear to be in hiding from the mostly still heat
which will only get hotter towards five oclock before cooling down.
Construction, upgrading , goes on and on at this guest house, one phase after
another. Some 80 rooms now.
This was the afternoon to be it the arms of a lover with a cool breeze across
Ivan Polunin Once I went to Keng Tung
with the Doctor Ivan from Singapore. He liked to study insects,
fireflies, simultaneous lighting that they did, how they knew to do that.
Well, he was a great talker and I don't think I slept much during the trip.
His mind was full on and alive, and he was 74.
He collected pottery shards, had a museum he had just built in singapore and was lots of fun.
Well, he wanted to stay longer and when we got back my house maids had moved
to Joe's who was angry that they did that and he had to feed them, cause my
rice ran out, but I didn't ask him to do that so wasn't my fault.
Anyway, Boney, she hid evreything that looked of any value in my house to
some corner of the room or behind this or that place lest someone should
steal anything. I was really surprised. Then she moved onto another job
and I didn't see her time I came back from Burma.
Dec 97 It was December, I needed
to be headed north into Burma.
I needed to be getting more language work done.
Seemed to me like every month there came a time to fast, probably good for
mind and body. Of course it wasn’t voluntary, but if you wer
going to have the goal of staying here without having to spend years
generating support in the west you had better learn how. And if you did
no one could throw you out because it cost money to do that too. I was
reminded of brother David in Jerusalem who got rid of his passport for that
reason. I didn’t think it would work in Thailand. He spent six months in an Israeli jail
and in the end they said oh well and let him out. He was still there, a
small moving riot on God’s behalf with a really big voice. Give
him a tamberine and watch him dance!
Ice cream on a
stick carts, coconut They had this round tin
full of sticks that were frozen in ice cream.
Was odd and interesting looking. The whole tin was filled with
ice. The long tin cone came out, the woman would dip in water, to get
the ice cream to release and then put the empty tin cone back in the large
Surprise This was the name of a
water company in Maesai. We joked about that often. Like the Bat Man Club
Disco, but when they abreviated it on the sign they said the "BM
Tapin BridgeRiver Crossing At the crossing of the TapinBridge to go to monglar there was a security
point. The road was horrible in these days to get that far. The river
was big, a metal suspension bridge from the second world war crossed
it. A Military Intelligence officer asked me what country I was from,
looked in the truck, had no uniform but a revolver with a ring in the handle
protruding from his pocket.
Inter tubes Inner tubes came out in
the hot season, for floating on ponds or down the MaesaiRiver. At the Rimkok many inner tubes
were in use, rented from the beach.
Jade dying Mahinder, he knew just a
little bit about this. He was seventh day adventist. Occasionally his
wife came down from some where in Burma called Kah Lay. Life was hard for
him in those years trying to feed his family in Burma. He stayed on Sailom Joi next to
the Klong in the little house with the woman who had the tiny noodle stand in
that low room at the end of her house near the intersection. He stayed
at the other end. He would buy fabrics in Singapore for a few years and his wife would sell
them, but this got harder with time and I think he finally went back to Burma. His brother was a doctor in Texas and no longer cared anything for the
Jo-Jo’s A clean table.
Akhas, Shans, Burmese and a few others.
Foreigners and the traveled liked the place along with bussiness men and
women, cops, army from Burma and probably a few from the higher
The owner's daughter ran the place, her elderly mother sometimes sitting
there, and you couldn't imagine a less interesting person.
They required the help to endlessly pull the trays of food out of the cabinet
and reheat them, and carry them back from the propane stoves very hot, with
great risk of an accident. When I think of stupid people, I think of
the woman who runs this place. She had a way of packaging stupidity and
irreverance in an ultimate kind of way.
Father The recycling Akha men
One he was the father of the little jumping bean boy, but the cops caught him
and he went to jail and for some reason died there. He didn't do anyone
any harm, didn't smoke opium or do drugs. Pushed a cart late into the night
collecting like the toothless guy from the Akha village and his wife did
too. That man, always happy, not a thing to be happy about, no teeth.
Wondered how he did it. His wife often ill.
June 1, 1995 Maesai
The border is still closed.
I had the good fortune to get introduced to one of the Akha leaders in Thailand and have been able to get an overview
from him as well as full support for my script and my children’s
book. He speaks fluent English and is not religious so there is no
mixed agenda. Unfortunately in the past all my dealings with educated
Akha were in Burma and they didn’t seem to care as
long as they were meeting their religious agenda. I suspected that I
was getting very little assistance and when I came to visit this man, he knew
all of my people and it became obvious that they had all been just stringing
me along. But I am glad for the four years in the school of hard knocks
because now I know what people’s real intentions were while they had
the opportunity to be deceptive.
I hope now to make some real progress. I have discovered that the
religious organizations were doing nothing but enriching the leadership and
that basically no one is helping in the villages in Thailand at all in any organized way. To
think all of these years I stayed out of their ‘territories’.
But like I say it was good in some ways. Careful what you hear and
Jan 98 Maesai
I was now diving full bore into the Akha language work. There was much
to do on the language. I began going through my old papers and copying
out the good stuff onto new sheets, discarding the old. a slow but
I am making sheets after sheet of words and phrases. Meeh Daw, the cook
from Burma is of great help.
After I will enter all into the computer. I have a few thousand words
and phrases to copy first.
Then I begin translating and glossing words and phrases from books.
My work is now all focused on the language with only a few projects in the
village as money allows.
Jack fruit These were big and dark
and green, covered with small spiny like skin. The fruit was sweet but
the sap was sticky so you cleaned out the pods around the seeds with a
plastic bag over your hand and washed them each off. Otherwise your
hand got like rubber.
Jing hong This is a city up in YunnanProvince where there are many tribal people
living, Hani, Akha and so many others. Jim Goodman wrote some excellent
books about the area with great photography.
bites girl Yeah, a nasty monkey that
was, bit people, finally gave it away out of maesai.
Didn't matter who was holding the monkey and his chain. When someone
else came close the monkey would get very defensive and try to bite, a very
dirty nasty animal.
Juice pears The juice pears come from
China, expensive and not much flavor to them.
Kicking head at
Across the street they had an argument in the bar, and it came out on the
street. First a little shoving then the guy went down on the ground and
two guys kicked him at the same time in the head from opposite sides till he
didn't move any more. A tuk tuk came and hauled him away. Bar owners,
in general in the world, are an evil sort. They never take
responsibility for the damage done by the alcohol they so generously push and
the people who are injured. Sure the men are a few. Sure the
women are a few. Alcohol is a mean drink. Where ever I have been
in the world, the greed of bartenders was most noteable.
And to think I went to bartending school one time. Well, it hardly
suited me and I never stuck to it, but it did give me some education about
what goes on behind the bar, the varieties and how they are put
together. Different drinks are suitable only to some processes and a
good bar tender is really a chemist.
But I wasn't referring to these kind of bartenders, I was referring to places
that sell mostly straight hard liquor and endless beer.
White color places are a whole different breed and if they come with cigars,
so much the better, like a California Cigar Bar.
Jonathan's in Salem, was one of the few nice bars I had been in. A real
family kind of place, people of all ideas and friendships, small, everyone
pressed close together with lots of fun and talk, standing or sitting down,
waiting for people, looking for familiar faces and old friends. Green, dark
green, deep mahogany red wood, glass inlaid on the tops, brass and a tile
Khun Sah attack
The attack came early in
the morning, at first I thought it was a Chinese funeral, but it was way too
early so that did not make sense. So that people can understand that
this was only a political point in the making, let me outline that Khun Sa stated
that this attack would occur, and international media were on top of the Wang
Tong hotel filming it from the start. The goal was not to take
Tachilek, but just to strike at it, in child's play, people dying along the
way. And that is what happened. Many died along the way.
A gernade hit the guest house nearly killing one of the staff.
The Shan came crossing back over river, red scarf, single file, no shirt on
‘Divah Divah’ a Burmese soldier yelled as he came running in
persuit, shooting at the fleeing men, dropping to one knee to fire.
pop pop pop gunfire
Some of the fleeing men were cut off by this lone soldier and hid in
the shan neighborhood rather than dare crossing the river which would
actually have been the better idea to do.
Instead they got trapped and later surrendered to die.
The Burmese burned the Shan neighborhood to get them out, there across from
the Riverside Guest House.
There were Burmese troops up in the bamboo above the neighborhood one could
They fired m-70 grenades at the Thai side, then into the neigborhood till it
A couple mortars fell in the river, fired by Shans, but once again, child's
Burned trucks, thirty or more houses, pall of smoke over river, that was all
we could see.
People leave to thai side under smoke, cross river with possesions.
dtoom dtoom dtoom as the Burmese fire into buildings, trying to get the men
Some Burmese buildings were burned in the attack, as we cou ld see a fire
ball over the trees.
They said that there were some dead burmese army officers
Later the Burmese army built pill boxes and fences along the border.
When the heavy fire began the Thai side retreated, both army, police, etc.
TV camera crews under riverside guest house continued to film the matter even
with grenades coming across. For them it was action for people not
Tong and the Cowboy Bar My friend was a
receptionist at the Wong Tong and he and I and a man from Singapore went to the cowboy bar down by the Koh
Sai district. But a young man who was a waiter at the Wong Tong
Restaurant added drinks to our bill. I made the waiter take them off
and then we left. The waiter from the Wong Tong was not happy and got
angry at the bar owner. The bar people beat him for causing a scene and
trying to steal money.
He came back, drunk, his face cut at the forhead and bleading and a Thai
customer, older man, took him in arm and cooled him down, put a rag to his
forhead, which was a kind act.
truck with music, bottle caps The energizer drinks as
they are called have marked caps and give away prizes like soap and cola
drinks. A truck drives through towns collecting the caps for the
company and giving out the prices show on the inside of the caps. The special
caps are quite frequent usually, but I have never taken advantage of
them. Instead I give the special marked caps to the kids and let them
collect them. The trucks that stop for these caps are always beat up,
covered with stickers, loudspeaker blaring. The drivers don't look like
they make much, maybe somewhere below a paper route driver in the states.
the clong with a net The kids would come up
the klong next to the guest house and gather all the tiny little fish and
bugs they could. I always wondered how they didn't step on glass since broken
glass was everywhere in Thailand, especially in the water.
man today pretty wife He was still around, his
face pinched like a jackal. His brother looked worse, I never saw his
father. The jackal family. They lived across the street. I
thought maybe the older one died of Aids like half guys on this street.
Hadn't seen him in a couple years. It was the closest I felt I ever
came to seeing the devil. I was coming out of the guesthouse, and there
was someone lying on one of the benches at one of the tables. I looked
down to my left as I went by and I saw the horrible face of the brother, all
pinched up, the nose looking as it had some hook to it, the skin dark, the
eyes beady looking. But the younger brother got married to a very nice
looking shan girl and they soon had kids. I never saw the brothers
often so don't know where they went or worked.
Lahu village I went to this Lahu
village along the river Mekong
This foreigner invited me. You meet lots of people who come to town. Their
names you never hear, never ask or can't remember. We went to the home of
some family he knew. But he seemed strange, like he wanted to bring me
there but then didn't like it that I made friends with the family. They had a
small boy and girl. The girl looked to be a slight bit "off".
The kids were about 6 and 7. I felt I was intruding, not so much as in the
family, but in this foreigners space, so I walked out of the back of the
village, down the mountain and kept walking. I spotted a large truck
offloading fertilizer for smuggling across the Mekong into Laos. So I waited and they gave me a
ride to Chiang Saen where I caught a bus back to Maesai.
Missing Money I met Lee Wiggins in
Chiangmai, I think while he was busy talking to Marvin Hatfield. He had
a place in New Mexico near Santa Fe. Deacon knew him and had visited
him down that way.
He told me how the drug police in those days down in New Mexico caught this
girl with a new baby and told her that if she didn't testify against her
boyfriend they would take her child away from her with a court order.
Cops, mostly think like this?
Well, he had a vinyard there at his farm, and then he got a wife from Vietnam. He took several loads of medical
equipment to Vietnam, but didn't think they liked americans
all that much and who could blame them.
Mike, from Maesai, the American who invested in currency, he met Lee one time
in a guest house in Cambodia where these two foreigners were going at it just
smashing this place one of them owned during a fight and Lee was trying to
break it up.
But seems I ran into him in an alley drunk and he told me how this gal dug in
his pocket a certain kind of way and when he checked his pocket his money was
Lomi shaw Loh Meeh Shaw meant Bear Mountain. It was a mountain place far north
of Keng Tung that was north and west of the TapinBridge or north and east of Wah Tah Poh, in a
kind of "Y" north of the river. It was hard to get to.
I had been close but had not gotten there. Many traditional Akha lived
There they grew these big fruits called mah gaw, that were sour, and also a
lot of opium of course.
I had wanted to go many times, the one time an Akha woman got me almost there
but the very day before they had set up a new road immigration point and they
caught me and wouldn't let me through.
One day I would arrive to that spectacular high mountain place.
I wondered, from up there, when so many of those people had seen war, and
seen their kin move south to Thailand over so many years, and how the Thais
treated them, how some came ill and died, how their families grew to prosper
or fail, how they felt about all that as a people. So many tragedies
had befallen them in Thailand. Was it a win or a loose?
Maybe the Akha saw themselves as an entity, short of land, sometimes short,
very short of life, they went on as a group, sure not as an individual.
Laos road to china You can take the back
road to china via laos, you need to get two laos visas, one for coming in this side and
then one for coming back in from China when you return. I hadn't traveled around
in Laos much.
People passing through say it is really nice, but the roads are in some cases
bad. Very slow and quiet in Laos.
parade up street Every year they had a
float parade to Maesai during Loi Katung. People let little hand made
floats full of flowers go in the river candles lighting their way as they
bobbed down stream. They had a festival at one end of the street too.
It was usually cold and windy that time of year but people waited a long time
for the floats to all come up through town, I had no idea where they came
lights Eating the bugs, the
lizards waited for them around the lights. It was dangerous to sit under a
light and eat food. Sometimes besides dropping little parcels on you,
the lizards tried to get a bug and fell on your table.
institutions for knowledge and education here Maesai and Thailand in general, lack sufficient education
institutions. Thailand also lacks libraries or an appreciation
of books in most towns. One is lucky to find a handful of books for
sale in the small towns. Bigger towns have bigger bookstores of course,
but still very limited. For that one must go to Chiangmai or Bangkok. Now after many years Maesai was
getting a library near the hospital.
strikes near you Lars, came to my desk for
the salt and then died that morning from a heroin over dose. The death
lazy massage. post office
This was a massage house down the street before the post office. I
think it was mostly for hooking.
I went there once and the massage was very lazy so I left. They wanted
only money for sex, not really massage and as the years went by in Maesai it
became nearly impossible to get a massage of any real kind.
London dreads fellow and the incident with the little guy
down stairs He told the guy he was
patronizing and where to go. He was really a big guy and had long
colored green, yellow and violet dreads. The guy with the lecturing
attitude was older but really small. He got real quiet.
Look out point
Above maesai, many steps
Really there was a temple of sorts up there.
Sometimes when I had nothing better to do I would take time late at night to
run up these two hundred plus steps to the top. Was fun to do that, to
see the view and to get the workout.
Lychee Many people plant it
including Akha, use lots of pesticide on it, and herbicide below it.
This ruins many things and is hazardous to the workers. Good plants
could be grown below it instead. As well the ants make tunnels in the
core of the branches and eventually the trees tend to die.
comes in the dry season, all around good, some small and sweet, some very
large and sour.
Lam prabang Lam Prabang is a river
destination where people go when moving south from Chiang Khong on the
Mehkhong I think, by boat. Need to check the map on this. From
Lam prabang people go overland in Laos.
M-loy hah sip
150 A stimulant drink sold in
thailand tastes like cherry extract and is full of cafeine. There are
many brands, they cost around ten baht, are strong and will keep you up half
the night if you drink one late. The bottles are great for putting
scabie medicine in for the Akha. Sometimes the bottles are used by
putting a wick in a hole that one makes in the screw on lid, putting in some
oil and then tying them to a stick. Many of these are placed along a
road during a celebration.
"sustitues" he said, meaning prostitutes. He sold wares in
town. He told me he didn't like Thailand because there were too many
"sustitutes". He did his best to speak english, gave me fair
and discounted prices and I bought much from him over the years for schools
Meh kohng Her sister prostituted,
got aids, died. I saw her when she was still alive and had massive
facial herpes zoster blisters. They lived in the catholic village on
the Burma side. The village was pretty rough and dirty,
sort of the worst place you could live if you were an Akha. Heroin got
in there and most the men died from sharing needles and getting aids.
Meh Kong went down to Chiangmai or where ever and I never saw her again.
Much Writing Then there is my writing,
and it is with this that I have the most frustration. Lots of mush
which I threw away and then have about a hundred pages of anecdotes and
Maesai, for me
has changed over the years First I was here solely
for business and then I got involved in the Akha thing with the medicine and
then it seemed like a good thing to continue doing. The polish is off
it. There have been hard experiences that took some of the joy out of
it, but I reckon that some of that will come back with time.
I look forward to doing more research in the villages in the way of just
better knowing what is going on and getting to know more people whom I don’t
There is photography and video work. Both of those are up in the air although
there is the need for some concise articles about the Akha, like essays with
some photos to go along with them, black and white sort of thing.
I have never built a work of this kind before and it is always difficult to
know what will work best as you are growing it up.
I am hoping that the literacy and literature program progresses nicely over
the next year. I need more money to interest people to write and that
is always it would seem the problem, money.
My Trip To
Yunan I took a trip to Yunnan once. Was most interesting, China, or anywhere different for that
matter. But Yunnan at Kunming was interesting. I stayed at the
cheap Three Leaves boarding hotel. Only a few people there. I
wondered when they built the place because neither water or anything else
seemed to work, it was all rusted.
The market was ugly and dirty and thuggish in a sort of typical Chinese
way. The Chinese really lacked in taste or finishing touches.
Everything was just slopped about and done for the masses it would seem.
On the street ethnic women were the money changers. Old ethnic women
begged, but this was only a disguise, they actually were security for their
daughters doing the changing of the money.
There were different kinds of police, and they knew which ones to look out
for and run away.
There was an interesting coffee shop on one main street, I sat there and had
coffee. It was the ONLY such coffee shop where someone would bring you
a clean cup on a saucer. The street was a swarm of bicycles, no one
able to fall over cause there wasn't room.
I shopped for beads, silk, tea. Lots to see, I really liked the
place. At night the streets got dark and empty and the hookers came
out. They liked to stay in front of the main hotels, there were about
five. The one had a man from PortlandOregon who was manager. I met a German in
the lobby restaurant there. He was busy installing cigarrette
machines. He said the Chinese would destroy them so the rule was they
weren't allowed to touch or adjust them.
He said that one machine paid for itself in about 9 months, the business was
so lucrative, making and selling cigarettes.
I wanted to go to some outlying areas but money was too short.
The plane trip back on Thai Airways was fine, once I got past the movie crew
who stacked all their gear in front of the airport door. When I
commented about it, the one chinese man got angry, saying this was china, not
some where else.
Make Him Pay So he wanted a minor wife
she figured. It didn’t change much as she watched the blood drip
into the bucket. An hour of grueling pain and the baby still hadn’t
come out. The little white pills did their job and now all she had to
do was wait, she’d punish the bastard, no more kids with him, starting
with this little piece of shit that she pushed like shat out from between her
cramping legs. Some would have just left him, but why give life a
boost, or why stay on and pretend that life was black and white, that you got
it bad no matter what and so why not have a morsel of joy? She told the
little boy he was a shit. He was dead now. Wonder who was in the
life club? Wasn’t there enough death around here any way, what did
eight inches more of unwanted spat matter? Down the road bitches
grunted on their backs, faces white as the dogs crawled across their bodies
fucking them all night long, squeezing breasts, breathing alcohol and
pressing wads of cash into the fat woman’s hands. No redemption
to it but nothing felt but a little money in the pocket, actually more and
longerlasting a wad than the one the boys put in and the one they left
behind. Some puked before they finished, some fell asleep, and some couldn't
get it up. The girl started laughing, the guy yelled, kicked open the door,
stood there with a condom hanging on something so small you couldn't see
it. The owner yelled at him, told him he was a fool, get his clothes
on, he was embarassing everyone, ruining our beer.
change in Asia Maesai was a direct
thermometer of change in Asia, in
this part of asia as the continent tried to reconnect
itself with its own past. The road to china and how many scores of
chinese were already bred into Thailand and hoping for some connection back to
the past? And China at the same time was expanding outward,
its hordes moving slowly across the land. And in the middle of this all
was Maesai, the border town from Thailand to that little buffer zone called Burma and then southwestern China. I had predicted that this was a
major route in 91 and nothing had proved me wrong. Still things here
changed slow. The new road and all that. I still remember when it
was just a ribbon that went to Chiangrai and that when there wasn’t
traffic coming the bus drove right down the center stripe because the
shoulder was so broken up. And that bus, the green weenie as I called
it, was small and could get quite crowded as busses in asia tended to. Actually the ones in thailand were most pretty good.
at those kind of bars These are bars where
chubby girls in very short skirts sing horrible sounding melodies, if you
could call them that, but the places have a kind of flavor, people come there
I think to sort of mock themselves, get a little drunk, forget the day, bring
a lot of people, eat food in a place that really doesn't want to flaunt it's
kitchen and so forth, a roadside oddity that has its own unique air that one
wouldn't necessarily dismiss completely. Matter of fact, the longer you
listened in the more jovial the music sounded, a kind of country folk music.
One guy in Maesai
ran these cabaret's for years, was known for it and for singing in them too.
Maesai The fan spun lazily from
the ceiling in ths small room where I lay on the bed looking up at its wooden
Consulting providence I wondered what I was going to do next.
Surely it happend.
Mekong Mall Along the Maesai river
close to the Mekhong they cut huge wood b oards and built a mall there.
But there was no future and today most all the wood on this huge two story
building is destroyed. an environemental crime. I remember when
the brought the big logs and wooden blocks of teak to cut the smaller boards
out of. Now the boards were all warped and cracked, the varnish long
gone. Even the tour boats that someone had brought north to ply the
Mehkong were never used because they couldn't readily get past the river
rocks going north to China and there was no cooperation in the
area. As a result they sat forever in the river, going no where and
running down till they were hauled in ruins back to Chiangmai or elsewhere.
May I have a copy of the notes. Evangelicals. Religion as
They had this training conference at the MaesaiBaptistChurch. Slap stick fundametalism. I
asked for copies of the notes, but they would not give me any. I gave them
free bread rolls I baked up. The guy from Texas. Cheesy religion. coordinated by Asia
Outreach from Singapore, I think they were CIA. They also
banned the Akha gates.
Some of these are on Doi
Tung. I think that they would grow well here, just a matter of finding
out more about them and what the bug hazards are.
So many transplanted crops require lots of pesticides.
Machinist Chai. He was
expensive, slow and never took my time seriously but always took my money
His shop was in Huai Krai. After I couldn't wait any longer I pulled all
my work out and took it all back to the building I now had in Maesai. I
would have to buy my own welding equipment.
Mae Hon Son A very bad road to get to
here. A mountain community which was sort of a day trip for many people
by plane from Chiangmai.
During the dry season strawberries were sold along the road south of maesai,
much pesticide one would guess. Stawberry juice and strawberry wine.
and trip to hong kon and how I met cary cutting the stone I went to hong
kong. The jade I had was no good. The cutting houses showed me
what was really hot in Hong Kong
now. Smoke clear and grey jade with black spots in it, really fantastic
looking but wasn't even green. There was nice green stuff, but it was
candy apple green one could say.
After I got back to Maesai I went ahead and cut all the jade one time, it was
all bogus. This was how I met the man Cary.
Course when I thought about it later, the problem he had with the passport
and all, probably all a ruse, that is how he kept off the plane and out of
shame, and kept the money. Stay out of stones.
Mandalay shop sold expensive stuff for
tourists, had a factory.
They did manage to hold onto the factory and the tours and the sales house
for a long time which was a feat for anyone in maesai, so after many years I
had to give them credit for this.
sticky rice excellent treat.
You could buy this during these hot spring months before the rains came and
all the mangos got ripe.
There are a lot of mangos, different kinds, many very fine and sweet and they
are expensive. They cut them carefully and put them over sticky rice
with a coconut sauce and it is very tasty.
american, coke bottle finger A fellow named Mark, an
American, came to maesai. Don't know why. He showed me where he
had his finger split all apart, now healed. It happened when he was
messing with a Thai man's girl in Hatyai. The guy dropped a coke bottle
blow to his head and he put his hand to the top of his head just in time.
He came up here and had some bad contacts with the death angel and died after
a fall in the river. He was found downstream in bad shape they say but
I was gone to Surin at the time so only got the rumor mill when I came back.
Meat stands in
market, chicken, beef and pork you can buy it all and
mostly fresh, whatever cut, same price.
Backstrap is particularly tasty.
motorcycle rent tong I rented here many times
but the bikes were worn out and the rent went up because Joe raised his
the Bridge Did this for years. Not
sure how much money it cost me. But I helped a lot of women and babies
especially. The babies of the poor in Burma at that time really suffered.
Melons Watermelons sold in
maesai or way south of town on the highway.
I bought a truckload for villagers a time or two.
Took them up for all the kids. Boy we had fun. The melons were
cheap and great tasting.
Military hill On the burma side, had a big anti aircraft gun
They fired it when Khun Sa attacked, but of course could only fire it sky
ward, the red tracers drifting off.
piles this is how the Thai did
it, the cement was naturally of low quality. They poorued cement in a circle,
the sand and gravel all around, the water in the middle and let it set until
it was all wet and the mixed it together. I suppose it was suitable for
a few things, but mostly seemed for log grade cement mixing.
Money changer A chinese guy in maesai
that changed any moneys you wanted, burmese, Thai, chinese.
There had been another money changer in town. But some fools from Burma called him to the hotel room at the
wang tong and killed him, supposing that he had lots of money on him which he
Money from germany through joseph matin luther yohanz Yeah, and maybe something
about heroin. But they used Nimit's signatures to verify something on
documents for germany, someone pocketing the money.
He had a wife and daughter up in Aleh Akha near Doi Maesalong, but didn't
come and see her much. She had been a prostitute and Nimit made the
Mong Pyeh Half way to Keng Tung,
the sick kitchen there. Everytime I ate there I got nasty sick, so I
just limited myself to drinking soda pop.
food On the streets early
monks singel file
Lined up to receive alms, coming or going. I thought I saw them more in
years gone by than I do now.
The temple behind Sailom Joi was rather fantastic looking.
runs anna over on bridge. Stick in eye Anna had a scar on face
from being run over on the bridge while begging. She also had one bad
eye cause she got hit with a stick when smaller.
killer they always went dead
after a short time.
You could buy them in the shops. They were cheap electric ones. They
zapped the mosquitos for a while then did not work any more. Common to
many things from China. Of course there was no guarantee
which is why many people went to the bigger shops like Big C in Chiangrai to
against metal door, domestic disputes The guy comes home and
bangs his motorcycle against the metal doors till he gets his wife up and
they fight and she finally lets him in after the whole neighborhood is woken
up. Events that reminded you that you lived in a neighborhood, domestic
disputes, bits of adventure.
mail man Always could tell me if I
had mail or not.
I often spotted him in the street, was a nice extra in the day, a piece of
mail. Maybe I got a hundred pieces in ten years.
truck, flying banana I used to throw at these
obnoxious trucks, bananas, tomatoes. They came up the road past the
guesthouse at seven in the morning or earlier, loudspeakers blaring. I
had water balloons, fruit, lined up on my railing high up on the hill and got
good at leading them and throwing the right distance far down to the street
to where the fruit would splatter on the hood of their trucks. Thais
had NO sense of peace and quiet at all. Everything had to be loud and
stupid. Thai bars were the same way, so loud you could not hear
Movie made at
guest house japanese boy, akha girl, my silver coin, brown plastic on lights The Japanese came to the
guest house to make a set for making a movie about a japanese man who falls
in love with an Akha girl. The Akha girl was recruited straight off the
hill and didn't seem much interested in what she was a part of, or a saying
her lines, we sat around and played rather dull looking extras. They got near
the end, but the Akha girl would no longer act, so I fished into my wallet
and there I had been saving this silver coin, an American silver dime, from
the 1960's, and I gave this to her, and she suddenly perked up and said her
last lines and we all called it a night.
Movie on main
street at night , movie truck A highlight in Maesai was
a movie truck that came and set up and showed a movie on the main
street in the winters. A big canvas screen and people gathered
round. I had seen the truck but not the movie set up for years
now. They still showed in smaller places I assumed.
trucks and tractors The Mujihadeen had
tractors and trucks in Maesai for earth work and hauling. Mostly they
were Pakistani someone said, but I thought they were Afghanistan people. I had heard that there was
a pakistani Maesai drug connection. Maybe this was it.
Muling Beads I used to haul beads back
and forth to the US. But this got old and I
didn't have much of a life. I didn't like being on the road all the
time in the US selling either. After a while all the
Denny's, hotel 6's and fast food places looked the same. Maybe it would
be easier now with mobile phones and email.
dried in bags Chinese sold and bought
them, made me sick once, so I didn't know what kind they were or what they
were treated with. So I didn't buy them any more, but sure lots of them
cake rolls Rotti. This was a
highly oily cake, cooked in palm oil on a grill metal on a cart. Then they
added egg or banana, lots of syrup and sugar, and rolled it up in paper,
which then was like taking a grease ball in your hand. Better if you
had a shower right afterwards.
There is one muslim woman on the main drag, been there a long time.
Her daughter married the Packy Muslim. He has a work permit, never know
what he is up to.
Muslim with a
gun Once a saw a muslim jeep
stop along the road, right at a restaurant where I was eating, the guy opens
the glove box, pulls a gun, checks the load and puts it in his pocket.
One of those red jeeps with no doors. Then they drove off to some kind of an
Maesai Street Vendor There was this one Thai
woman who wanted to marry me years ago. She still sold food, was
still friendly and they said she had two husbands.
Least she had energy. She sold different kinds of meat sticks and food
Monks from Burma Monks come and beg from Burma
I call it begging. They call it "alms" I think. Not sure what
the difference is?
Mangosteen purple, probably one of
the best fruits. A thick purple skin that is pithy, you have to break
it and peal it in one big piece and the beatiful white segments of the fruit
are found inside. Never see this fruit canned, maybe not suitable to
that, but sure is tasty.
Navy cigars These were a dark black cigar
sold from Burma. You could buy them in a box. They were
cheap and there were even cheaper ones that you could buy, or the common
green ones. The common green ones had many flavors including aromatic
ones, cigarettes always tasted bad to me.
The green ones were not roled but had pieces of tabaco, like dry chips in
near boobers house Ah Gaw's home in this
area, and his church also. Everyone was in the church business here to get
money, and good money it was. Naive people would always give to what
they didn't know.
upstairs room on corner Sometimes tourists are
mean to their girlfriends, their Thai girlfriends or hired prostitutes.
There was this one girl who was crying and complaining about what her
boyfriend was doing to her so the police came
bikes Racers. Lots of
young people racing their bikes with loud mufflers, very loud. Some
people complain, most do not.
banana leaf you eat it off the leaf
with a toothpick. Add the spice you want.
The woman vendor sells it this way, a small pile of noodles loaded on a
banana leaf for you.
owner motorcycle ride this was in surin.
He took me everywhere to see the country around Kwao Sin Arin.
station bkk This is a really big bus
station and it would not be so intimidating except that the buses are dirty,
crowded, you get sick from the air conditioning and the toilets are small and
dirty and hard to use while the bus lurches every way here and there.
Soon the are very contaminated as well from all the lurching about.
Notes The king, the serious
king, sat at one side of the spacious lobby, luxuriously decorated, in a
moment he laughed which set everyone at ease.
The ditzy thai girl washed dishes and stood on one foot while she chased
mosquitos away with the other foot.
The wat spire stood black silhouette in the sunset against the purple orange
He laid back and relaxed as the man pedaled the samlor to the wrong place.
Barbecued meats, peppers and pineapple, a treat even if the dirt on the
sidewalk could be called sleaze.
Sometimes he just needed to hear his own language. Much of that was
The guys filed in for their short times with the sows.
Then try to get a Thai person to say some word for you in Thai. ‘How do you say this in Thai?’
And they give you this dumb look and repeat in Thai language ‘How do
you say this in Thai?’
Namibia Cary bought amythist from Namibia, well his partner mined them there and
then sent them to Thailand where Cary cut them, but after South Africa changed this situation seemed to stop
which was probably fine, but Cary didn't do much cutting of stones after that.
Opium look You could always
recognize the people who smoked opium cause the had this green yellow look to
them. A dark look. Didn't keep themselves as well. Slept most the
day, stayed up most the night. Got emaciated down to nothing, no vision, no
hope and no health. Yet they held the best to the culture over the
others who seemed to be going somewhere (no where) at great speed.
Oil paints I did oil painting in
Maesai when I had time and the mental peace for it.
doing bible translation, amish ‘they’re wrong’ I met this old couple
from Pennsylvania in Maesai. They were translating
the Bible into some variety of Kachin.
I asked them what they thought of the Amish in their area in the US? The lady turned and looked at me
sternly in her black horn rimmed glassses. "They are wrong"
was all she said. The man new better than to open his mouth, least the
way he had agreed on that relationship. Funny how the critics always
accuse Bible thumpers of being pro patriarchy. I had yet to see a
Patriarch who was married to a Bible thumper. They were all matriarchs
Old jap stuff
in burma Many of the items from
the war of Japanese trademark are for sale in Japan, some Japanese coming to search for them
and sell them back in Tokyo.
The Thais are endlessly searching for hidden Japanese Gold from the war.
Old thai yai
women Tops off, their big
breasts hanging in the air, white like bread, brushing their hair, yelling at
each other across the fences.
motorcyle taxis Handle all the pedestrian
traffic. Located near many a corner, you just wave them down.
I got a couple orchids from around my room. There was a tree next to
the road with a couple on it, so I moved them. But orchids in general
are endangered in Thailand, too many removed from their natural
habitat in the mountains and the forest being destroyed.
pentacostal church and the sick boy There was an orphanage up
the road in Burma from Tachilek. Some guy got money to
build a new pentacostal church there but there was a problem and it stopped
before it was done, the church empty next to the area where the orphanage
was, just an orphanage in name, no buildings.
Anyway, I was there when some guy was yelling and preaching in the old bamboo
church. I came to see the sick boy. Couldn't move him, no money for that, and
he had advanced malaria, his spleen swollen.
There was also a sick baby with weird marks on her skin. Her father
gave her blood but then later he died. I wondered what happend?
Was very hard life for these people.
I brought books and pencils for the kids when I could.
grapefruit We sat around in the
shade, eating oversize grapefruit, the kind that are dry inside, you peal the
segments. The Thais like to dip them in chili powder mixed with sugar
dogs Nasty creatures on the
streets and curbs. You see them all over Thailand. In burma they poison them because they are
considered a health hazard which of course they are.
Orange Good and bad. Once only
expensive more and more are being planted and harvested in the Thatong area,
orchards slowly making their ways into the Akha hills.
Old Dog Then there was that one
old dog outside a brothel you had to pass on the way to the market. Its
head covered with scars, it could hear me coming from the sound of my
motorbike or something. I chased it a time or two but that was a mistake
because I didn’t chase it enough to make it phobic, just enough so that
it would remember me well and then every time I came by it barked and snapped
But over the years the old boy got older and older and barely had the energy
to open its eyes and look from where it slept.
One time I suggested to the owner that he get a new younger dog, well, was
worth a try.
One time in
Maesai Rents here have been
driven up because all of the ruby dealers from down by the Cambodian border
have moved to town to take advantage of all of the rough rubies that are
coming in from Monsu. At first, two years ago it was a trickle, but now it
has swollen to hundreds of pounds a day and they say million DOLLARS changes
hands in this town on a daily basis, so you can imagine what has happened to
my sleepy town. Bars and girls out the ying yang and the rents have gone up
to where I must pay some $200 per month for my shop house. But the location
close to the bridge is necessary so that the kids can come safely and they
do. Other than that I live meagerly, and work on my language studies when I
can put my mind to it, but my first priority is to improve things for the
We have had a lot of rain this year with the river flooding every other day,
and once into my house just before I rented it so I must stay close to home
and keep a watchful eye. Everything is up off the floor and unplugged just in
Collectors pick up every shred of wood and plastic and glass, giving the
poorer peoples a way to make some income.
A friend offered me a monkey but it kept tearing up the house, as monkeys are
apt to do so I gave it back.
Oh yes, the Ya
house Cary’s fling there
with his chubby little stone cutting teacher from down the alley behind his
house where that man parked his funky cart with enough gadgets, bottles, dooh
dads and wires on it to gear up a battleship.
And then Miss Q who had the fruit stand. She used to work for Cary too but a lot of the girls complained of
eye problems and didn’t stay on forever.
It was funny, next to the time card machine at his factory there was a bronze
statue of a woman and I guess the girls had this habit of fondling the right
breast all the time while they waited to check their card in the meter
because that breast was all pollished from being handled.
Old Desks I
worked at As I sit here in Maesai
at an old wooden coated table, the laquer surface chipping I am remided of
desks I hav written at.
I had an old desk painted black, as a child, then boards on barrels as in Everett. Now I just work at tables.
Like this one.
Palong There were palong with
silver and gold rings around their waste and then ones with Black
rings. They all had big ear rings. The men liked to wear bright
green pants and rubber boots of the same bright green. Often they came
to the market.
PDA on Dapa I went to PDA in
Chiangrai. I asked them about DAPA where Brian Barney worked at the
time. He said that he knew what they say they do but really din’t
know what they do for sure.
Peddle three wheel bike cart
Many small deliveries used to be made with peddling carts that had three
wheels. That was long ago in Maesai, you only see the red motorized ones now
for hauling ice and propane bottles.
guards and the note written at the hole Once I saw this hole in a
guest house wall and looking I saw there was some writing there.
It said, "The security guard who lives in room 57 comes and looks
through this hole."
People who are
waiting Marie Herde was a woman
who came here to see me and the Akha. She often worked in India.
She said that the Akha were a people who were "waiting".
girls die in six month The pharmacy friend Yai
told me that the girls who test positive for HIV give up, quit eating and die
in six months.
Photo girls on
the bridge and their lottery Knife, paper, stone,
scissor. This hand lottery was used to split uneven amounts of money at
the end of the day, any indiscretion very hard fought over.
from north of chiangrai North of Chiangrai there
was a large stretch that sold pineapples. Rose Martinez had her
Christian Happy Home orphanage there. Many said she was a lesbian,
acted like a man. The latter was not hard to miss as the years went by.
burnt down This happened a couple
yeares before I got here. Khun Sa attacked the police station and
burned it down. This has happened in other places in Thailand so I would not be surprised, seems the
public or somebody controls police corruption that way.
People in the
opium business their stories In the opium business the
Akha who grew, bought, transported, sold the thick black pitch had a whole
culture. There was better than a hundred years of business and use,
terms for weight, for cutting the opium with counterfeit tree sap from
certain trees. This would give you a headache if you smoked it.
The best opium came from certain places or certain old men who supervised its
farming and had a good name. Many men had stories of times they spent
buying opium for Khun Sa. One could learn a lot from these people. They
told me how "robbery" wasn't so much allowed, but they carried guns
anyway. Robbery was greatly suppressed in the region, makes you wonder
why so much is tolerated in the west?
Penang I had to make visa runs
to Penang for a while. This was the worst.
Once every three months, down to Bangkok by bus, from Bangkok by train to the end of the run, and then
ferry across to PenangIsland. I stayed in an ugly grim Chinese
motel. What other kind would they run? Like taking the Chinese
one in Maesai, the Top North, and moving it with a sky crane to Penang. Same flavor, same pathetic lazy attitude
of the owners, with slaves as helpers. I could not imagine Chinese of
any kind exporting culture to the rest of the world. Little pieces of
the great wall?
I met an englishman there. He had a son who was all grown up. He
had a wife from French Guyana but she ran away and got nothing, left the son
with him. He wanted a new wife, but it would take time.
I stayed in the hotel for a number of days before going back. It was
here that I met Bobby Clampitt from Meadow vista that was to help my project
pomegranite In street behind the Wang
Tong hotel there was the Wan Com Condo. Across the street from it there was a
big house and enclosed wharehouse. They bought and stored broom grass
there. The Burmese said that in the years gone by the man who lived
here was a hit man, killed many people for hire. But he was dead and
his son had taken over the place.
In the front yard, out of sight if you were walking on the street but clearly
visible from a house across the road there was a pomegranite tree. Not
so common in this area.
potatoes Really expensive in Thailand. Tiny runty sometimes, big other times.
This was a noise of hot sleepy afternoons, particularly from Burma, and they even had a river mill there for
a while, floating the wood down from the hills, milling it, then pulling the
doors across the river on a rope.
peaches some raised at Doi Mae
Pickled and sold green as well
checks All the buses regularly
stopped at checkpoints. The police were looking for the nervous person
or the person of makeup that they might be from Burma, and often these people who didn't have
sufficient papers were pulled off the bus.
Farming Akha were usually ignored. On occasion they asked me for my
passport but this was not very often.
if a girl walks with her feet out will be promiscuous A preacher I knew said
that he could tell if a girl was promiscuous by how she walked with her
feet. If her feet pointed out when she walked it meant she was
man The man who wanted to
sell me his press was suspicious and not trusting.
The press sat for years while I looked for the money and built the project,
having to invest in writers and so forth. There was very little trust
among the Thais. One saw little investment in the community short of Temples.
Parks? Not as much. And business or community credit? But I did buy his press,
when he was no longer using it, we became friends. He had a hard life,
he fell for the Amway thing one time, then went back to teaching school, his
wife was an alcoholic, so bad her brain was addled.
test center and hospital lousy blood handling One of the workers wanted
to have her blood tested so I took her down to the test center. What I
encountered made me very nervous. The blood was drawn in casual
conditions, then squirted into test tubes with a name hastily written on it,
for testing later.
The table was cleaned of blood drops or splatters with a grey rag that was
Thais showed little concern for blood and blood handling and this was one
Then there was that day
the New York woman ate all the peanut topping at our table and then at the
next also, bop, just jumped up, went over and took them and said excuse me
like she was popping the septre out of the kings hand and came back, dumped
them on her plate and said how good they were as she ate them all.
Really, you just never know what people are going to do. That was after
she pulled a bushel of vegies out of the cooler and had them cooked up much
to the humor of the Thais and sure ate them all.
But hey, what could you expect of someone who went around with a painter’s
air filter mask on?
Sometimes people went to me to a village and ate in one of the huts with the
family, many people wouldn't note the poor conditions or how many of the
people were wasted away as compared to their own fat bodies and they would
just keep eating till all the greens and meat or whatever was gone, sometimes
not even bothering to eat rice.
The Akha and I would of course just look at each other. This was good
reason why I seldom took foreigners to a village at all.
fights The thai kids had these
rhino beetles that they carried around on a piece of sugar cane and then they
fought them in competitions I think. They would find a female beatle,
which would burrow into the sugar cane completely, then two male beatles
above her would fite continously. I am not sure how they measured a
win, short of a kill. But there was money that road on these fights.
Rubies There are lots of rubies
traders here in Maesai. One section of town is nthing but this kind of
business. Hundreds of kilos must cross the river every day. Some people
have offices and do well at it, others just trade back and forth on the street
and live from day to day off the enterprise. There are also girls who pick up
from one man and try to sell for him, going from shop to shop, trying to get
the best price. The rubies are from Mon Shu, they are light red or nearly
pink in color, dark red and dull when first brought over. But with or
without heat treatment they are still beautiful once they are cut.
The Chinese guy with the big coke bottle glasses. He did some ruby
selling till he stole one and left town. John saw him once in Bangkok I think, but he never came back
here. He seemed like a real smart guy and nice, but got messed up more
and more in life. You got to be careful that life doesn't eat you.
Made me sort of glad that I was busy trying to help people, much more
challenging, and pursuing money all the time is boring, working every angle,
so you can do this, and do that and buy this and buy that and in the end all
With rubies it was always how much you could sell it for, always trying to
ride on speculation, buy for this, hope to sell for that. About one dimension
in maesai Some guys, that is all
they did, raise fighting cocks. They often fought them in the grass on the
other side of the fence behind where the Akha women sold spice sticks near to
the bridge at the turn of the corner.
It was also a comment on being male in Thai society. Nothing to do all
day long sept raise chickens and fight them on occasion, then get stupid
drunk and insist your chicken really won.
Walk around half the day handling your chickens, cleaning up after them,
carrying one under the arm, seemed like a real good use of time to me.
To say nothing that fighting cocks for sport is sort of cruel anyway, I mean
it is a stupid chicken, but wether much harm is done or not, it is a cruel kind
But cruelty didn't compare with seeing all the lazy men involved in the
near police station This restaurant had the
most excellent food in town, anything you ordered was good, better than
good. A little expensive but occasionally well worth it.
drivers powerful The drivers were often
older men, maybe abandoned, they slept in their rickshaws, not so many of
them these last years. They would fill up on food at the market and
then peddle it to where ever, you could see their legs, solid muscle,
straining to make it up the incline in town and then they knew when to jump
down at just the right moment and walk the cycle up the steep
parts. Sometimes the chain popped off and they had to stop and fix that
before you could go on. I was bigger than was comfortable to sit in one of
either those or a tuk tuk. Some of the rickshaws were polished wood,
others were painted over, but it was an art from days gone by, not just a
rickshaw, but art. Birds and design fancied the metal, and tiny lights
operated off a generator or battery.
the truck, gas station Buying the truck was not
easy. It took me two very hard months to pay for it and I am sure the
guy figured I was stringing him along. People pledged money then backed
out. Not very fair to me but you take what you can get.
Finally I got it paid for.
bloom In the rainy season
everything blooms green in celebration. The rainy season coming is relief to
hot days, sleepless nights.
I always looked forward to it.
What was a scene of buildings and vehicles, roads and houses, soon became the
rule of plant life again as all began to grow up once more and turn a vibrant
green. Rain dictated the planting of rice if people wanted to eat, and
they got it free from the earth if they were to work. In the case of
the north here, the Akha increasingly did the hard work for the Thais to
plant and harvest the rice for them, truckloads of Akhas coming of the
mountains for both planting season and harvest. Gathering some money
and going home.
Rat and the
butcher knife Rats in the room were a
problem, I dispatched a few who became confused and could not make their way
out of the room in time.
Redge from australia Redge was a bloated red
faced fellow who had been in Maesai as long as I had been here. Well,
he came to this place for that long and longer though he didn't stay for long
months. I hadn't seen him come back for years so I guess his glory days
were over. He had a bad temper and said something about his maid
quitting and his family trying to sell the ranch back in Australia out from under him.
river saw mill making doors and windows and floating them across
They used to be real busy, making doors and window shutters, floating them across
the river, pulling them across with a rope in the high season. Selling
them to construction sites on the Thai side.
Spring 98 I am waiting for my next
roll of the dice of good luck and for what money will come in.
There is a fantastic king cab 4x4 truck, large hauling truck, on the highway
It is an Isuzu and is a 95 but didn’t get used much at all it would
appear. Not beat up or worn but could have been cleaned real
well. There is no way to tell the mileage but the wear inside is almost
Well number one was done and I was waiting for the money for well number two
which I had already picked out.
Other than that I was working on the children’s book pictures with Meeh
and an 1800 word book for Akha, Thai, Burmese and Chinese.
The Street Lay
Empty The street lay empty and
mostly still except for a lone rickshaw creaking slowly down the gentle slope
from the closed gates at the bridge that crossed to Burma. A few last stragglers made their
way home as if trying to get there before the powers that be threw some
imaginary switch and brought everything to a halt.
The long road that led up through town and ended at the bridge was lined with
merchant’s buildings on both sides. The town had a special feel
to it, like it had many stories to tell, some obvious, some not so
obvious. When the street was empty like in the evenings there was this
wild west feel to the place, like everyone and everything was getting ready
for another day of relentless events, too many for the mind to keep track of,
as so many things and so many peoples crossed this second center of the earth
as it were.
The sow lay grunting as four piglets pushed and jostled her breasts to shake
down the milk.
The buildings facing the street laughed and jostled each other at all the
goings on of the day.
hard lives I had gotten used to bad
stories here but I quite frankly did not realize the the life events for
these people were so grinding hard. The stories rolled in. Many times
bad stories, too many. It was not so much the sadness of the
events that were told to me so often as it was the hurling bluntness with
which they were relayed to me. This was a place where every one of
these people were lucky to be alive and every one of their children as well,
and why fuss around about the realities of it?
The story here was much worse than I imagined and it was only the limitations
in my knowledge of the language that kept me from seeing more of what was
going on. Not much mercy for anyone here. You were on your own,
and that explained why they often could not figure out why we would come here
to work on a language, it had to be a luxury.
Stolen Boots Who would have ever
dreamed that it was a mistake to leave them just inside the door, hardly worn
yet, not work boots, comfortable walkabout boots?
But they were gone. I tried to figure out what the lax moment of
security was. My room was a little way at the end and I had only left
the door open one time and that was when I ran and answered the phone at the
front desk. Must have been then.
It really aggravated me. I had learned that Elk was the best leather
for getting wet and going soft again, not like cowhide. I bought my
first pair in Wyoming at the Cheyenne Western Store, there in Cheyenne, while I waited for lift. It was
cold, snow and ice on the ground, I didn't need much out of life but a pair
of glasses and a small bible and a good hat and good solid boots that would
take me anywhere. That first pair was Olathe's. Made in Kansas. Olathe, Kansas. I had just got done riding a horse
across the continent and was headed back to Oregon. I got that first pair.
Then by many a turn in the road of life I ended up in Thailand, so many years
later, and ideas and thoughts and cold nights or days only a distant memory.
I had bought this second pair before coming over. But they were
defective in one thing. The store wouldn't take them back so I had a
useless pair of boots. So I decided to fix them and took them to my
friend John at Edwards Boot Repair there in Oregon. He was just recovering from heart
bypass, hardly that old did I imagine, but he said he would fix them before
my flight and he did.
All a man needed in life sometimes was a good boot smith or cobbler, and a
good saddle maker. I had both, so I felt rich, and both of these men
were good story tellers and kind. Leather and basics seems to do that
to people. The saddle maker was Paul White out on the Santiam highway
there, and he used to ride bronks till he busted up his back. But he
did fine damn saddle work and cut leather for me, built pack saddles for me,
anything I needed at all. Belts and bags. He had made me fine gear that
I designed and repaired my Maclellan saddles for those long rides through
mountains and states.
We always talked, he always said goodbye with the words "Be
So I got on the plane and was back in Maesai and the boots ended up at my
door and then they were gone, and I had hardly worn them. They were so
fantastic because they were cowboy boots number one, but easy to slip on and
off not like work boots one must lace up. Great for loafing about or
slipping into a stirrup and few people ever wore a boot out loafing or
slipping it into the stirrups.
I missed those boots. I felt cheated. But it was years later that
Charlie, a burmese hawker from the other side of the bridge told me that my
girlfriend had taken the boots. I wasn't sure I believed him, and
always wanted to know who had feet that big.
I talked to Charlie the burmese
man. He said it was a friend who stole the bicycle. When would I
learn. Keeping from being ripped off.
The bicycle was a lot of fun.
SantiSchool At this school near Mae
Salong run by the fundamentalist chinese, there is a drug rehab place.
Someone told me the place was pretty harsh and had the men in chains but they
were not allowed to stay long or talk to the men. I never got in to
look so did not know for myself.
Speed of change, the new road to keng tung that didn’t happen
The road to keng Tung wasn't going to finish any time soon, one wondered
about why it appeared to be held up on purpose.
Smiles This was about the only
straight massage place in town. Fie used to work there. The room was
upstairs, one big room. Workers, sheets, airconditioning, food, tea,
drinks, and a reasonably good massage for not too expensive. Many rich
Thai men and women came here. It was a good place to take leave of the
mind for an hour or two and relax.
Soy kurd and
ginger juice The old lady at the market,
round faced, like a grandmother and always quietly happy.
Big aluminum buckets full of soy curd and bottles of ginger syrup to pour on
Short snake in
my back yard next to cary not actually a snake A snipe they call
them. Dark grey with yellow side stripe, little mole like eyes, about a
foot long. There is a picture of one, was in Martin's back yard
hatching eggs. Laid its eggs on top of itself in a neat pile, exposed,
wonder why the birds and rats didn't eat them, think the sun incubated them.
house fire A house caught fire not
far from the Guest House and really burned. The "fire"
department arrived, much in disarray, hoses here, water there but little of
it on the fire.
The entire house was a blaze and red hot coals before they got any much water
on it and at that point it wasn't worth much.
Sign painter I sometimes had work for
a sign painter who also made printed t-shirts for me when I needed them.
Silk in surin In Surin you could by
Mudmee silk as it was spoken. Rich and soft, dark colors, older cloth
and newer looking. The old cloth was soft, cool and fantastic.
Smugglers alley on Sailom Joi near the river
An unofficial border crossing near the bridge where load after load of
merchandise rolled out in small pickups. Believe it or not it was a
semi official crossing, like custom officers that owned part of the river for
their own use.
Soy milk cart
girl She always had a chuckle
and a smile
I only saw her out with her cart on the cold nights of the winter months.
The wobbly son of the Chinese guy who owned the Maesai Plaza Guest house,
worked there some times. I wasn't sure what the connection of that was.
Star fruit A tree behind the
In the market it was yellow green, but when it hung on the tree and ripened
it turned gold, very dark gold and the flavor was sweet and fantastic.
Otherwise it was somewhat sour.
are always open but no stock, what do they really sell? An interesting site in
maesai is all the shops that were open every day, glass cabinets on all the
shop walls with either a few old items in them or nothing at all. An
elderly person usually sat in the shop, there were no customers and it didn't
look like anything at all was sold.
1 kyat note The engraver made a one
Kyat note for the Burmese government but the Father of Suu Kyi was replaced
with a watermark of her with his hat. It got distributed and I even got
copies before the government found it, sent the engraver to prison and tried
to collect all the notes.
drift wood during storms When the river got high,
much drift wood, boards and timber, came down the river.
Swimmers on the Thai side would go out for it and drag it back to shore for
selling the wood.
near bridge When it was getting hot
in the dry season the kids would use the bridge to jump off of, climbing onto
the pillars and with much noise, diving into the water.
Squid smoked They had these little
knurled rolling machines, real salty squid, and some coals they would heat
them over, the smell was really strong, and people ate that stuff while
chalet place at bridge They had nice food but
business got slow so they closed it for the most part, just did a few meals
out of the back. They had a nice river front view, so they planted
trees in the bank that fully blocked it.
The RisingRiver The Maesai river was
coming up slowly. The last two years it had flooded and this year it
would brobably rise higher. About once a year it over ran Sailom Joi Rd, here at the Burmese border in Maesai.
The cart loans
I had loaned money to two
women I had known for a long time so that they could buy carts for hauling
fruit from Burma to sell on Maesai streets. I got half the
money back, that was ok. I could have gotten it all back but I the
women were having hard times in their lives about other things.
Anyway, it comes out today that Boo Nyurh was four months pregnant and
because her husband wanted a lesser wife she took medicine and killed the
And Kah Mooh, who took a baby to term gave still birth. So I don’t
know how it all goes around. I wish that they would bring me some
really bad stories or some really good ones rather than such bland ones as
The Finished Highway The road into town was
all finished now, so it was a big highway all the way to the bridge.
The road on the other side in Burma was still shit. The Burmese army
collected 2700 baht from every house hold to pay to fix it but the day the
Burmese would figure out how to spend money to fix a road instead of steal
the money would be the day. How, pray tell do you build a road without
The Thailand side, well now the cars flew into town without any
need to slow and motorbikes paid the price, many dead people. It added
up with time, one could only guess at how many that was.
I came on one man after he got hit, dead like a rag in the road, which is
what I first thought I saw, and they loaded him into a car like potatoes and
hauled him to the hospital where they very soon figured out he was dead and
his neck was broken.
The good luck
bees There was a great cluster
of bees on the rafter of the Wang Tong. The owner said they were good luck
and wanted to leave them there.
Ill maintained hotel, rooms not clean enough for foreigners, the manager
said. Maybe just an expensive brothel, yet then wasn’t Thailand all one big brothel?
Green jade like lions in the lobby
Spongy woven rugs
Glass doors with brass
The Baker said: ‘we have our own bakery. No we don’t have apple
pie. Would you like to buy some? No we have our own bakery. Would
you like to learn how to bake apple pies? No, we have our own bakery.
Big clock, black and white pepper stone. Floors and counter
Tall ceilings. Murals of naked maidens in the jungle or next to a fountain.
Around Here Fear Akha This is interesting but I
note that the chin around here fear the Akha very much, dislike them.
Jan 97 Thailand Booming?
People said Thailand was booming up till they closed the banks
and floated the baht, but I couldn’t see it. Sure they built a
lot around Maesai, but so much of it was empty and I saw very little
manufacturing. The men sitting around in the neighborhoods doing
nothing but shootin at the birds in the nearby trees all day.
In seven years maybe two people had asked to be taught english.
So as far as I could tell there wasn’t so much industriousness here.
The tall Yao woman at the market, quite, beautiful.
They and the Akha lived together, and she could speak Akha as well, but they
couldn't speak Yao.
Akha There were always the
Akha in Maesai who begged. They came primarily from a Catholic village
on the other side in Burma. I asked the catechist and priest
about this, why the church could destroy the culture but then this problem
was coming up? They said something to the effect that poor people will
always be around but nothing about their hand in it, and sure silent about
their own local vast land holdings.
The thumb akha
(repeat) One of the first women I
gave first aid to had this thumb abcess that I cared for till it was cleared
up. It was already messed up when she came to me, but it healed, her
thumb a little wider looking than normal. I saw her in Mae Salong here
lately, selling vegetables on the street, even though she was from
Tachilek. More and more the Akha could travel without excess hassle by
business When I first got to
helping the Akha I didn't know anything about the forms of this work in the
public sector. Some of it I ended up following but most I did not.
In the end one found out that there was the NGO business, making money off
poor people. Few NGO's delivered much in the way of services to the
villages. I really tried to pattern my work different from this.
The Elements This morning the klong is
I like the elements. cool. Cloudy, mist in the air, the visible
jungle more green thatn before. A breeze something refreshing,
beautifuyl. I feel now.
Two wheel cart
pulled by motorbike, cloth sack over seat Lots of merchandise was
moved this way. Once a man was trying to get up the steep hump by the
market and stalled, the cart broke loose and flipped on the child that was
inside along with his mother. I helped him out. The kid was mostly scared
bad was all.
The Village He took beads and dresses
called pee dees up for the young ladies at this one village. His
favorite was Acuh, but the other one with the half pout, half haughty face
was actually more friendly. Then for a couple years he didn't get there
and when he did get back it appeared that many of the ladies of the village
had succumbed to prostitution including these two.
The Knife Man John and I were walking
down an alley late at night and some guy drove by us down the narrow part,
crossed the little klong bridge there, got off his motorcycle and pulled a
big knife. He was still some fifty yards ahead of us. John who is
much bigger than I got real scared, but I told him that the guy was probably
drunk and we should take him. John was too scared and run off down the
alley, time I caught up with him to discuss it there wasn't much point in
Book Keeper (put with Tin Tin in guest house) There is this Burmese
girl who works at the desk keeping tract of numbers. She has worked at
the owners shop before that.
She is stupid. In a self destructive sort of way. She is
abrassive to people who live here as myself and also some of the other guests
who come. She has this ‘I don’t know’ attitude when
you ask her why something is.
Today she told some of the Akha children they couldn’t come to see me,
then they told me they couldn’t come and she thought herself so clever
till I found out why.
learn to use the mtns In the recent years the
Thais wanted the mountains more and more for parks and wanted the hilltribe
who had lived there remotely for years to get the hell out. Thai
farmers came in and rapidly exploited soils and waters, digging ponds,
causing erosion and building big pig farms near the water.
Almost every project resulted in polution, use of herbicides and pesticides,
the average Thai totaly uninformed about this and the Chinese shop keepers
out to sell as much of everything as possible, regardless of what it caused.
Restaurant In this place the service
was poor and no matter what you ordered they couldn't figure out the
order. I always ordered the same thing to make it easy on people.
If I ordered anything different, I didn't change menus but restaurants, so
they wouldn't be confused. The Chinese place next to the shell station
was horrible, horrible food and six people sitting in there watching tv, if
you wanted service you had to bang on the table.
road Work progressed on the
Keng Tung road, but for years it was unfinished and one could only wonder at
this being the intention to block Chinese and Thai cooperation through an
unwilling Burma. Not on the part of the Shan but on
the part of the occupying Burmese.
They slaved the people and the army boys each year on it, breaking rock,
hauling rock on the back and stacking rock in big heaps next to the
road. One year they put a bunch of round rocks on the road. I
drove it. Was just like driving on footballs. Really a mess and
hard on the truck. They never heard of tar one would think but in
reality the army officers were stealing all the money, not one in the whole
east shan state army had a clue how to get much done, so after ten
years the road still wasn't done.
Wrecked and derelick equipment lay next to the road, overgrown in weeds,
The Girl I was having a
beer. The girl came back to her friends. Apparently a hooker, she told
them that her paying customer had three friends who didn't pay. All the
other girls chuckled. The fat one laughed and made some comment in Thai I did
The Drowning There was this one girl
at the market from Pah Lay Akha, Ymm Boeuh’s village.
Her mother stood up in the boat during a corssing of the swollen maesai river
and the boat flipped and the mother and a 7 year old boy drowned. Every
year many people died in the Maesai river, people were also shot and dumped
into the river, ending up forever in the Mehkong on the way out to sea.
John at the Baan Boran Hotel said that bodies floated by his place quite
Drownings of Akhas happened now and then too.
Two girls from Cheh Pah Kah village were working at a restaurant on the pond,
when you are driving back to Pasang Junction there on the right side from
Haen Taek. Its a good sized resevoir, they went swimming and didn't
make it and both drowned. Generally the Akha don't live near water,
some of the guys can swim well, but parents don't want water where small kids
can wander into.
There were two ponds or more in Cheh Pah Kah village, they grew a lot of tea
there. Some small boy wandered into one and drowned there.
Down in Chaingmai, the klong near Tapae gate. Two Akha girls went for a swim
to cool off and they both drowned too. They were waiting for their
mothers who hadn't come yet. The sides of the klong are steep.
A foreigner had dropped his wallet in that same klong and dove in to get it,
and drowned too. He was drunk. What a way to end a vacation.
commercials were funny Funnier than American in
many ways I think.
The Thais make good artists, good imaginers, they have a flare for it, for
the slap your face funny. Burp.
Girl Dies The Lahu girl married a
Thai boy, he was 19. He went fishing one day and drowned. His
wife came by for help, she was pregnant, I was gone, the Thai family threw
her out and so she went and hung herself.
Thai man lays
in road at night trying to get run over One night this one Thai
man laid in the street for the longest time, till the police finally came and
got him. He was hoping someone would hit him or at least look.
closes and maesai becomes like a ghost town Every time that there was
a spat with Burma, which was at least once a year it
seemed, they always did the stupid thing and closed the bridge. They
really didn't care about people and the fact that most people were just
trying to stay alive on both sides of the border. A bridge closure was
very hard on the poor who needed to cross to sell things in the markets on
the Maesai side.
The ShanPalace torn down 90 or earlier The ShanPalace in Keng Tung was torn down in 1990 I
think. Was big and impressive and definitely beautiful. The burmese were mean
to do such a thing.
The Jew five
baht coffee, cigarette lighter for a pack of matches 70 baht for the akha
girl So this Jewish fellow, by
his own admission, was bragging about how he took this girl home, had sex
with her all night, paid her two dollars. He asked for the man's
lighter, handed him back a pack of matches and walked out the door. No
wonder they didn't have a good reputation as tourists.
The nuts you
crack with your teeth These nuts are gathered
from spiny pods high in the mountains, they fall on the ground beneath great
trees. The hands can be filled with spines from cleaning the husks off
them. The Akha get a small price for each can of them and then the Thai
bake them in fine gravel that is heated over a fire side of the street.
You must have a cracker or use your teeth which can also be broken by the
nuts, which have an acorn like consistency inside.
There can be great risk to the Akha to get the nuts if they are near the
church in brothel district, filming from balcony Ellen gets locked up. She
snuck into this brothel while the papasan was asleep, video taped the rooms
with the girls and then the owner woke up and caught her, his snoring coming
to an end.
The police came and made her erase the tape, her not being fast enough to
hide it or destroy and alternative tape.
First she had filmed from across the street from the balcony offices of the
church. We joked that the church was built high and the pastor had his
office at the top so he could look down and keep track of his girls, which of
course was very easy to do from the church building.
The toka gets
pissed off and leaps into jungle There was a Toka lizard
near my room. I tried to catch him several times but he would go back
in his hole. But this oneside he went back in then shot out with a
great noise into the jungle like he had second thoughts and was very fed up
with me trying to catch him. I was trying to catch him or chase him
away because he made so much noise.
policeman asks me not to speak of brothels to tourists So there was this guide
telling these two tourists brightly about the wonderful bridge with Burma and all there was to know. So I
piped in that just to the right a few hundred meters were lots of slave girls
too who they could go and see. The guide got angry and went and got the
police who turned out to be a man I knew, and so to please her he just spoke
to me pleasantly not to mention such things.
The toy man
and his two monkeys A poor man sold baloons
and toys from a cart, often had a monkey in the early years, but they ran
away, and he was still poor, abandoned.
Thorn in foot When the driver got us
stuck in the mud we all had to get out and push his four wheel drive van that
didn't really have four wheel drive because it was broken, and the Banker
from Singapore stepped on this huge thorn that went right up
through his shoe. He screamed at me to pull it out, I didn't know yet
what it was, but jerked up his shoe in the dark and yanked on this pencil
sized thorn till it came out with a heave.
Tiger at keng
tung zoo It was very unusual to
see a tiger, such a splendid animal, I wondered where they found him.
He was good sized and had the most beautiful long tail.
house south end of maesai You could see them
everywhere, tall brick drying kilns and then the long sorting rooms of dark
wood construction where the tabacco was brought in and prepared.
Toothpaste I got up to go to the
bathroom on this bus headed for Bangkok and there was the hostess girl, rubbing
toothpaste on her hands, burned by scalding water when the bus jolted.
It didn't look to help and I wondered how these young people made it with no
working standards imposed on the companies.
from london, top north We had a meal
together. We were talking about the Akha and he complained that if you
helped him once you would only have to help them again. His wife, also
a doctor from another part of London, was very dismayed by what he said, not
seeing it that way at all. I guess people vary in their cynicism.
The Mexico Orphanage The Mexican orphanage was
one of the sights I had early in life that inspired me to help people in
need. They were so poor, the one man from California working and so much he had to do, with no
help and no tractor and no equipment.
Temple banyan tree Noticed this behind the
afternoon market, when all the refugees fled fighting in Burma and filled all the temples. The tree was
really big but one year they trimmed it back severely.
Tambon chief Big house, punched zera
years ago for coming through his neighborhood without asking.
Thai polotics Who could keep up with
it. Every election you couldn’t find fifty baht notes from all
the vote buying. Coups and resignations. They had a problem with
it. Poloticians looting the country. Petty corruption and mega
corruption. Channel 5. Oh well.
marvin hatfield grass at checkpoint in Ch mai Yeah, that was dumb, I
was going to kill him if he had anything and we got busted. He did, but they
didn't find it.
journals at the vatican library Finally I met Lorenzo
from Italy, from Rome, and he went to the Vatican and looked for the Journals that the
priests wrote. He did find them but they were all about the lives of
the priestsand little about the lives of the people they worked with.
I had visited the Keng Tung Catholic mission for years and was always amazed
that they also had no printing or book writing effort. Not even Father
Ah Pah, who died in summer of 2000. He was the first Akha priest, but
never wrote down what must have been considerable life experience from those
times. I wondered as I saw him last if that left some bitterness for
him. I think it so important to write, because otherwise few know what
happened, what we saw. We must not write foolishly, but the facts and
impressions as we remember them to give others a reflection on that aspect of
Father Bosco also died summer 2000 but he was not Akha and did not seem to
have much affection for them. He spoke of them in the general demeaning
terms of the church, pagans.
to encourage prostitution Thailand always made visas hard on tourists or foreigners
living here. Always having to get a new one. Never stopped.
You could go to lots of hassles to get a one year visa, or just get one once
a month, either way you got the immigration office hassle. And mostly
we brought money into Thailand, we sure didn't work at paying
jobs. So instead of spending spare money in Maesai, one had to travel
to a border somewhere and get another visa. Stress and a hassle
throughout and one area that the Thai really didn't treat the foreigner
well. Did they want us here or not, they really needed to make up their
VIP 999 Bus These were the bigger
buses with three seats to a row. You could lean the seat back and sleep
but the airconditioning was cold and made you sick even with a blanket
covering you. Fungus lived in the ducks. There was a TV but the
movies horrible, and the food stops worse. Pitty you if you needed to
use the toilet frequently. The tickets were not cheap and the rides were long,
the drivers sleepy and going to fast on the road. Often there were
pictures of fatal bus wrecks with these big faster buses. But they were
not so new any more. I took the VIP 999 to Bangkok many times.
nurses and doctors, menglar nurse I met a nurse from the KengTungNursingSchool. She was Akha. She finished the
school and then paid back with two years of work in the mountain villages,
which she said she really liked.
Winds of Fall Now the winds of fall
blow out of the west canyon and into my bones and I have had a little bit of
a cold for the last few days and this last night the cold chill took over
like a blessing from God and rolled me into itself like some beautiful
blanket. Before this has come, with the fever, like in Hawaii. With all the worries I find it difficult
to get deep down into my heart where the good writing is. I found it
once again this last night as some of that chill ran through me. A chill was
blowing in the patio this morning when I went out to throw water on the dogs
and it reminds me of waking up with Mac - N- Water way out in Kansas somewhere. The fever, I knew it,
and when it would leave, I would have a clarity in my mind that would last
for weeks. It was like some kind of magical kiss. Came maybe once every
two or three years and cleaned the slate of dust, and made it so I could see
everywhere in my mind all at once, with a sparkle that I don’t exactly
know how to discribe except to say it was other earth like. Cause I
sure couldn’t make it happen on my own.
The Wang Tong The desk staff at the
wong thong hotel
They said they wanted to learn english, but never made any attempt to. I knew
one fellow there, he was Shan, a very nice fellow, sometimes came by my house
for a talk. He would also let me know of things that went on, sometimes there
was murder in the rooms, things like that. Later he went to Tawnje to
work on the road there.
Hotel Basement Band There was a bar, long
closed, under the Want Tong hotel. The transvestites came there, the
band was horrible and the noise terrific. Soon the transvestites would
get fights going till the band would stop and the police came.
Thais don't really know how to do the bar scene and they always close,
management fights, fights over girls, police, people that expect favors,
drunks, bands, you name it.
Once Joe got drunk there, struggling with the police who were kind enough to
load him on home.
What I found
out after some years I had gone to Keng Tung
now for ten years. Life at the mission never got better though there
were more and more crosses built and more and more churches built throughout
the neighborhood. Alcohol was a common fair that was being sold as well
as the scores of girls who'se only dream was to head south to become a whore.
I asked Father Norman about this, and he said that in fact it was a problem,
a lack of vision and possibly some complicity. Father Appa who died,
thought it was more than complicity, more than just a little.
At any rate, I asked around in the community about this and they told me that
the mission didn't have much money but that the Bishop had lots, that he
ferreted it away in banks in Thailand and such and that was why no money or
progress every appeared at the mission itself.
son The one son of the
Chinaman who owned the guesthouse never once owned up to a care in the
world. Any question was forwarded to Chai, "Ask Chai".
He would be hard to tell from a guest house worker, except he didn't work, he
was only a person to sit the desk when the brother could not. He pulled
"duty" that was all, nothing more.
He had a wobble back and forth kind of way of walking, a chuckle always on
the face about to happen. Even his speech had a chuckle to it.
Chai, the brother, he let the job bother him too much, didn't like it and
showed it. He had to fix everything, coordinate everything, and then
only sometimes got time off for a beer. I saw him in town sometimes, he
really was funny too and liked to laugh but could never escape the job for
long and didn't have much of a life it would appear.
I felt sort of sorry for the guy because he really was a good hearted fellow.
money to clear the bank Meeh Daw did not come
today. She told me yesterday that the girls only came to learn the language
and work on the children’s book because she made them and that they
didn’t really want to come. I was sick of this sort of power play
so I quietly asked the daughters if this was true, not expecting an answer
and said thait it made me sad and left it at that. I think that getting
called on her own bluff sort of made her feel like she had been just a bit
rude. At any rate she did not come today and though she might come back
this is still going to be a key issue. Will she let her daughter work
undisturbed or will she use it as a pawn item for leverage on something else
she perceives she wants?
Last night Jim Goodman got back from Keng Tung. Rough ride and yet he
likes the town as I used to. He said that all the Akha were Christian,
this not completely true but much more so than one would like. What
Pual Loathas and the catholics did is a shame in their stamping out of the
culture but it is obvious that some are having second thoughts about it.
I am getting to know Jim Goodman better and respect him for all the efforts
he puts into his work to research different people groups in different areas
Often times I was so busy with an idea that I had not been on a voyage across
my small room to the other side in weeks, not even seeing what was over there
on the table next to the door where one could hardly think that you would
And then this year it had been humid as hec. I got some kind of fungus
irritation on my skin, lots of sweat pimples and particularly saddle sores
from the motorcycle and all the driving I did up into the mountains. My
posterior port was the worse for wear, complaining often. Then I got
scabies that the kids brought to the school house and it took a month to
figure it out and when I did track them all down and get them out from under
my skin it then took three months for the bumps and skin irritation to go
away. Some toxin! I’ll say.
Why I Returned
I don’t know
completely how you tell a story like this because it is chiefly voices obscure
that creap across the mind of the night and linger in the shadows of the
heart as I leave the village.
I came to the conclusion that I had to go back to the village as I sat eating
pizza and talking to my Palestinian friend in the shop where he worked in
downtown Jerusalem. All that seems long ago now. But I knew
then that my life, my times would be written in this land that I called Akha
land, this stretch of mountains in Northern Thailand to the Chinese border.
Why the Akha they ask me? Well that is as much a part of the vapor as any of
it. All I can say is that the Akha took a special part of my heart, they tied
into my connection with all the tribal villagers that I had known in my life,
be it that Indian girl in America or the Ethiopian Jews, somewhat lost in Israel. I had a special connection with the
Akha. It wasn’t what I had to give them but what they had to give me.
They had soul. The children had it. The old men had it. The young and old
women had it down to the last line in a weathered face.
When I lay asleep on the floor of an Akha hut, the murmur of voices around
the fire, I was at last home. There was no going back, only in, into this
life to be lost in it forever.
I can not say precisely what I have with these people, but a look in the face
conveys the link completely, and be it for a day or a fleeting moment, the
love is passed from them to I and from I to them.
How often I had captured that look as I walked down the road, as if we had
known each other for ever.
shuttle girls She was a pudgy akha girl
always waited in the alley of the wang tong and got girls up the backstairs.
They came out of the brothel right there and later I saw her in very
bad shape at the chiangrai river elephant camp, like it didn't pay off too well.
want to hear
his father say what a shit he was just one more time The son of the CIA guy
said that. He never did join. He said they tried the last time to
recruit him in his early thirties. His father died. His mother
called him. Said to let him know when it was over, then he would come
over, not before, cause he didn't want to hear just one last time what a shit
laundry in creek Many people did that on
both sides of the river, the burmese women across the way beating the laundry
with a club.
shingles in the clong The chinese guest house
owner bought them somewhere, bought boards used where he could and posts too.
The wood shingles he had carefully washed in the clong and then put them up
on the roofs. The whole place was one immense fire trap.
akha come and go as I drank coffee at the top north hotel They would go up and down
the street on the way to the market and also come by selling vegies.
delivery trucks Everyone got their water
this way. There were numbers of companies and the water from some was better
than others. Never buy water from a company named "Yellow
chessnuts Sold near the bridge or
the bangkok bank, a can of them for five baht, slippery and tasty if you had
time to peal them and a place to wash your hands.
painting akha girl It was her first time and
she used different colors and painted in rectangles like different fields of
food that she planted in the hills.
water pipe in
klong carried the fresh water
into town from the pumping station on the river just near the riverside and
later they built a new one beyond the Maesai Guest House just before the
border. Rats used it for a highway and snakes used it to help them get up the
pulley cross die I took the old pulleys
and made dies out of the cast iron material. This was very good for my
little silver casting projects.
tiles from grass that is what the Akha
did. First the collected the bundles of cut grass, which the raked with
a wooden hand rake to pull out the bad short pieces, then they tied them with
strips of bamboo called "ah nay" and carried them in huge bundles
on their backs, all the way back to the village, the bundle often much higher
and bigger than they were, making them quite noticeable from a distance.
weaving scene on the road to chiang
saen through the back villages many women have looms and do weaving.
without eye protection bridge man with daughter
now working like that in such
very bad for the eyes, but that is how they do it, never saw a work bench,
everything squatting while
looses two cabins This was an old guest
house in Maesai. They had two cabins which the river ate. They
used to have lots of paper back books, shelves of them, but I don't know what
happened, the whole place ran down with time.
Yao The Yao hilltribe had a village on road to Doi
Maesalong. They had several villages up in that region. They
prefered silver work, the woman wore balck turban head coverings and big
jackets that always looked very hot.
yao collector michael goh and his story about lewis head
dress sales michael goh collected yao ornament, but he knew of lewis dealing in
Akha Head dresses.
you get in a
wreck as a foreigner, you have to pay unless you are clever,
but the thais always think you should
fellow at corner shop of wang thong they all gathered
here. They sold cigarettes and soveniers to the tourists, sometimes
charging what they could to make a profit.
village burned Half of it. Zera’s
house. Everyone has rebuilt but him. No money being pastor and
He came to me and said he lacked money skill. He knew how to sell land
but that took capital, but didn’t know how to make persistent small
16, 2000 Chinese Restaurant
I ate there a lot in the evenings. Not because the food was so
fantastic but because there weren't a whole lot of food choices in maesai at
night. I never really got them trained even though I always ordered
exactly the same thing each night so as to not confuse them. You have
to make it extremely simple for people here.
The place was well lit, a little cluttered and picutres of Jesus everywhere,
rather in contrast to the fact that mindless Thai sitcoms played non stop and
it was almost impossible to get service at your table because they were all
so glued to the TV like the big boob. They seldom could get an order
right and seldom tried, you really had to spell it out to them.
Bring any western friend and you had to warn them by aggreement before you
sat down that the restaurant would not get the order right.
Located near the Shell gas station. There was a phone booth out front
that stayed busy for some reason, and Sah Jeh's house was across the
street. An Akha bead shop next door was connected to the whole Pah Meeh
Akha situation in Maesai.
If you sat out on the sidewalk at one of the tables there it was sort of a
theatre. Akha girls from the massage parlor waddled by, unaware of how many
others waddled by before them like some kind of grad school. The Akha
massage instructor walked by on her way to work each night, first at Smiles
Massage then at the Ancient Massage. Smiles was a mostly legit massage
place next door to the restaurant but most the girls had left and went to the
Ancient Massage place which was really tacky and a hooking situation as well.
01 massage was up the street further. Ma Ta ran that but was killed, so the
karaoke section was closed by his wife's brother and converted into a
internet cafe, and the massage parlor kept going in back, another horrible
spot in town.
Beef gravy and mustard greens didn't taste too bad. Some cashew nuts,
some vitamilk or a coke, some squid salad maybe.
To try to order something new or different left them all confused, they
really were to be pittied.
Zera was connected to this shop. He got some mail here and knew
them. I never really knew what Zera was up to and after a final time
trying to help him and coordinate with him I gave up when I saw that for the
most part he could never get out of the take mode when it was related to
me. When I needed, he wasn't there, and it cost me a lot one time when
he was very late to pay the money. A lot!
Getting good service was difficult in any restaurant in Maesai, one had to go
to Chiangmai for that. Chiangrai had some but mostly they were related
to foreigners and bars that they ran and that was sort of a waste of time.
The falang scene in Chiangrai had a real negative side to it and the Akhas
who were stuck in the bar girl hooking side of thing were endlessly running
the falang gauntlet.
Course the falangs didn't care a thing about the poverty and human rights
abuses that put them there.
Flies filled the restaurant and you had to chase them off the table, the
vapors from the nasty sewer next to the street and bathrooms that were below
the sump level located in the kitchen - basement. This was Thai
thinking, or in this case Christian Chinese Thai thinking. Of course
Chinese thinking in Maesai was a phenomenom of its own, surprising to most
On the sidewalk they also had a wok station where they fried up huge bursts
of chilipeppers and smoke, the vapors burning your eyes from twenty feet away
if the wind was right.
Certainly not a place to eat if there were more places to choose from, but
other foreigners like myself found that there were only a couple of
restaurants that weren't bars open at night in maesai, and the rest was
street food carts where the food was even worse.
Sept 16, 2000 Maesai
In these late years the work that I had to do was emense, while the money on
which I had to do it was not much at all.
I had grown very fond of Maesai and all the villages and towns of
course. The Akha villages were usually poor but dear. The Thais
towns all had some gentle secret to unfold. I couldn't inmagein the
people who spoke evil of this town or that as to me each was an adventrue and
no matter what I did therew ould not be time explore them all.
Of course the area which I had negelcted the most were the temples. I
wsa afraid of them, not of harm but to intrude, small colonies of poeople I
didn't understand because I had never delved into their workings. And
later I just came to see the whole monk thing as lazy when there was so much
that needed to be done in Thailand to make the whole thing better for the
One day I would have to take the time to investigate one of the older
temples. I saw a real old interesting one down south of Prae on the way
to a remote Akha village.
The air was growing cool early this fall and there hadn't been much rain or I
had just been real busy.
Before it used to be that maesai really closed down around but now there was a lot of cart
traffic later on, well, not a lot, nothing like a nightlife like in
Chiangrai, but at least a few people out.
ChineseSchool So this girl from the
Chinese restaurant named Moo took me to her chinese language school, which
was a rough place, the kids had to be controlled with pounding switches and
the slightest fight soon emptied all the classrooms to watch the outcome in
I did not yet know what "show and tell" was and how an asian woman
"showed" a man, but it was clearly done to indicate she was getting
the dog from him and to let everyone know that. So either you should be
or shouldn't go along for the game.
This was schooling at high speed on a mass level. The teacher speaks all in
Chinese from what I can tell and the kids respond. If she was speaking
english it would be very fast even for me and people tell me that I speak
fast. But even more so for kids.
The chinese teacher wore a cross, so was this a religious gig as well?
Sept 17, 2000 POW Story
Tar Oauk, Naung Khem, Laos
Old American Army Base, Regiment Center
3 white buildings
2 already collapsed or damaged
They needed 8,000 baht (over $300 at the time) and a couple of months to get
into the area casually etc.
This was given to me by the man who came from Burma to teach english to my
wife at the Maesai Plaza Guest House.
Below is direct copy of text of document:
Get an evident about some American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam war are
It ws one afternoon in April in 1990.
We were happened to meet at oneo fo our friends house in Tachileik and
talking about here and there without aim and object and afer chatting about
half an hour, our topic changed to the vietnam war.
Meanwhile among our friends one started his experience about meeting with a
Lahu man (a hilltribes people who mostly live in china, burma and laos)
who told him once about he met some white men in the jungle seemed to be
American soldiers going to the North guarded by some armed Laotian soldeirs,
they were wearing the lao traditional costumes carrying some tools looked
like spades and so on. It was in the Lao's territory.
The reason why that Lahu man had to go to that place was he was going to buy
some pigs in Lao villages and so h e had to go around one village to another
finding cheap pigs and when he had them he used to come and sell them on the
Burma side. Lahu men are fond of going to one place to another by
shortcut road. Especially they like to climb the mountains straightly,
they don't care whether the road is rough or steep. They don't like to
go the old roads like others do. So we thought by thta chance sake, he
could manage to see the scene of American soldiers, otherwise there was no
chance to see such scene as that boundary might be extremely
prohibited. He mentioned the number of soldiers were thirty or so, he
couldn't give the exact amount because he had to peep and look and on the
other hand the distance was a little far and they were walking. He
mentioned the white men clothes were mostly tattered and torned. Some
were walkign so slowly that he coudl hear the sound of shouting seemed to be
an order to walk quickly.
That Lahu man is the friend of one of our friends. After our friend
told us about that we discussed if that news could be true or not.
Fortunately one day we could read from the Bangkok Post that the American
Government was concerned about that matter and tried to deal with the Vietnam government to search American soldiers
victims and most were believed to be still alive and at large. So
we could certain that the news that this Lahu man told us must be true.
From that day on we tried to find an American who would interest in that
matter and join us. But it has already lasted two years, we couldn't
find any person who is interested in it. Some people would think that
we are so imquisitive on the matter that not concern with us. At any
case on the humanitarian point of view it is the thing for us that, must to
do. Just imagine a very popular and well knwn citizen are now facing
the worst life waiting for the hopeless future (until death - but crossed
out) spending their seconds to their last breath. The Lahu man
made sure of his information about the men were Americans by telling that
they were white skinned men and all wore beard.
And it happened one day, I met one American business man talking him about
that story and he is the only man who interested in it. So the next day
I went and met with my friend and asked him to go and meet that Lahu man and
talk about it. In this matter I m ust clear that that Lahu man is the
third person for me, he is not my friend, but he is my friend's close
friend. The next day my friend went to that man's village and talked
about it. He said it had lasted already lasted two years and he isn't
sure whether they are still alive or they are at the same place.
That old place was near the two places called Tar Oauk and Naung Khem, Naung
Khem was once an American base or an important place, there it had three
white big buildings, but now there is only one left. Two were already
collapsed or destroyed by the Laos. The place h e found the Americans
was around those area. There are only a few villages there but
surrounded by thick forest. If he had to go there again he must take a
risk and go there as a pig trader again. He must try to become close
friend with the residents and the elders of the villges. He must spend
at least four months there. To go and buy pigs and sell to the other
places. He must go there frequently and find out the possible way to
get the clues again. But there is no possibility to ask any person
there. That would be a danger for him. The Laos soldiers or agents are all around in
every village. If it is possible to approach like that he can get the
clues in a short time. But he said he dare not to do that. So he
has to take time to go around that place and pretends himself as if he isn't
interested in such fields.
His problem is when he goes there must spend money to buy pigs and sells them
to the other places. That is the investment we have to find for him.
Firstly it must sure that he gets the exact news. To b ring big camera
So we suggest him nt to take any cameras first. Firstly he must spot
the place, later to find out the way to take the photographs. We choose
small pocket size one use fuji camera which cost 240 baht. and as the main
point to be able to start th is project he need 8000 baht to trade pigs and
spend some money as a dealing with the villages and the elders of the
villages. This point would make confusion to the person who interested
in the work of thinking this is only making a story to finding money because
8000 may be a lot of amount for some but little to others. Actually, to
buy one pig costs at least 2000 baht to 4000 baht. So 8000 baht is the
reasonable amount that he asked. When he started this work he must buy
pigs and spend some money with the vllagers to make good friend. After
becoming friends he can go where ever he likes.
One Legged Man
The grey haired Akha man
hopped along on crutches, one leg gone from a land mine he stepped on while
in the Burma Shiang Hai army.
On his hands were large coin sized callouses from the crutches that he used
to walk while travelling to beg. But there were others in the same
plight who employed themselves usefully.
Maybe beggars are also diplomats in that they represent the poor who don't
come out of their houses and alleys.
He told me that he had an artificial leg but that the ankle of it was
broken. I told him to bring it over and I would fix it, but he
never did and with time I no longer saw him.
Angel July 30, 1993
Swedish Man Dies, Mark Dies
Sometime yesterday afternoon a swedish man staying in room 50 here at the
Maesai Plaza Guest House died from an apparent overdose of heroin and
Several days ago I quit taking my business to KK Guesthouse which is being
run by an American named Joe Esparenza, because of the poor service. As
a result he retaliated by telling his friends that I was some kind of drug
informant which got the desired response of making people suspicious of me.
It began when Nick Nickotoola from New Zealand who is married to an Akha girl in a
village near Bon Thom, stopped me at the back of the Riverside Guest House
and asked me why I was telling everyone that he was a junkie. He had a
Swedish guy with him on the motorbike and had just come from some contact on
the west end of the Maesai Guest House beyond it. Where they sold drugs.
The Swedish guy was a friend of Lothar, the German.
I considered Nick's behaviour strange and the way he worded it caused me to
think somenoe put words in his mouth.
The next morning I was down stairs with a friend talking about a Bible
Translation and having my breakfast tea when the same man from Sweden came over and asked for the salt.
He began to speak of how Joe mistreated him because he forgot to promptly
return the key. So he moved out.
He told me about the guitar he had been playing the night before on the
railing over the klong. He finally ended the conversation, his speech
being slurred and his hair unkept, it was now Thursday. His name was
Then last night another fellow named Mark came at me in the Riverside Guest
House restaurant while I was having dinner and told me I shouldn't stay in
town or I would die like Lars did, which was the first I heard about it. Then
I found out that Joe had been saying this too and that Lars really had died
just about an hour after I met him at breakfast.
I went to Surin to buy beads and when I came back Mark was dead too. He
had some fight with Nick and fell in the river and drowned they said.
There was the one guy
with the radio protruding, the sunglasses, the cut hair, square jaw, so
conspicuous, living under the bridge as it were.
The border is porous, remember?
Congested Maesai had gotten more
and more congested over the years and now was very bad, Sailom Joi very
difficult to get down with a vehicle.
Maesai By 2000 there were steady
changes in Maesai, the selling of junk from China cluttering the main street with booths
for those thaisa nd tourists from Bangkok who didn't cross the border to Burma.
There were so many stamds selling this stuff near the bridge one could not
walk on the sidewalk, rocks, awning style umbrellas everywhere.
Sailom Joi was also filling with bay after bay of new shops, making it hard
to get down the street with all the pedestrians.
Yet with all the busy, Maesai still only had ne good restaruant, otherwise
the food quality was lacking.
The lack of anything resembling a library was also noticeable.
Lothar's wife I stopped at the 7-11
last night. The phillipina wife of my friend Lothar from germany, the banker guy, was there. She was
still wondering if her marriage was over. I suggested to her it
But while we taked I spotted the small group of Akha beggar boys front of the
7-11 and then one big boy, a genetic mutant, who punched the little boy,
knocked him completely down. Now the little boy we all know because his
fathere was a good man and the police caught him over nothing and he went to
prison and died there very quickly, leaving his wife to care for the small
boy and older sister. Life was rough on the streets of Maesai for that
reason. His father was a junk collector, which is hard work and long
hours for a tiny amount of money and he pushed a cart all around then has to
go the long way to sell it all, wherever that is.
Well it happened rather fast, but I up and give that big boy a lesson
and he went flying off the steps ahead of my heavy boots before he knew it.
at Joe's A guest at Joe's Guest
House died of heroin overdose today. I think I met him yesterday at the
ATM because he left his visa card in it, and I caught it for him and called
him and he said with a sigh, "Well that was stupid. Its a long way
from home to do that." but like something else was weighing him
down. People often come here to die.
Many foreigners came here and thought as a lark they would try heroin one
time but didn't know how pure it was and it would kill them very
quickly. They were often found as this guy was with the needle and
syringe still in their arm. Just injecting was a trick, they have to
melt the heroin in water, sometimes using a small piece of cotton in a spoon,
I don't know why this is, they push the cotton around with the end of the
needle, maybe keeps them from intaking dirt into the needle, then they shove
the needle in their arm and pull blood into the syringe and push it slowly
back into the arm, then pull the blood back in again, mixing the heroin
together with the blood to reinject it. I saw Nimit do this many
times, after his wife died, but before she died, she did it for him.
(Now many years later I met Nimit's first wife at the Mae Chan market)
Ah Seh told me that too much water damaged the heroin prior to injection, so
it was very important to use only barely enough to dissolve it.
Some people bought say 10,000 baht of heroin and sold it for 15,000
baht. Say a pop can size pack.
I could not think to sell what directly hurt someone's life, worth, or shut
down their energy and motivations. Mostly drugs do this.
Going to Laos For sure the verdict was
in. A huge number of tourists were now going to laos, not staying in Maesai or Thailand.
One wondered about the bombs placed there in Vientienne - a Thai plot?
I don't think it worked. Laos was more popular than ever.
Beggar Boy The little beggar boy,
older sister alive but father now dead, scored a slurpee. Fussing with
his yo-yo, which had popped off its plastic bright green sides from hitting
the pave stones of the side walk, he kicked it down the storm drain grate,
then spotted the slurpee and skimmed it off the Thai tourist so fast I didn't
even see it happen.
The Lodge This had been the first
night of good rest which I had scored in a long time. I had
found a lodge of sorts without going a long ways from Maesai. Great
view of the ountains, very much peace, quiet and a few birds. A large
lawn, iron gates, clean beds, good coffee and pleasnt people, wide halls,
cool rooms, polished floors.
Yunnan My normally cheap Chinese
restaurant was closed so I had the motorcycle taxi take me to the Yunnan. It was more expensive but more fun
also. Tonight I could affor it, I had some fried chicken pieces, som tom,
squid salad and barbecued fish. The seafood was always reasonable as
long as it was fresh and well cooked. Some beer to chase it all down
and relax. This particular night the Thais were all watching soccer so
no music, all eyes glued to the set
Meeh Naw, the Akha girl from the school was still working here. She
said that she was not married because she had no breasts and none of the men
liked her. The Thai waitresses claimed the same problems.
Sometimes my friend who worked at channel 3 came here, not tonight. Now
he was working for the Nation instead. He was also a part time artist.
He did some of the art work for the children's work book.
The booth was good, the food good, the waitresses came by for more beer and
food, the air was good, I enjoyed it, one of a few nights off. The
manager, a rather loathesome looking guy walked around, waddled would have
been a better word.
Sometimes the old Chinaman who owned the place came out front for a sit or
stroll. He ran a brothel in back. The rooms that posed as hotel
rooms were dirty, with grass green fake carpet, smoky smell, cigarette burns
everywhere, and the final smell of cheap scent being used to cover it all
He had been arrested by the US once and taken to the United States. They thought he had a heroin lab in
Maesai. After four years the DEA couldn't prove anything and sent him
home. He chuckled telling us the story. He admitted he had a lab, but it was
in Laos, not Maesai.
His adopted daughter ran the place now. She was into meth trading too it
looked like, but everyone had to lay off a while in Maesai while the army
turned up the heat. The owner of the one shop told me that anybody who
was anything was trading meth in Maesai, all the big store owners.
March 27 2000 The beggars
Some of them didn't smoke opium so we wondered what they did with all the
Maesai Merchandise trade
Crossing point of many minorities and nationalities from India to China, completely different peoples and their
completely different approach on life.
The flavor of the one street town.
The brothels and the whole mentality that goes with them, a wife whose face
is always changing
muslim man We talked
sometimes. He was a hawker near the driveway to the Wong Tong hotel in
Maesai near the bridge. I had known him ten years. He had many
kids and the last was born without the anus like many babies were showing up
in Thailand now. His wife didn't work anywhere near
herbicides but had been given a vaccine. We wondered if it was
faulty. He was very thin. A gaunt face. So thin he reminded
me of a sun parched mummy. When I had tobacco from the US I would give him some which he appreciate
Stacked The stacked and
gorgeously wrapped woman went by, her body quivering with svelte tone and
jiggle. The Thai woman tending her cart box shop followed her with gaze
as she passed up the sidewalk and on.
Slowly she looked back down at her cart of cheap wares, enclosed in glass,
and her mind elsewhere a look of forlorn acceptance at years past and beauty
never matched flickered privately on her face and lips.
Thais While I worked with the
Akha I lived in Thailand. It was many years before I learned
Thai. Generally I did not find Thai culture or the Thai way of life intersting.
They seemed a pleasant but lazy people, avoiding responsibility and
accountability for their actions. They hated criticism for their faults
right on the spot, and often became angry when criticized. You could
see it bubbling up.
I disliked most of all their treatment of the hilltribe peoples. The
Thais found no problem criticizing them.
Thai food was good many times once you knew where to eat and what or how to
order a dish., The people were pleasant if you didn't have to live in their
communities where many things did not work without proper explanation as to
A Falang guide
to Thai Manners Don't pick your teeth and
let it be seen, but shoving half your hand up your nose for something is just
fine, or spitting anywhere, or hanging a big one out of your nose with a
blast of air, the hand applied to the other side.
of morality The lack of a concept of
morality: If you can screw sombody for all that you can get, then do
it. Everything seems to be OK.
Total dishonesty. Lie about everything, back stab as a matter of
course, especially if you are gaining some benefit from them at that precise
If someone is helping you then criticize them if they don’t give you
If someone is helping you or paying you to help someone else, then totally
twist and corrupt all that is their intention for that project so that all of
the benefit of it comes to you.
Attitudes of ethnic supperiority
No thought for thy neighbor, (where relevant, the failure of the church as it
The missionary legacy.
Not willing to let you help them unless you pay to do it.
Control of the Akha script by the Baptists
Human rights violations in Burma versus those that occur regularly in
The double pricing system
The deceptive smile
The unwillingness to pass and enforce simple laws that would make life better
for everyone. Such as a fine based litter law.
Enter a shop and all they can say is ‘No’ without even
The inability of Thais to grasp many a concept.
The Thai love of noise and polution
A Half Day
Deal Every half day is a new
The need for
feminism? Or is it that people are
just bad and that the Thai women will take as much as any Thai man.
Feminism has to be built on the erroneous basis of godlessness and the
superiority of one gender over the other, the idea that you can fix one
gender without fixing the other, that they are independent in their roles,
which I would certainly think not.
understand the Akha Not that Thai scholars
didn’t exist, nor that none ever bothered to study the Akha, but the
general understanding the average Thais had of the Akha was just about zip,
and what they did know was mostly inaccuratte, ignorant, or full of
I had heard enough comments along thse lines myself and had seen enough rough
and disregarding service in the hospital to know that the Thais had not much
regard for the Akha.
Pivotal policies among different government agencies left the Akha in Thailand quite marginalized regardless of what
some better informed Thais might feel about the Akha and it was those
policies that made life hardest for them.
While claming in UN documents that Akhas had full benefits of the Kingdom,
this was not at all the fact.
the hill tribes The Thais haven't the
slightest clue why we find the hilltribe interesting.
I think maybe foreigners are overfed with commercialism and long for simpler
Falang as? How Thais appear to view a
foreigner. The constant ‘Falang’, their convenient ‘monkey’.
This makes it easier to understand attitudes in the west toward
Vision Ever try to move down a
sidewalk in Thailand? Well until recently with the
advent of high speed instructional death, white paint for vehicles and
corpses, to show the outline of wrecks and body parts, the Thais didn't have
much understanding of any object moving aside from that of their own body,
its placement, or the movement of a motorcycle or truck that they were
driving. Just fly out there into the road. Someone else dies, it
was their Karma, or maybe yours? Move over to let someone walk by when
you are blocking the road or isle? A simple "get out of the way"
seems to be most effective for those who otherwise can't see anyone in their
Keep It Dark The future demise of
penny annie cultures that ‘overcharge’ for the human condition
and the flow in the direction of the standardized, centralized culture with
replication of good events is predictable.
Darkly lit Chinese shop owners, old merchandise, poorly marked, no return
policy, overpriced, this is all moving Thai society toward mega stores with
good lighting, fresh merchandise, a no quabble refund policy, and people spend
tons of money. Senile mom and pop just can't offer this, and if ever
there was a case for running the mom and pop out of business it was in Thailand.
One of the powers of western culture is its ability to replicate itself.
Here we look at the strengths of western culture. There is not so much
future in going back but in redesigning the future, taking the best from the
past and improving on it with our knowledge of the present and the
perspective of history.
In this we enter into the issue of the heights of civilization. Why
does one culture resist so steadily to do the things that would make life
better for them without changing anything that they have at present?
How would it destroy Thai culture if Thai’s didn’t throw their
trash out the window at all times?
And then with all the good that western culture has, can it make peace with
the fact that it eats over its share, that it has killed millions to maintain
this status quo, that it over indulges to its own harm, that it generates
tools of laziness such as chemicals, that in the end, will undo all the good
it could have had. The world is not short of good options, but the
human condition refuses to grasp these on a regular basis to the benefit and
gain of all in the long term. Running on a win/loose proposition has no
future either. Less anyone think that current western culture is answer
Thailand is rife with corruption The police are corrupt,
translating the law into their own interest, and doing many things which are
highly illegal in any sense, particularly their involvement in the flesh
trade of prostitution.
The inability of Thais to grasp logic, as in why one might do something for
the benefit of all or for a benefit tomorrow. This doing of everything
for the moment seems to explain a lot of the problems in Thailand. That there is a tomorrow implies
the issue of accountability, of morality, that tomorrow will bring us to task
for what we have done today. Most of what I see in Thailand tries to deny that there is a tomorrow.
In the west we might call it judgement or accountability, but in acutuality
it is only the simple truth that there will be a tomorrow wether we like it
or not! And that tomorrow will ask questions of today and what we did with
today. This is an essence of God, why there is a God, and why we must
give answer for what we have done with the time. Therefore, being as
the underpinning ideas of western morality, even if not well lived by, are
something crucially important, it makes one question how conversion can take
place without the ability to grasp these underpinning concepts that give
reason for one to believe in conversion, right and wrong and what we call
morality. Even in the Christians that I know in the orient, they
usually have no concept of why believe, it is more often something to gain
position or to gain a difference with those around them all the while
blatantly missing why it is that we believe what it is that we believe as
Take human dignity, for example, in the west we believe in that, and here
again I don’t mean to say that there are not gross injustices, but many
of us do live by the ideals of that. When was the last time that the
west knocked off 20 to 60 million souls as in the cultural revolution.
Herein lies the basis of Judaic thought and God himself. In Jerusalem there is the Gate to Heaven, Bethel. In the heart as well there is the
gate to heaven, Bethel. Let every man answer that for
themself. One seeks tenderness in life, giving birth to life.
Of a surety, the Jewish people as well as many Christians give thought to
these concepts, the future of humanity, solutions for humanity and such.
Again Now once again the border
is closed and the longer one looks at it one realizes that it is going to
take a long time to rebuild what it is that has been lost in the last
years. Social salvation is not going to come with so much lost
time. Neither is it going to come from the ‘democracy element’.
Thailand I hadn’t spent a
lot of time in south Thailand as I didn’t care for the large
quantities of tourists. It has some beautiful beach areas but I prefer
the northern mountains.
Nan Kai was flat, hot and dry and deforested when I was there. Sure a
sign of cutting too many trees.
Fortunately I was able to visit Surin during the rainy season when things
were lush with green, new rice and water.
The town was obviously agricultural with far more land working items in the
shops than I had found in the north. Intricate baskets, fish traps and
curious farm devices. Town was congested near the market, not aesthetic
with the days mareket refuse heaped up.
The people are pleasant enough but a forang is obviously not that
common. The outlying areas are obviously poor and in apparent malaise
it appears or just resting peacefully. A westerner can so easily draw
the wrong inference from what he sees.
Many people appear to be driving to town to buy vegetables rather than grow
their own however. Many times I have seen problems intertwined in a
remedyless fashion. ‘We can’t do this because of that’
type of mental habit.
Thai people Mostly in Thailand people weren’t up to much.
They used the borrowed technology they needed, ignored most of the attatched
parameters and wallowed on.
Roads. Yes a good idea.
Laws to govern them? Why?
Motorcycles and cars. Great. Speed Controls?Concrete was great, but why
a building code?In all the Chiangrai area there was one institute and nothing
resembling a university.
Prostitution, drugs, smuggling, there was plenty of that.
And oh yes, minless TV. Proof that yes, you can mezmerize a whole
nation on one channel.
Thai kitchen A thai slop house, dirty
and full of flies, but often functional. Usually I don’t get sick
but sometimes on seafood which I usually stay away from. The quality of
cooking that most Thais eat is usually poor, not near as definitive as say
middle eastern or Japanese.
For good Thai food go to the more expensive restaurants and that is no
The street restaurants know nothing but to throw in lots of oil and hash it
were my Thai friends on Sailom Joi First the fellow with the
cotton white hair, always smiling.
He gave me a ride from the post one time when I didn’t even have money
for a motorbike to come back.
Then there is the old man and woman with the little shop across from the
school who always wave. She is a big kind woman, he a smaller man with
a large scar on his scalp. Both good folk I think.
The minimart owner is a friendly and funny guy. Sometimes he has questions
for me or sometimes he is hanging out with Sachit, the owner of Joe’s
guest house building watching the BBC on the cable channel in the mini
mart. His wife runs the ruby buying and selling from her desk in
the next room. They live upstairs and that is the condo strip on the
side street where I had the school long ago. The first school.
How things change, how they stay the same.
Then there is the spright older guy who rides his bike and lives two doors
down from the second school in the big tall building. He lives next
door to the tambon chief. Good guy.
And the Tambon chief, no one here after 6 he said about the school or he’d
have problems with immigration. Excuse us, but the Akha gate is about
another culture, you can’t have it here, put it inside, course I knew
that. But sometimes when you are starting up you loose perspective and
then it all shapes up clearer later on when you’ve gotten some wind in
Then there was the time when I drove the bike out of the school. A
power company truck was stopped in the center of the road talking to some guy
on a motorbike on my side so I thought I’d go around the other way and
just as I did I knew there would be someone coming and there was so I spun it
hard to the left again, lost it, caught the throttle with that hand and the
bike spun out and hit the front of the power truck. The guy hopped out,
and I was still startled so I bawled him out for being in the middle of the
road, he apologized before he could take a good look and I took advantage of
his backing up and drove off.
One time while they were building the road, blane and I hauled a good ton of
broken rock from the wall the tambon chief had torn down and dumped it in
front of our place and the neighbors where all the water was building up so
that they could walk along. Bucket after five gallon bucket of rock,
two at a time down the road through the mud for hours into the night, but our
section of road was nice in the morning.
In praise of
Thailand’s Women In all the world over
there are not women who can so pleasantly show some kindness to a man as can
a Thai woman. Thai women are beautiful, soft spoken and well
mannered. They enrich the role of women as compared to their
overbearing overweight western counterparts who in reality are only unhappy
sedcond class men.
Thai women are pleast although equally capeable of being fierce. In a
contest foreign women can not compete, no matter what role they choose.
A thai woman will get what she wants more quickly.
Thais glued to
the TV We had TV in the west,
but as a diet of what else there is to do, TV in Thailand and the amount of
time Thais spend watching Bangkok based fabricated fantasy is just one more
indicator of the glass ceiling in Thailand as do speed pills. Thai
people should demand more.
Thai Fights Thai men and their
insistance on coming back for more until it all burns down.
Pointing the finger and blathering loudly at the mouth, they incite hatred
and vengence by the other men and soon there is fights and blood. I saw
them kicking a man in the head till he didn't move, then he was loaded in tuc
tuc by friends. That was out front of the three sisters place across
from the Guest house.
The one sister, finally made some money and had her boobs done, call her miss
silicone now, looks really funny. Like what do you do with boobs at 30?
Breaking a bottle is another thing that thai men like to do, slash, jab, cut
Thais for a
loss Thais boast the hill
tribes but haven’t the slightest clue why we find them interesting as
Thai women and
gold The Story in Thailand? Well, women have to have their
gold. Seems a religion. I don't care for it or like it.
Seems self centered and vain and I can find no reason for it but that.
They may not hold onto it for a minute in a crisis, but they otherwise want
to endlessly be on parade that they have made it in some superficial
way. Now what would that be? Something new? They have money? A car? A
house? All the plastic Sony toys? Good for them. But their vegetables
problably are loaded with pesticides.
Every person who is not a Thai, is just a "Falang" to the
Thais. They have no clue that Thailand is not the center of earth any more than
any other place and that people come from all over. This is a really
butt stupid behavior on the part of Thais. Everywhere you go, someone
is busy pronouncing it.
"Hey mommy, Falang" the kids shouts out in the store, pointing.
pay more In Thailand this is the case. Get used to it. You
will pay more for product and services.
Thai, maesai Sidewalk party and
regency ‘See Dang’ Thong
Yeah, she did her best to get me drunk, succeeded pretty well, the burmese
boys helped me get going the next morning.
They had a lot of gasoline commercials, but shampoo commercials on how to
look like the ultimate plastic woman were the real big thing in Thailand. Who knows how many shampoos get
Backwater Thai Towns Go anywhere off the
beaten path in Thailand and you found forgotten Thai communities.
Examples of resources wasted but not in a mean way, just that no one guided
people. Once again the glass ceiling. Passing through the poor towns,
one could not help but feel pity for these abandoned places, the Thais in the
cities denying their past and roots, virtual goast towns, where the food, the
people, and the friendship was still good, something lost with increasing
commercialism pushed in Thailand.
Now where did they learn that from?
I think some of the abrasion between the Akha and the Thai is that the Thais
have trouble coming to grips with the culture that they too have lost.
There appears to b e a basic and collasal lack of any standard in Thailand. When the Thais adapt a western
standard it is relative to something they want, not b ased on an ethic of
Desiring a standard for reasons is way different than mimizing a standard.
The shoddy sewing of clothes as compared to the high quality of food in the
Thai food preparation is very lacking. Illness common.
Land of Gates Thailand seemed a land of big welcoming gates and
wasted projects. Great ceremonies and small if not invisible
Grounds The Old Lanna Guest house
in Chinag Mai a little behind the night market and near the fish food market,
plain cheap rooms.
I bought beads here, sorted them i ther ooms, years ago.
I still stopped here regularly and stayed if in Chiangmai. The owners
new me and would help me if I was ill or had an emergency of any kind.
I stopped by and saw my first wife Attur, someone at Som Pah Sak said she was
dead, but of course she isn't, just short and fat, but the voice as kind and
soft as ever, can't say I'd ever forget her convincing voice, selling
something to foreigners, and tonight was no exception. She caugth my
eye, held it for a minute, then I moved on and she went back to her
sale. Times, hearts, places, memories.
Chiangmai full of hotels, clutter and old bar girls, with aging old men gone
deaf with rock music, still living in Vietnam's talk. Had it always been so of
vices, a bunch of loosers?
Funy how much energy people spend searching for themselves.
connections Was hard to connect and I
had to connect the computer often to anyone's phone line I could find.
Sometimes I even went down to Martin's place in Pasang which was quite a trip
just to do email.
Now we have computer cafe's most places.
Triangle People always came here
asking where the golden triangle was not realizing that the whole region was.
This still went on, you bet it did. Opium and heroin. Hey you could buy
it right here in Maesai, but only a nut would go injecting that shit into
their veins un known. But lots came here and did and many were dead
before they realized that it was more pure than the shitty cut stuff they
bought back in their country.
Not the scamming nature of many of the men, like here, would you like to rut
one of our girls that we use for a pig wallow?
Ahm Ahm was a Wa girl who
came to work for me. She chewed great mouth fulls of tobacco and was
very thin. At that time I had a school in the end of the alley near the
mini market on Sailom Joi.
She had TB. She left off working for me when I was gone for a few more days
than normal, and I think she later did the hooker thing in a house. She had
scabies as well and was not well from this either. Most of it could be
attributed to bad nutrition. Even Maesai was very poor in these years
and little trade crossed the border. Thin and dark, I saw her last walking
with other hookers down to the river.
Akha Girl There was this Akha girl,
I forget her name, her mother was a real nice woman and hanging out with a
kindly Thai fellow, they sold things on the main street together, Buddhist
lockets I think it was. Their daughter, well a Jewish fellow took
advantage of her and I saw him in the morning and he bragged that he went at
her all night and gave her two dollars.
He asked me if I had a lighter, took it, handed me a box of matches and
Akha Girl with
Japanese Boy Friend She was half Lahu
actually. She had worked at the guest house for years, a slight
woman. Her boy friend was a pleasant fellow that seldom spoke.
She had a shop for a while behind the main street, or a shop box I should
say, selling things. They had a motorbike together and would come and
go when he was in town but then he went back to Japan in between times. Many of the
Japanese here, I didn't know what they did. They had jobs, that was
all. They weren't working on anything, building anything, when they ran
out of money they went home and then came back again and stayed till it was
gone. They were notorious girl chasers, loved the red light area of
She stayed in a room at the guest house for many years now, like myself, and
I had no idea what she planned for the future.
Works With The Water Colors An Akha girl came to my
house once to clean. She was from a traditional village and was very
lonely. I had some water colors and a stack of paper and I gave her
these. She went to work till they were all used up and then we taped them up
on the wall, careful colors, painted in their place, like crops in the
I sent her back after a month because it was too difficult to see her
seperated from her family. I got her coins and cloth for a hat and she
made it, she was very surprised that it was suppose to go with her when she
She was from one of the villages that Agaw was working with.
During that time I had this big snake at my house. It always slept in the
water tank, so she never liked going there to get water.
girl works for joe 1500 baht and she will
lay down, bonneys friend
Ah Muay was the Akha girl that Nick fought over at the cowboy bar many years
ago where the drunk scot came and stirred it up with the police. The
owner wouldn't let Nick have her. He was the guy with the low riding
motorbike. There was a big fight, the place got torn up. Later Ah Muay
had malaria real bad, then I didn't see her for a while, then she went to
work at Joe's place during the time that Bonney, this older Akha woman,
worked for me taking care of my place. Bonney said that sometimes Ah Muay
turned tricks for some extra cash. She could make 1000 baht a month, or
lay down for 1500 for the night. Made business sense, that's all.
Ah Muuh Her ill mother at the
school and how she treated and then regretted that, after her mother died.
She was this girl at the bridge, one of the photo girls, her mother came to
my place for a while. She came for an IV, that was when she was dying. Ah
Muuh came and wouldn't even talk to her but with a snear and disgust, that
was when Ah Muuh was one of the Big Six of Andy's. She said that she
could see spirits in the room. She got to feeling better and went home
and died. Ah Muuh had also been one of the the Gang Of Six. She was
hard on her younger sister. Her older sister had a baby and was very
poor and worked at the rock pit on the Burma side. Someone told me they weren't
Loh Meeh but Ooh Loh and that she just picked the headress because it was
more colorful and sporty to the tradition, which it was. Many Akha
women did this. The head dress distinctions had to do with what clans
and what mountains they came from way up in Burma along the China border.
She and Ah Tooh later worked at a clothes shop selling clothes in the
market. They were there a long time but then finally Ah Muuh did
the thing and went to Bangkok. People can "save" these
girls all day long but if there isn't help to their community as a whole it
isn't going to make any sense.
them all out Andy helped set up one of
the schools, but it did not go well, as he soon owned the idea, and the idea
changed and I did not think it would last, nor was there much agreement about
His belief was that people who had money were smart, maybe others not so
much. I don't think he thought this in necessarily an unkind way, even
if it was.
He thought that people did things because they lacked poor self esteem, not
because they lacked poor character or the people around them did.
Poor self esteem could be fixed with money because that is what he had a lot
So Andy gave them all the money, and he kept giving it, and it had a certain
effect on all the kids that I didn't want to work with them any more and as
well, when time had gone by Andy didn't work with them any more either.
I am not sure he noticed this effect or not.
Later he mentioned to me that he saw what happened to some of the girls.
We didn't talk about our differences but just tried to be friends.
Some of the girls who had been through schooling that Andy put them through
still ended up on the street because they said that there was no where
to go with it once they got out of school. This was my chief differnce
with Andy on how I thought that assistance should be structured.
Meeh Seh, Gang
of Six Meeh Seh went to choking
mita at the bridge, sort of like her closing act. She soon became a
hooker, along with Meeh Pymm, and then their older sister followed.
They were all pretty girls but snotty soon became a better word and their
motorcycles and telephones and nice clothes strapped on tightly to their
bodies revealing all could not hide the ever increasing leather of their
Meeh Seh was a member of the original gang of six. These were Meeh Seh,
Ah Pymm, Ah Muuh, Meeh Tooh, Meeh Smm, and I forget the last one.
Ah Nyuuh She was a minor wife,
later wang tong
She was the young girl who could speak english who first taught me words at
the bridge, but then later I lost track of her. Then years later I saw
her and she was the second wife of a Chinese man who then went on to
dump her. After that she became a hooker at the Wang Tong Massage in the
She was a good hearted and talented girl, yet there were not enough
people to help with good things for these young people to do, and as the
poorest the Akha often ended up in bad affairs.
Zera Assay metal sample
Zera gave me this sample of metal to assay one time. I think it was a lot of
lead or zinc.
He told me about these stones that they found that when you put them in the
fire after a few minutes they get hot and explode, blowing the fire and ashes
There was much mining and mineral in Burma so people were often bringing me this or
that to look at.
Also there was the 1804 Silver dollars that had never been made and these
counterfits that were given to someone by their aunt who worked at the US
Embassy in Rangoon and got it as a gift from a diplomat (for what service?)
and I had even seen one, one with a woman's face on it, but from the get go
the work was poor, the face seemed to be pointing the wrong way, like it had
been copied, and of course was the wrong style and artist for those years of
coins. Further, NO 1804 dollars were minted.
Mooh Jurh He was my editor, worked
with me on the writing for many years.
He lived on the Burma side so every time that they closed the
bridge conditions became very difficult.
Sometimes it took us nearly a year to get reconnected. Like this time,
after the war at the border between the Thai, Shan, Lahu and Burmese.
He had gone to the mountain, I had left a note for his son for him to
call his father to come down but no reply yet. It might take well
another month. Our books sat, unprinted, and we had many more to
write. I had to pay both him and Abaw Leeh Gaw for their time.
Mooh Jurh had a wife and four kids, Abaw Leeh Gaw was getting on in years.
Only the fact that his mother was still alive reasurred me.
Mooh Jurh made my first experiment station for catfish which ran very well.
From this I built the larger one. Mooh Jurh was disappointed because
the bridge closed another time, while the winter was really cold, and the
fish got set far back.
Mooh Jurh needed his pay, he was expensive, had been a priest once but quit
to get married. He had gone to the Catholic Seminary in Keng
Tung. He was the only person that I knew who could mark the Akha tone
symbols correctly. There was Ah Gaw but Ah Gaw was very messed up about
the church and was always working on some angle, not dependably doing his
work, not skilled at the language in the same way as Mooh Jurh. Ah Gaw
couldn't let you know if he adequately understood something or not and would
often say yes when there was no recognition of the situation. I had
started working on the books first with Ah Gaw and then met Mooh Jurh because
he was doing language translations for Jon. They sat often in the end
of the guesthouse at a large wood table for hours and days on end, then Jon
got cerebral malaria and almost died, Mooh Jurh going to check on him daily.
Ah Gaw He helped my language
work along, sort of helped me with it at the start, least to keep the dream
alive. He had interesting things to say about it and now years later
when the new script is done I would like to know what he thinks.
Leeh Jurh He was also one of my
writers on the Akha books.
brother Joseph He was also a good writer
and helped Mooh Jurh out with some of the production of writing cause there
was a lot to do. I hadn't had them come over for a while during this
time of no money. Joeseph was also a priest.
Mooh Jurh and Josef's father was a wonderful man living in a village outside
of the town. One of the few Christian Akha I knew who trusted the old
ways still. He was sort of an interesting mix of both and wonderful in
hospitality. His stone and painted house reminded me of a ranch house
complete with outside walk along porch.
He had gone with me to villages in Thailand and seen the incredible confusion made in
the Christian villages.
He commented on the loss of Akha culture and how that parents failed to pass
all the knowledge down in its entirety. Course much of this could be
blamed on his own church in Keng Tung and the Baptists.
The heroin man
at Top North This one legged man,
sweat pouring down his face, asked me if he knew where he could score any
heroin. He was from LA. Said he'd used the stuff ever since he
lost his leg.
and check point atookala and leg
We went to this check point and he didn't tell me there was pot under the
seat of his motorbike.
They asked me to leave, I didn't know what to do, and I wasn't crazy enough
to travel on the roads with pot, even if I did smoke it which I didn't, so I
left when they ordered me to but pulled off into the bush where I could see
his bike and hear voices and yelling. Eventually Nick came out and
revved his motorbike and left. He passed me but I caught up with him
and asked him what happened. He blamed the incident on me in some odd
Then he took off fast ahead of me and when I came to one of the other
checkpoints the cops mentioned to me that he seemed much afraid, like he was
up to something.
The Guy from
Singapore knew edward, had a girl
here, connection to Prasit and that side road whore house near Ban Tom
The Hawaiian The man was drunk and
beligerant. He kept saying something about a fat jap (the big guy was
Thai) and then he went and grabbed one of the bar girls, demanding she light
his cigarette upon which the other table of guests got up to leave. One
guest came over to him and the American punched him with the palm of his hand
thrust out to the chest, fingers up.
I was going to tell him to make a note of the haircut but it was too
The fellow was a major from the Maechan Police Force.
We went outside, the American still raving, and after a while a tiny Thai
policeman showed up on motorbike. He went inside, then all we heard was
"I policeman, you listen me!" Then out came the guy in cuffs, the
policeman half his size, and was loaded a little more sober in a truck.
But when he got to the jail, he felt the cuffs were too tight so he put his
leg through the bars and kicked over the large clock which tetered then fell
against the officers desk, smashing all the works and glass out of it.
Big clock. Big bill.
Florence An old hotel, on the
border with Burma, the Top North. Run by Chinese the scene
was human enough. The mother was a stern chinese and she had a daughter who
followed suit. The son had grown an ability to shed all of their spells and
always sat with the greatest of ease behind the lobby desk as if a little
gleeful and smug that he had broken their trance and hex by having married a
lithe young woman form across the street or somewhere else with none of those
incessant genes. Now one of the sisters was running a bookstore next door
with her husband who would seem more the catch than the catcher.
However he spent enough time away that maybe this was his solace. These
two sisters, both Chinese. Never mind that, enough to say that even the
situation itself had its clever moments. Now Florence, she was a loudly professed Christian,
always talking about God and Jesus and praise god for this and that and she
was the most judgmental and least tolerant except for her mother, the queen
bee, would be my guess. But Florence couldn’t convince her sister the
bookstore keeper to ‘Go for Jesus’ or whatever. Never had time
the sister claimed. Funny but she probably never would with the hard bitten
reality of that Jesus. Poor Jesus. Shoved about and used as a stick to beat
and whip the hearts of humans. Surely he had other intentions. Yes step
right up an buy your pharisee of the week tonic. Guaranteed to hurt a hell of
a lot of people before the bottle is empty.
Charlie of Burma Charlie is an interesting
Burmese man. He sells anything near the bridge.
A few days ago some man came to his house drunk and began fighting with
him. His forhead cut open with a beer bottle and all his eyes black. He
took a knife and stabbed one of them sending him to the hospital. The police
let him off since he was defending himself in his house, and later the young
man came back and apologized after a little stomach surgery.
Jim Goodman learned under leo.
Leo treated him poorly.
Started in san jaluen I think.
Came from work in Nepal
Smiles I think that they called
her Fie for fire, cause that is what she was.
Smiles was the only place in town it seemed any more that you could get a
She was a nymph if there ever was one. She used to bang on my door at
night and beg me to come up to her room. A little too wild for this
guy. A chin woman, from Burma, she had three kids and had run away with
them from Chin hill. I don’t know what happened to her. She spoke
pretty good english, and had this really great accent, like when she would
get mad and then go into a sputtering roll of Chin, I think Chin was probably
a pretty good language for being angry in.
She was like so many here. Apart from who she was, I mean as just a
human. You saw them. They rolled up to and then past your life,
and you heard stories but never saw again, and you wonder how much of them
the sharks ate.
I heard that she had borrowed money to start a store and then went belly up,
and she ran away because she couldn’t pay back the bill. Here if you
can’t pay back a loan, they come and beat you or kill you. Not so
nice. If it happens on Sunday, Monday won’t be so great either.
Joe He could have been a good
businessman, funny, easy to engage people, but he also put people off and
made enemies. He ran a guesthouse, sold food, and ran tours into Burma.
The Fat headed
Bomber Pilot In some minutes the fat
headed bomber pilot knocked once and came in, his greedy eyes looking
about the house.
Bomber Pilot In my heart all day there
was this still silence, like the bomb had finally goine off and the smoke was
clearing in the room.
I didn’t feel any strong emotion more just a keen awareness of the
events and who the latest player in it was.
A reporter was up here and was talking about his experiences having been next
door and having talked extensively with the fat headed boomber pilot ‘Yeah,
he was really something, out of this world. Bragging about bombing
vietnamese from 90,0000 feet.
Real Brave fellow!’
The Bus came around the mountain curve and there next to the road was another
bus broken down . Whatever the driver’s intentions they worked to the
advantage of all the passangers, as he braked to a stop to check out the
situation with the other bus.
We all piled out, some of the people sitting in the shade of banana trees and
others walking into the brush to relieve themselves, an eternal
I strolled up to the other bus along with a few other people and our driver.
As we got to the back of the bus I could smell an odor like burnt hydraulic
fluid, something that proably used as fuel in hell, and just then a fat
white baldheaded man rolled out from under the bus and upon seeing me
first thrust out a greasy fat hand and in a self congratulating way said, ‘
Hey there. That’s fixed. These idiots don’t know
anything.’ The driver and attendant stood by looking discontent
and sour at a foreigner of his nature having taken charge of their affair and
having put them aside with contempt. I couldn’t know why, with
this loaughing baboon of a man blathering on about all his great
success. But just then there was a ‘Bang’ and a cloud of
smoke shot out from under the bus with the immediate fierce cracklingg of
fire and electrical fire as wellickly turned balck, engulfing the rear of the
the bus as the driver ran for an extinguisher.
The fat headed bomber pilorched over s onto the ground like a pig falling
backward out of a truck, and came to rest with an oath where he went to
sitting like an over roasted swollen marshmellow which has take flame and
been thrown off the stick into the dirt.
Meanwhile the attendants fought in vain to save their bus from the flames
powered fiercely by electrical arching, burning fuel and oil which spread out
from the flames in ablack burning pool around the back of the mortally
wounded bus. Woith a dull thud the back window of the bus gave way and
well moved upwind from the huge clouds of black smoke, except for the fat
headed bomber pilot. Possibly as he sat there his face black, the smoke
billowing up overhead, he was imaginginhimselof as walter mitty once more
time braving enemy flack to fly in through the smoke and bomb barefoot
villagers with heroic brave napalm.
Headed Bomber Pilot Cary
So the bald headed german bomber pilot continued on his merry way around town
and every time he had apportunity, like a child he had to bad mouth the
frenchman. His greedy eyes darting back and forth he would make cracks
about the frenchman and then laugh like a jackal.
All the thais said his wife wouldn't give him any because he was too fat and
smelled of filthy lucre. But he didnt care.
He couldn't read, let alone tell you what literature was.
As the bald headed bomber pilot reached for the lever and jetisoned the
napalm on the villages below with a cackle.
But the man from portugal was really half Mexican.
The Burmese traders spoke of him as a man who cared for nothing but
himself. You could hear him before you saw him because after every
sentence he laughed because he thought it was so funny.
Now the portugese man told this story how he had taken his wife to the
portugese embassy in bangkok and tried to get her a visa.
The embassy staff asked him if he was taking his "whore"
Despite the apparent rudeness of this it was a legitmate question as
foreigners usually did marry butterflies and this case was no
Matter of fact he had spent quitge a sum to buy her out of the brothel, a
shacky little place where large numbers of men came in drunk, slobbering and
grunting their way acrosss the girls or hauling them out to some guest house
where everyone got to view their selection.
On the other hand the girls got to show off just how many different men
they could entertain and the portugese's choice had been quite adroit at
entertaining quite a few, clattering out of the guest house often, before
becoming the fairy princess.
The girl in the yellow dress had been wearing a blue one earlier till the man
with the one eye coughed up his contents while trying to inject her.
Hazards of the job it could be supposed.
Bo Bo He worked for Tom, was
from Burma, a nice guy, appeared dependable enough. I saw
him over and over during the years, even after Tom left, often wearing
dark sunglasses, tall and thin on a motorcycle, very quick to catch on in a
Tom and his
wife and child Today I heard an
interesting story from Bo Bo who used to help the black spirited Tom all
along for a little money.
Last month Tom left and in a reversal of fortunes, took his son with him,
leaving the mother behind. He even bothered to take her passport.
His wife complained to me but I told her that in the west the women always
did this, leaving with the kids, I could hardly feel concern.
Selling Art at bridge bank on Burma side He made water colors of
places in Burma, always had a few for sale near the
bridge out in front of the Bank of Myanmar.
with the Thick Glasses The man with the glasses
who they said stole rubies, ran up a big drinking bill and left dodge.
They say he also shot people for hire when he got real low on money.
(these people could be put in the book as they occurred, rather than singled
Tom Tom was a school teacher
whom I met at the Maesai plaza guest house many years ago, nearly ten.
He left for a few months at a time to teach here and there, then he came back
again for a month or so. He put much more care and work into his
teaching than most, it was more than just a job to him, one could see
that. It was a proffession.
He was always supportive of my work with ideas, methods that I could try and
The all wise foreigners
distancing from the poor
He contacted me about this time to make documentary, he came, paid me and we
made it. He was always kind and a good camera man.
He came to make a movie, he did and the events of that.
The Furniture Man In Chiangmai There was that guy in
Chiangmai that was american, had some furniture stores, I think he floated
them on alcohol and they drifted away, and he married a young chain smoking
american woman in Chiang mai and they settled down to making furniture out of
old teak windows and doors but his specialty was a dis-assemble-able walking
cane which he advertised as the Sir Edmond Hillary walking cane or something
like that, from Burma, and I think he made some business out of that.
He had a few thais working for him and then he had about fifty dogs in his
house and of course the workers complained about all the ticks.
Joe Gets The
Power Well Nick, the Kiwi,
stopped by. Phillip was his friend. That is the connection
here. Meeh Suur was the burned girl at his wedding that I am now trying
to get to the US. He stopped by to tell me about
this gem deal with the Japanese that went bad. According to him Joe was
getting people to invest in a mining operation of Cary’s for a commission. But then
he came on a Japanese man who had a lot of money, and after talking him into
investing $300,000 he got the Japanese man to put the first $100,000 into his
bank account instead of Cary’s and then told Cary to go fuck himself,
because he wanted more of the action, not just commissions and now he had the
money so what was Cary going to do. Well Cary said Joe was going to end up in jail but Cary always said this, always thought he was
so powerful but nothing ever came of it. Finaly he had met a baffoon as
big as he was. Cary was more clever, but Joe was more reckless and too
stupid to think he could ever get undone, so unless Cary was forthcoming with
more than bluff he was going to have a tough contender in town on his ass
from here on out. So nice to see a skunk meet a snake in an alley.
Before Joe Got
the Power Well he used to like to
fight with the cops who brought him home one night.
He thought that every thing belonged to him or soon should.
He used to party with the whores that ran the beer bar across from the Plaza
guest house till he got them in bed and found out they had padded bras.
His wife in one room, them in another, owner of the guest house, the KK that
But before that there used to be old men that came in and out of the MaesaiPlaza with this one young woman in tow and then
later it turned out that Joe was trying to buy her out of the cantina where
she worked. Well, you could go down and sit in this place with its wooden
benches and there in the back shadows would be Joe, King Cobra himself,
waiting till the war was over and the old boys got done fucking his old lady
so he could have the left overs when the our got late and she became
affordable. So around 11 or so she would finally go home with
him. After a while he did manage to buy her out so he could own his own
copy, paying some kind of a fee to scar face with the old red honda dream and
the baseball cap and a face that the pox got the better end of. Least
you could say scarface was straight up, more than Joe. Even in the end maybe
his whore was better than he, but most including martin doubted even that
hope. Booh Booh Bah Bah they said, she is crazy yelling shit over the
phone and laughing at people passing the guest house like a Wa monkey.
More than likely once a whore, always thinking like a whore. So instead
of standing out in front of the whore house and laughing at people she could
stand out in front of her own house and do the same, or the guesthouse, hey
the similarities weren’t lost on the casual observer.
There hung the pow flag of Joe’s, his only piece of a war that he had
been so unfortunate to miss, all the rambo, none of the memories.
And you could pick the guy out for miles, gesticulating like Patton on top of
a hill, sending his troops into war with set jaw, flashing commands with his
hands, wide set legs. Well, sept for the gut that was creeping up on
him over the years.
History and time pass the best stories on people.
Joe had a second wife he had two kids by, but he wouldn't take care of them
when the boys were infants, so she had to be a hooker. Guys even bought
her out and then took her into Joe's place to screw her all night.
Girl in Maesai ‘I wouldn’t
like to live there now. I’m American. I like to walk down
the steet smoking without getting slapped.’ Korean girl from New York at the plaza guest house, maesai.
She says the American style Christianity thing really screwed things up in Korea.
Phillip Phillip was a
photographer who came to add to a film that he had made about the Akha but
was unable to sell because it wasn’t specific enough.
I first met him when the war came to Tachilek and he came up to get some
shots of that. Then he paid me 1500 Baht for a months worth of
consulting which I did, cluing him in on who was doing what in my perspective
and suggesting that he check into the sterilizations which occured in the
He did investigate this along with more cultural information on the
Akha. I was able to keep close enough to him to gain greatly by what I
had set in motion. At the same time I learned to be very careful what
you tell anyone, especially a camera man.
Phillip had a characteristic of westerners, what I call a revolving door
morality mentality. They can and will find fault with any position you
take, and setting themselves up as the great moral authority as a
photographer, they spend a lot of time just giving everyone shit. I
learned this from this experience, that journalists are much like
sharks. They are quick to find fault and point out fault, their job
being useless if they can’t find some dark story that the curious minds
of other’s will find scandalous. They can be real trouble
makers. Where there is no dark story they will infer one if that is
what it takes to get their money. Themselves they are without morality,
at least one that you can pin them down to. They have a quick word for
everything, being the fastest with the put down of course.
They also do not hesitate to cut their film to predjudice the story in a
certain way such that they are making facts where there were none. From
what I can see, media of this kind is far more prone to abuse than say
writing, where you must search out your point and provide the results of your
research, you can’t just infer that someone has done something or dub
in a total fiction because you don’t have the real thing. But
quite obviously this is exactly what these people are willing to do.
To discuss something with them is totally futile as he will not be pinned
down. What he was of opinion of today he is apposed to tomorrow, and
criticizing me for it, like a revolving door. This has something to do
with being absent of morality or something, that you just do what you want to
day with no obligation to the truth or anything else. Certainly no
obligation to any consistency in your conversation or opinion.
An example of that was where he was critical of Jenny Grey for running a
Methadone program in what he thought of as a haphazard kind of way. A
few days later when I voiced a similar opinion he considered it quite rude on
my part to be critical of the work that she was doing.
A rule of thumb would be to not speak in the negative text to avoid giving
this opportunity to the likes of him and one might also just plain stay away
from foreigners because from what I have seen here so far they are all just
Phillip: (and other good talking
foreigners who didn’t wash)
Haven’t heard from you in a long time.
What became of all the tape?
Would you be interested to sell it?
Surely the Akha invested a lot of time in making that happen and you have a
lot of valuable interviews that would be very useful here. You said
your original goals were to fight against all the people trying to deal them
out, so why don’t you let the tapes be put to some good use?
I would be willing to pay you nicely for them.
The idea was to make money after all, was it not?
Lets strike some kind of deal for the originals. Surely they will
hardly be relevant to you or anyone else in a few years so why not make use
of them, gain some benefit to somebody for them.
Awaiting your kind reply.
Bigmouthing The cary story
He moved the papers this way and he moved the papers that way. And each
time he moved them it seemed that the man owed him more money. So in
the end he just decided to keep the $1,000 Akha Head dress that the man had
left to him for safe keeping.
He congratulated himself on his selective book keeping and ate himself
another t-bone steak shipped in from australia. He was successful and the
telegraph line between that success and his head was very short.
He loved himself and came on with that big palstic smile to everyone of one
quite insecure, not so much different than the rest of us, who had less
money, but then he’d say something dumb and thoughtless.
He was not all bad, not even mostly bad, just he had sometimes bad dealings.
Zera I have tried repeatedly
over the years to interest Zera in some kind of cooperative but the only
suggestion he can offer is for me to supply a large amount of cash for him to
cross the border with and invest.
Furthermore, every time he visits he asks for something. I haveneeds
ofmy own and being here on charity often there is not enough and I am quite
zera the pastor, building his
second church now, sometimes I think I can trust him and sometimes not, didn’t
bother to tell me many things, nati, and then I have helped him a lot, his
wife left, the north dakota man lost his wife to a man he brought to US and
she took all the money but he got remarried, doesn’t talk to zera much
now. 3 kids zera
Mick The scuzzy guy in the
leather vest with the big beater motorbike, became friends with Prasit
Then his Thai girlfriend had him thrown in jail.
He told about the girl who was killed by the car, legs all smashed up, died
in his arms.
Mick the Trail
Bike Guy He speaks Thai well.
Looks a little odd the way he leans over his motorbike going down the road
Hatfield An american from Illinois moved in next door in 27 for a while .
We bought some plants for the balcony and saved a one eyed snake from the
meat block in the market which we then set free again.
martin He is the guy from Switzerland, married to Goi. Has a guest house,
bought my notebook apple one time. Does a lot of time on email and the
web now, takes people touring, loves gossip, etc. Charges fantastic
prices for food and drink, more than double the cost on some things, but says
he’s in it to catch a profit, still fun to visit, just watch what you
eat and drink. Bread and cheese, 105 baht, come on.
Lothar phillipine wife, police
lothar thinks I did something to him by telling him not to talk about people
in town, not to pass stories around casually but he got mad at me about it
and tried to make shit with the police and his wife apologized and that was
the end of it.
Little Joe Little joe went and got
me this and that from the bridge as I needed it as well.
We had an interesting time today.
He came and picked up the old videos and gave me back my 300 baht which I
Then he told me that he had worked for kk one time and he knew who killed
Mark, the American.
Wasn’t news to me, just more of the same.
He thought mark was a funny guy and liked him.
lee wiggins helped with medical, did
same in vietnam, married vietnamese
Krijn Kolf and
the Benzyl Benzoate Krign Kolf brough benzyl
benzoate for use on scabies. Mixed with sulfur and vaseline it goes a
the irish parachutist
comes every year with his
friends, he knew about the irish slipping ambulances to Sarejavo to help the
serbs, brings his younger friends from the jump school, drinks a lot but an
Last I saw him he was riding a motorcycle and living down south
The Italian He is in my mailing list
Told the time that the Burmese Army Officer pushed a burmese woman on him
and how she began to cry.
Sompop I first met Som Pop in I
think 1991 or so. He was a friend of a friend and he was staying at wat
trying to get his work going to help northern Thai girls stay out of
No one questioned that he was a man trying to keep girls out of prostitution
He eventually got a piece of land and moved to it. The wat people
wanted him out because of the police he said, the monks being sympathetic to
the police and the police not wanting anyone saving girls from
prostitution. At least that was his line.
My, how far he has come. From owning nothing to nice cars and nice
Maybe that was why Leo in Chiang Mai called it ‘Super Pimping’
the people trying to save the girls from prostitution made more money off the
girls than did the regular pimps.
I met Som Pop numbers of times in relation to this friend.
He always seemed like a cagy guy who was hiding something or at least didn’t
like people getting a good view, not near as egalitarian as he hoped people
would be with him. I think this was a Thai way not limited to
him. Show people how nice and hospitable you are until you move in close
and act like a beast.
My friend from New Zealand came and she was interested in helping
with getting money. But she wanted to see documentation on how the
girls were getting ‘saved’ and the tracking on girls that had
been through the claimed training. Her request was refused, she felt
that she was invited to the compound to look, not ask questions. She
told me that she was no longer interested in an organization that did not
have full transparency and was not fully accessible to the public.
Another friend told me that the organization had a lot of odd cooperation
with rich Japanese sponsors and he felt that they were supplying girls to
well to do visitors that might become sponsors.
As well he questioned the policy of an all girls project, as there were many
guys who were also in bad situations.
In addition he wondered why the western volunteers had such a heavy feminist
lesbian leaning and why they had such free roam in a situation full of young
girls without near the scrutiny that men would undergo in the same
situation. Basically, ‘Who is watching Sompop and his
lesbians?’ was the question.
From month to month they were nearly broke, Sompop took numerous trips
overseas to get people to sponsor his project and the whole think bounced
on. I traveled there several times. When it was first open
it was very grass roots and people were welcome to come and see what went on
and be of help. But with time it became very cloaked and elitist, the
people became filled with all their self importance and such it went.
There was Elexius. At first I thought maybe she owned a vacumn cleaner
company, but she was just sarcastic, something she hadn’t worked out
about her dad and every word out of her mouth to a man had to have some high
moral insult to it. Apparently she wasn’t aware that most had
gotten tired of that long ago and the status it relegated her too.
Then it was Julie, her replacement, a mamoth of a low slung woman, enormous
breast rolling from port to starboard whenever she braked for a corner.
Last pleasant conversation I had with her she could only reply, ‘Oh
piss off!’ Certainly knew how to return the favor. They
both got into the jobs from their feminist come lately friend in Chiangrai,
Genny Grey, who was busy treating her whole family to a good time on a grant
from the Australian National University to experiment with a methadone
programme on the Akha. Course she never had anything to say about why
they were on heroin in the first place. Just another day for another
big white woman. All good and well. But more about that later in
the Genny Grey Does Methadone to the Akha chapter.
So I never had much to do with Sompop.
Now there was this one guy that lived in town that opened up a school for the
He knew the bridge children pretty well and the school was an immediate
success and soon filled up.
But the Sompop DEP people had just recently tried to include the same
children in a project for street children, presenting to westerners that they
were feeding them daily and all of that to collect money by this
means. Course the really didn’t do anything for them, a few
headache patches, a little sewing down in all the squalor. Course,
Ahmeeh, the Akha guy who sold out to Sompop was busy beefing her in hopes of
getting to go home and see daddy and getting that funny little yippon
passport. Well, these two characters got angry at the fellow who worked
at the bridge and he sent their boss a fax. I was the next to meet
their boss again, and he asked me if I knew the gentleman who sent the fax,
and why did he send it. I stated that since I had seen no fax I really
couldn’t say but if it had to do with one of Sompop’s volunteers
then probably the right person, Sompop, had gotten the relevant fax.
Well, Thais don’t like criticism, in social work or in regards to what
they did with all the money in the banks, and so Mr. Sompop, that smiling
Thai gentleman that puts on such a pretty gentiel face for all the foreigners
whom he is trying to get money from, called his pet mp Paveena in bangkok and
asks for a little retaliation.
Well, he went about his work and hoped it would go away and that the dumb
foreigners would forget. But the foreigners didn’t forget and
advertised his double faced activities far and wide. Why, after all, if
he was up to good would he mind foreigners doing something for the children
when his own counrtymen all over Maesai were prostituting as many children
from Burma as they could? Didn’t this sound a
little racist? Did to me. Course I knew Sompop was a racist.
The only reason he had Akhas in his program was to attract foreign money
because foreigners would pay to help Akhas before they would help to pay for
the extremely neurotic and class concious Thais. The Akhas were just
there as bait. And any Akha who came had to be a vegetarian, because
Sompop was. So they came from the village where there was never enough
food and then they had to go without the protein in meat because Sompop didn’t
eat meat. Oh, just more of the Budist double standard. I didn’t
kill it, the guy in the market did.
Lisa Lisa was his next
volunteer, from America. She hated the place and they hated
her. For what reason one could only guess.
Hey she was great. She took a trip to Burma with Martin from Pasang, the Switzerland guy, and they met this Burmese army
officer at the one place they stayed. Well little Lisa, bless her soul,
spent all night stirring up the guys juices just like any good american cut
throat bitch would, and then when he thought he had gotten all the signals
that a little cleft was in order, she turned into the local feminist
sheriff. Unfortunately her badge wasn’t recognized in Burma and when she discovered that she might
have to pay in real skins she went to tears. How could her mentors in America have let her down and played her into
this game where if you play you may really have to pay. Course common
sense might have fixed that, but as Jack Nicholson said, ‘How do you
make a woman? You take a man and take away all common sense and
accountability!’ Or was it Clinton?
But Lisa didn’t want to meet the man from the bridge because she
already heard so many bad stories about him and that was all she
needed. Martin asked her why she would pass judgement on someone
without ever meeting them? Oh, I guess that was an American woman
thing. Gee, glad I didn’t live there.
She was getting paid $20,000 to work at DEP for ten months. Gee, wonder
what the girls got. Well, with Sompop paying no one any more than 3000
baht he had lots of cash left over for his new house. Just what the
donors don’t know is what won’t hurt them.
And that was an awful nice Isuzu 4 door 4 wheel drive Cameo he drove as
well. I wonder if sponsor’s money paid for that as well, where
else did the money come from, after all he was a big deal, training all those
girls, making them all good enough to be high priced hookers, god knew there
was no shortage of demand for flesh sales in Thailand. Amazing Thailand.
And the sorry saps that thought the Neurotic Thais women were a wonderful catch.
Hey, just talk to a few of the men of all races who had gotten ripped for
every dime they laid out by these little blood suckers. Hey, can you
put the house, the car, the cash in my name dear, I mean if you really love
me? But Thais can live quite comfortably with all the convenient
moral contradictions in their country so why can’t we.
At the one Sompop meeting when Anand came the bridge fellow filmed at Mr.
Sompop’s request and then the people from Bkk got all pissed off.
Hey, they prefered foreigners didn’t do anything, after all, Thais knew
what needed hiding.
interpol, where are all the girls gone too?
Ralf Nough to say he
died. Some said he hung himself in the Chiangrai Prison. I don't
know. But he was working with a side kick of Som Pop and the Maesai
Children Life center. He said they wasted the money, absued the children,
that the boys slept with the female staff and the girls with the male staff.
He left and started his own place to teach Judo.
The guy at children's life accused him of molesting children AFTER he
put a critical letter on the internet in the name of "Mary".
The Maesai Child Life guy and Bernard Fiedler of Chiangmai had him
arrested. He was attacked in the Maesai Jail after the guy from Maesai Child
Life paid the jail a visit and gave the police something. Ralf thought this
was money, since he saw it.
But Ralf had a knife, was a black belt in Judo, and he killed one of
his eight assailants, and they transferred him to Chiangrai. The Maesai
police said that no one died but Ralf said that this wasn't possible and
since they were asking for more than a million baht, they could ask for more
if the guy had big hospital bills supposedly, rather than just being dead.
The police paid Ralf a visit one day and the next day he was
dead. A Keith Baalham in Chiangrai, an Englishman, said that he thought
Ralf would kill himself.
Who knows, we do know that Bernd Fiedler was instrumental in having
Ralf arrested by contacting Som Pop and asking him to help get it done and
get rid of this problem guy. They sure did. But life will come
around. We never saw any proof of anything that Ralf did, only that he
was accused. That can mean anything but the facts in Thailand. Ralf was an draftsman from Switzerland who also got a degree in Social Work.
Chad He was the one who
invited me for photos at DEP. I left, he kept working, doing building
projects for him. A little money never helps. He had his own
guest house and didn’t really need the money. He also liked to
refit BSA motorcycles he bought from Burma and old army jeeps left over from the
Jiminy His cousin or ‘brother’,
from Burma, drove a Pajero and did tours in Burma. They were both from Burma of course. Jiminy was a wild
driver. Always a big faced empty smile. No, actually he was an
alright guy. I did a couple trips in his rig to Keng tung. Cary said that Chad’s son died of Aids. Well,
heck the Thais never learn, what could one expect. maesai was full of
the funerals. AIDS was one law that didn’t take no for an answer,
that didn’t take the Thai version of truth and reality for an
answer. Ah yes, AIDS and the IMF. Two things that the Thais
couldn’t walk away from.
wife brothel owner
Bought her from scarface
wife, Thway Thway
no furniture for the room
Gets a new girlfriend finally.
Very knowledgeable of computers and methods in communicating with them.
Burt Burt is the guy who
martin insists is CIA. Something about one guy getting a newspaper
clipping or seeing Burt on tv next to all the big wigs in Beijing at some
important meeting and telling burt about it and burt not being able to tell
yaye or naye. Burt married Joy, and they lived on the road to Doi
and got married and then move from job site to site. Burt says
environmental engineering but he also
has the profile to be CIA. Very clean, very proper and I think he
probably agrees with the company line,
but just the same a nice guy, fun to talk to but seemingly a very controlled
the less I like him and figure he has a little bit more spine than martin.
comics thinks sompop is gods
gift to humanity, but other people rumored that Darkhorse was into some kind
of child trafficking ring.
Guy The scarfaced fellow,
very kind, he loaned me the money for the Checkpoint
his thai girlfriend
he moved back to Colorado
The brit from england maesai plaza all night
So he screwed her without stopping all night long because she wouldn’t
Italian Who used to come for
rings and stuff, I still have his address, the time he lost a bunch he bought
in Indonesia, that was the time his dad came I think.
The foreigner who came from trading in Laos with his thai girl. His lump. He
had these big AIDS like lumps under his chin lymph nodes.
His buddy who later died.
I think I had been gone to Bkk or something but he died in the room right up
The trader I never saw again.
His girl friend had the lumps too.
Place: Uwe was an interesting
fellow, german, ex embassy and airport police staf, just got fed up with it
Can’t say I blame him. At any rate he married a drunk from Isan and
lived in Ban pong, and offered hospitality to many.
Always easy going for the most part, he had a quick drink, coke, coffee, for
his guest. His house raised on stilts, thai style, not so much like a
guest house. More like home stay he would say.
He eventually built bunk houses, and got more guests.
He loved to smoke good tobacco.
He even got around to raising fish.
He was lots of fun to take on rides in the mountains. It was easy, you get
stuck, he pulls the flask out of the door pocket and gets immediately drunk
and then goes about stumbling in and out of the truck, covered with mud.
But Uwe was always a good hearted fellow, and lots of talk and stories,
exagerated or not, never mind.
Up here in the north there were not so many kind people who were foreigners,
so his little place was a tiny oasis of stories and laughs halfway to Huai
Krai from Maesai. Often we would go to the famous Kow Mont Guy shop in
Huai Krai and eat lunch together.
Gabrielle His workers said of a
heart attack but Burt said that he died of aids, miserably, his whole body
covered with hives. He was a big puffing man, it must have been real
bad and real sad when he went. Nobody deserves to go like that.
Anyway, there was this american here I knew and he had an Italian
restaurant. Once I went to him and asked for him to help with publishing
Akha books. He said he very much agreed with me and would except
that he had many customers who were missionaries and we had to do it
I had to go back to the US, didn’t see him so often for a long time or
the dining area was full, and next thing I knew was one day when I dropped by
there was a coffin in the lobby, he was dead, dead of aids, too many girls.
Burt said he died with a bad case of hives, was in a very bad way.
Well, I didn’t think much more of it.
Then someone told me his wife had all her property stolen from her, a Lahu
girl, and went and hung herself. Well that I checked out and was true
and then I didn’t think much more of that other than to wonder why none
of the other bar people who were foreigners came to her aid.
Well that was a couple years ago and then now I I am talking to this fellow I
met off the cuff yesterday here in Maesai at a street restaurant and he tells
he knows this missionary son well, and that he is no missionary and that also
knew what happened to this girl. He said that the missionaries took
whole funeral thing, were just waiting to find out how much money he had, and
how they could strip it and they did and the girl was not even left with
anything in the condo unit, had no ID card, though Gabriel had been working
that, and hung herself. I can’t think of this old man’s name,
lives north of Chiangrai somewhere, knows Rose Martinez, says she is a full
blown dike, and sure she dresses like one and has the mannerisms of one.
I wonder if she dips the girls in her orphanage?
Watkins said that Vern McCaully was the man from Eden Children’s Home
that cleaned out Gabrielle.
Couple Wife got the new
given something by those who have so little to those who have so much
Her sister was the secretary treasurer for the Bakers on Evangelical
The Fat Jewish
Fellow The Jew five baht coffee,
cigarette lighter for a pack of matches 70 baht for the akha girl
He was scum. But I liked her mother, always a kind woman, hadn't
seen them around for years.
to a real nice thai fellow, the jew brags about it
so disappointed over unrealistic expectations Not unrealistic, just for
journalists coming to find the ‘bad guy’ Distorts their vision I
in bkk prison got special treatment They were made out to be
heroes, got a pardon. But then someone wrote a letter into the Bangkok post how disgusting it all was, and how
black women who were forced to run drugs into Britain rotted in British jails for years.
their well earned reputation For being rude tourists,
pushy, selfish, inconsiderate of the Thais or others, always traveling in
caravans, lights on. They rented Suzuki jeeps, stayed at the same guest
houses. Seemed always insecure about their travels.
Woman goes to villages She went to the villages
with me, was a very pleasant person to talk to, regarding the Akha or
Josef Nimits german friend
marries akha baby house guy sneaks out.
FalangOrganizedVillage There was an old falang
who married to an Akha from the organized village as I called it.
They later moved to town, couldn't make it in the village, and it was a
converted village at that which has lost a lot of its health. He said
his wife wanted a new kid with him, had one apparently by other marriage.
The Pole Married to an Akha woman
from the Christian village of Mae Salep (wonder where they met these girls?)
The police beat his father in law to death, hoping to get money in the
process, didn't intend that he should die. But was basically a kidnapping
This was encouraged by the fact that the Pole, though an good tennis player
(you would never guess that) didn't come across as too swift, and was living
out in the Akha woods thinking that everyone else had as much money as he
did, and were living just fine. You can't do that. He also seems to
have little sense of responsibility to the community.
Polunin He and I went to Burma for ten days. Did some video, don't
know what came of that later on. I think he died as well. He had a
pottery museum in Singapore, was a student of fire flies,
simultaneous illumination, his interest.
from london, (repeat) top north, she couldn’t
believe he didn’t care.
We were talking about the Akha and the husband didn't much think of helping
them, just gotta help them some more he said.
mike Joe goes with man to
Chang Khong and further and then leaves him a note to pay the extra
dollar from the
$5 hotel bill rather than just pay it. All the trouble to write a note
this was mike.
Journalist claimed young connected to cia Course he admitted that
Jenny grey running a methadone
project in several villages
Village This village was quite
good now, though split by Dapa
University hilltribe research center
The huge hilltribe museum while hilltribes don't even have ID cards
Got caught in
Sent to jail from Tachilek, ended up doing at least a year in Keng Tung, and
then they beat him good and sent him home Oct. 2000
He handed out pro democracy fliers in Tachilek. His third such event in
Joe prostitute wife from scar
face cantina, dirt floor
many time t guest house with customrers before joe got her
His cheng tung trip
stories He’d seen so many
videos he thought he was in them
The egg making machine
His partner african friend
selling in sante fe
robbing hong kong tourists according to Prasit
The King's dainties
western women for mr big dick Tom's stories of this and
people tell me it is that way in France much of the time today, the woman
works, the man stays home, and just screws her, men from all over, but not
edward his wife
First house school,
secnond housse, bullet holes
Yeah, someone shot him more than once, he got shot through arms, chest, neck.
friend cambodian taxi theft Friend of George
He stepped out of the taxi in cambodia to check something and the taxi roared
tourist who want workers and wife, wrects bike into ditch He was a huge guy,
tall. He liked Tin Tin a lot. Went with me to the
mountains. Wrecked going too fast on a honda dream there up behind Doi
Tung on the loop road. He was also looking to find some people that
would come and work on the farm in Canada. Didn't realize how complicated
wife The mini wat
Singapore Couple Really slam the trip ‘Glad to hear you
admit you are selfish dear, the blanket in Loi moi, their attitude, bakers
secretary. new mercedes, given something by those who have so little to those
who have so much
Methadone Joseph wrote a book about
it in Germany, sold all his rehab houses to the Catholic church (owning
people's addictions and souls is big money) and came often to San Chai to
smoke heroin and cut some kind of money making laundering deals with
Nimit. Was always having Nimit sign forms of some kind.
Nose plug man Face clawed by bear, lost
eye, does transport, white rag half over head and
Yeah, a white rag over half his head, motorcycle towing a cart full of goods
always back and forth from the market and to Burma. I asked him one
time to show me. He did, it wasn't nice.
Akha woman Then there was the Akha
woman in Maesai who begged with her children who had always a rag over her
mouth, no lips I figured, I didn't ask to look. Somebody hit her kid
once and she was going up the street with a fist size stone or bigger to
teach them a lesson. You wouldn't want to get hit by that, the road
The scar jaw
man and his friend Thai girl kicking him in
He went to the checkpoint with me that time over Attur.
Edward There was the Pakistani
man who was big into this. Edward, that was his name.
He ran an english teaching school too.
The girl gets
laid at the church mans house This was Zera's story. He
was an elder. She worked at his house, was the maid. Said he laid
her. He denied it but took time off from the church because of the
dispute. She left and became a hooker.
Fat Israeli The fat Israeli who
originally hailed from Belgium took the Akha girl to his room to cushion
his bloated ego and paid her 70 baht which was about $2.80 for his ponderous
exertions. Her mother complained to me the next morning. I
asked her what she expected to get in the way of treatment in such a business
Herself I called Martin one day,
two weeks later, and he wanted me to come by so I did.
A lahu girl had been married to a Thai nearby and the Thai drowned while
The Thai man’s
mother didn’t want anything to do with a ‘tribal’
girl. But she was already pregnant. Martin told her to get an
abortion. Real sensitive.
Not feeling she had anywhere left to turn she killed herself.
maesai LA gold shop man
thai guy, lives in LA and here. Has a big gold shop. Big deal
Zera he wanted to know, I got
info, heard no more.
I got info from Oregon tannery in Dallas
Ellen Bruno new life center
she said that when she went to see lauren bethel she always felt like she was
kissing her ass
That Lauren Bethel kept those girls on a real tight chain, did not approve of
what she saw.
San Francisco cop Mr. Don Nick said he was helping
him find two 13 year old hookers in a village near to his
The time he gave meeh seh the money.
He was investigated. No one wanted the embarassment. They didn't care
about what he was doing it didn't appear.
Good Mushrooms Lorenzo Thoughts
Do you remember? If you want to get good mushrooms living in the shit, you
get the shit at first. Without shit, no mushrooms.
From Korea Taught english, bought
and sold Rolex's
Taught English in Korea for years.
One Leg I remember the guy who
stood outside the top north with only one leg from an accident and asked me
if I knew where to get heroin. I asked him what kind of crazy guy would
so publically do such a thing and stay out of jail.
town All kinds of people come
here, some good, some bad, some funny some not Franklin, didn’t want me to get a copy of
their teaching notes that they passed out to the christians who came from burma. He said you had to listen to the voice
of God. But he couldn't tell me what that sounded like, or that he
could even identify it. He seemed more in the flash Jesus business.
I see it so often.
When I see it in others it is bold but I am also acutely aware of it myself.
We don’t fit. We are raised in an agenda society that is very
linear in all its approaches. Come here with lots of artificial
Foreigners don’t communicate socially very well. We are quickly
perterb ed and inconvenienced. We are impatient. We are big and clumsy,
inept. We do not readily accept anything being different than we
To me the barrier with asia is
social communication. I am dolefully short of Thai language
skills. My disadvantage.
Ngos leo, adjew, hani, lagaw
Was a priest, Ellen Bruno says he doesn’t believe in the one god thing
anymore. Super pimping his term. On the outs with Attu. Goes to Laos working for the Germans. Married
Deuleu from San Jaluen. She hired other village women as her house
servants according to Jim Goodman sentiments. Certainly likes to live
well, and drinks ya under the table according to Ellen. Lewis document
on sterilizations at leo library.
Leo swindled many baht according to Moodzer. Leo the launderer as Nick
Nickatookala calls it.
Nick is married
to Mae Beeah. Two kids.
Went to the US. Has a warrant out for him for skipping
on a case of assault and battery.
Lagaw He is the guy from nimits
village who can translate. Apparently did the lewis dictionary work
which has not too much reference to him. Would be interesting to know
the relationship here. Because I think Ahjay works with the small
church in San Chai Gow which is a part of san chai mai area.
Who gives a shit, where is the money in it.
and the Maesai Bank robbery Do I want to use this
Bertil Litner came to town to see me but I never saw him. Later I learned
You see this fellow thought he would walk into the Maesai branch of my bank,
the Bangkok Bank Ltd and rob it. That was while they were in their
small temporary building while they ripped down the bigger one and built a
He fired two shots through the ceiling and got about 500,000 baht and went
out the door and down the alley. Bad move in maesai. The police
caught him down a side streets and gave him a hail of bullets for his
efforts, took the money back and that was that.
Well, Bertil was
driving into town when all the shooting was going on near the bank and got
spooked and left town in a hurry. I don’t know exactly why.
Wasn’t like the whole town was in a gun battle.
Woman I take a most unusual
girl on a motorcycle trek into the mountains.
The romance of that experience.
Why was she unusual?
Why was it romantic?
About a year ago, before the disheartening downfall of the structure of my
bead business, I was hanging out at Kobra Joe’s Guest House when a
woman from France came in and booked a room.
To me she looked especially American Indian but was half Vietnamese as it
She was looking to go up to some village but had no idea how to get there and
just assumed there would be some groups forming up. Since I had nothing to do
for the afternoon I offered to take her up with me because it would be of
interest to me as well.
She climbed on the motorcycle behind me and from that moment I knew that she
was a special woman. Most riders take a hold of me stiffly and awkwardly but
she embraced me as though I were her lover. Her hands were gentle and even
though I could not tell anything of motion, it seemed to me that she had
sensitive fingers. As well she snuggled into my back and her points rested
against me in a most pleasant way.
Before Doi Tung we headed west down to the villages and into a canyon I knew
about where there was a reservoir. Beside a small backwater we sat down
together near the waters edge on a piece of wood and talked. It was quiet.
The water bugs darted about. Then we noticed that some of the sticks on the
bottom moved. After some time we observed that the sticks were actually
stalks of grass and that inside the end of them was a bug that lived in the
stick and using two long legs out front he pulled himself about. After a
while we moved on.
We made it up to Doi Tung over what was a very rough road and then headed
down the just completed back road to Haen Tek. A previous storm had
come and completely washed out the road where the river at the bottom went
through the conduit under the road, and the conduit was strewn down
stream. All the area was very muddy and I told her that I wouldn’t
be able to make it up the other side which was very steep now, with her
riding. So she got off and struggled walked across through the water and mud
behind me while I struggled with the motor cycle up the other side. Once I
had gotten to the top, I climbed off and walked down to meet her, and offered
a cloth to clean her feet, but she said it didn’t matter and pulled her
socks on over the mud and we went on. Shortly there after I stopped on a
knoll and we talked again for a good long time while I puffed on one of the
last good cigars I had and she cleaned dry dirt out of her socks.
She was a makeup artist in Paris and her mother was Vietnamese. She had
just gone to Vietnam for the first time and was saddened by
what she saw. She said that there were a lot of people with missing limbs and
napalm burns, (courtesy of Dupont).
She worked with a lot of acters and actresses in Paris who were famous but thought that mostly
they were arrogant. But her work did give her opportunity to travel all over
and she was going to South America next.
She had two children by her boyfriend but presently found herself in love
with an old man who was an artist. She found that strange to herself and this
was her reason for telling me.
MaeSalong was nice to her but it was getting stormy as it does there. But we
were hungry so we ate some soup and then she bought a plastic to shield the
wind coming down and we hurried back to Maesai before catching a blast of
rain which then came.
The Two Saps The Frenchman shifted the
small red motorbike into low gear and slowed to turn the corner.
Stopped near the intersection were two pilgrims from a far planet. Did
he know where there were any remote ‘non tourist’ villages?
He was headed for some far villages and so he offered for them to follow him
if they so wished. He was to severely regret that.
They headed through the mountains on a tar road but soon he found himself
waiting for them. He was quite concerned for this slow down and hadn’t
really considered the consequences of his foolish generosity.
They made it fine to the first village up a different road. After
stopping a few minutes they moved on. He concerned about the lasting
Once off the mountain into the bottom he fount the trail wet and muddy, cut
by new water channels for irrigation. In the end though he didn’t
control the weather they cursed him for their broken bikes, not having been
able to keep their’s upright. He hired five Akhas to tow the
bikes up the last hill and rather than listen to them more, sent them on
their way back to town. A little money for mirrors and such he gave
them. He should have paid them nothing when he thought back of it.
But the Thai at the gas pumps took his motorcycle inside and let him sleep.
Mika Toyota She worked around the
Akha issue. Then she got an advance on a book and didn't finish the
first part even so Jim Goodman took it over and finished it nicely, The Akha:
Guardians of the Forest. I never saw Mika after that.
Batma Doc Maung, Chinese
Doctor, and her parents didn't like
Her, they had a chicken and egg farm up near Mandalya or Tawngee.
His friend came from New York. Had high rises in Taiwan. Was filthy rich. Spent four and five
thousand baht a night on girls, looking for a wife. Finally his father
died so he went back to New York.
The doctor, well, while he was in US, married to another woman, his wife paid
for some passports, and then they were bad and the burmese guys didn't want
to give the money back so when the Chinese man came back he went over and
punched the wife a good one and got the money. He showed me his swollen hand.
Miss Q Worked for Cary, then ran a food stand and sold oranges
on the street in Maesai, near the junction to the temple next to the top
Burma Kent tung others singapore three, thorn in foot
yeah, forget their name but what a pain in the ass
helped lee wiggins hawaii drug man
Joe His chiang saen wife and
first guest house in maesai
the scar jaw man and his friend, thai girl kicking him in the ditch
near bon tom
woman with broomstick leg go to ch mai
Wont ton suki Was in the building next
to river and bridge. Nice wood work.
owner Son got bit by dog, shots
pharmacy Jung worked at the
pharmacy. Yai went to Bangkok and got married.
I went to the wedding.
Quite a nice food catered affair, one excellent dish after another.
They had an Akha girl there for years who worked, then went off to school or Bangkok or somewhere.
The owners wife could talk Lahu.
The owner could make lots of chinese medicine mixes. People came in to
see him for consultation many times
Nick Yeah, he messed his leg
up bad. No one knew how it really happened. Some people say that a few
people beat him. Reminded me of the time he got caught with pot out at
the check point way by Hua Mae Kom back when they were still working on the
Zera zera and the german, ‘don’t
zera land deal, burmese officer, and his affair
Zera told me that he used this for leverage to try and save his land, but he
saved one, however, lost another.
kid I know the kids father.
He reminds me of Ah Baw Leeh Gaw at Loh Mah Cheh village.
For a while he was living at river shack
Tambon chief Sailom Joy, in the old
days punched Zera
The glass box
girls They all had these glass
boxes full of wares that they thought were going to make them rich, but more
I think they were all mistresses for immigration and such and the glass boxes
were what they did when their other box wasn't busy.
man He sat with sunglasses
and his folding wood boxes on the bridge
The man who
runs the mini mart on sailom joi corner He came from
Kanchanaburi, was a ruby dealer, made it quite well in Maesai.
The prices all went up when these people came with the opening of the Man Sui
mines in Burma, where the pink rubies came from.
Many girls became hookers, many girls and dealers of gems died of aids.
Be careful that you get all you want when you want it.
The man with
white hair there on Sailom Joi Always a pleasant smile
Goi. The neice next door and Stefan Stefan ended up marrying
her and taking her back to germany.
frenchman and his bicycle His daily whore,
peddling by the guest house
japanese man He comes to guest house
who learned japanese in the army while in Burma
The Egg Woman The big woman who
delivers the eggs to guest house, don't see her now
Farmer Tourist who want workers
and wife, wrecks bike into ditch on Doi Tung loop road.
woman on the corner This is where they make
the shit the akha buy and sell at doi tung
Race the gate The german on yellow bmw
and his race for the gate
Joe’s boss at the
building on Sailom Joi Rd.
His other holdings, down on highway also, and the old blue Mercedes.
Saki Drunk motor cycle wreck
front of guest house
The Scottsman Ah Muay
The Cowboy Bar
The Cop and his gun
I have his email now
Shan cook Her odd husband, the pots
Shan girl at
Shell gas he man cheats me I cuff
Oregon biker girl I visit her in hospital
She was from east of Portland.
Her boyfriend died.
Joe and army
patrol truck Joe didn't like pulling
over for anyone, not even in Burma, which later cost him when they locked
and loaded on him.
Joe liked Lik Serv
Joe sees dead thai man near Chiang saien, gold deal gone bad, erection and
Joes monekey bites girl
Jon his wife twat twat and
Jonathan Zera's friend
Josef When I visited his wife
in Ah Lay village a young scuzzy Akha guy slinked out.
Her father smoked opium and everything was stripped and sold from the house
more than once. Josef built the house for her.
Getting Cut kid from wong tong, singapore man
Lahu woman beggar maesai, milk I
Stephen Morey Came to see me from Australia.
Was married to a chinese girl.
Studied language in Assam, India where there was a Thai community.
Crystal wrote this book, quoted me in it
missionaries looted Gabriel, Eden Fellow? Ok, that was his name, he
knows Bill Young, he says that Rose Martinez is a dike. He said that Vern
McCully was the one who looted Gabrielle
Genny Gray Ah Yoh village, cop
boyfriend, Hiv statement
Genny Grey, Mae chan Ah Yoh village offf road west of maeschan betwen
maechan and Doe
George Wood Container ship computer
buyer makes point of not
causing thais to loose face
dawngee book writer from Canada at Guest House
Edward fucks the girl
edward his wife, first house school, secnond housse bullet holes
Dr Crooker Geographer?
Marie Deherde From india
Choy Lin Singapore video "A
Fading Drum Beat"
Portrayed the Akha in a bad way, fought with her camera man, left for US
after that, didn't like the Akha, looked down on them. We visited Akha twins.
Cary trains some at DEP
Andy DEP, interpol, 280 girls
Charlie Charlie told me Moo Moo
used my room for boy friend India man
Kachin woman Cheri "Akha brain no good".
Joe Wrecked mercedes, coming
down from Mae Salong, lost breaks, hit railing
Jon A script translating
program, John was working on this.
His father and law
african friend of cary
Yuppy ‘Don’t throw
water on me!’ and rolling in the mud and the blood and the beer
Phillip $50 to, chiangrai guest
This is mikes story of Joe.
$5 hotel bill rather than just pay it. All the trouble to write a note
Lothar and His
Phillipine wife Currency in Chiangrai
money Akha women and fried Banana's Lothar left all this
money in a bag with fried bananas in a taxi blue truck, and went to another
truck, the Akha woman was all who was left behind, maybe she took the bananas
home and wasn't she surprised when she found 700 German marks.
Bee Bee Singh From Singapore
Tried to start a church in Maesai
She had scarred her leg when she went out of the window to fix the air
conditioner unit in Singapore and fell off the ledge two stories down.
Belgian woman He cant teach english,
Bill Young cia, dynasty
Burt Blackburn has to leave his wife to get passport Martin said he was some
kind of intel guy for the US.
Loo Lung girlhop from singapore
Lothar, at the
lobo bar Died
Lothar The german missionary
Just another kind of nazi, prostituting people's soul.
wolfgang as story name
Customs Man from customs his
brother in California
Mick Mick gets married
Mick fights in cowboy bar
Tway Tway, Jon's wife, pisses Mick off
Monkey face man’s younger
brother gets stabbed
Monkey faced man from tomato roof house
Moo Moo She was the friend of my
wife Attur when we were first married but then she had her son get to messing
around while I was gone and we got divorced.
Mr. Tom, ran
travel service Failed, some found maesai
defeat. Son sold rubies, chanaburi crowd
Joe Would you move those akha
girls we can’t have this here
Nose plug man face clawed by bear, lost
eye, does transport, white rag half over head and face
Uwe Uwe's wife is a real pain
in the ass
Uwe says daniel is dead
He lost reputation over problems with the truth
Owe’s Maps and village notes
The knife fights and metal railing
blow up with tom and Jon Over the death of one of
Tway Tway's friends on the plane wreck in Burma.
Plastic bag man, then he comes back now with long hair and his rock star want
fetish girl Wa
Spiro From Greece and Canada
His Burmese Girlfriend
Cary’s Wreck So he toppled off the
heavy bike, rolling like a pig out of a heavy cloth sack and of all things in
that jungle, rolled right onto a lone block of wood with a big nail sticking
out of it that drove right into his shoulder.
House So I'm in this Burmese
woman's house on the Thai side, she has a baby boy, her husband is traveling.
Her place is sanitary, not a place for babies. All the bought stuff you
cn buy. The baby continuously wrapped in clothes nade to fit, in the
stroller, buy all the things, isolate the child from sensations of movement
and crawling that he might be able to do himself.
She has very high ideas of life and self and can not survive easily if the
chips are down.
Joe He thought the beer bar
was bad for business though he bought his wife from the man who ran it, scar
maintain, stay away from them. They make a bastardized version of both
worlds with the morals from neither.
Dec 13, 2001 April Beer
A volunteer who came to work.
She was one of the most brilliant people I ever met. She cut through
everthing and could be quite abrasive but she knew a good deal about people.
The only problem was that people have to have time and space to think and
work and April didn't give me or anyone else this.
In the end I had to quit working with her.
She had her fit in front of a shop when I was gone and there were many police
when I got back. I don't think it was effective, but I did get the
paper signed the day it was suppose to be signed. It could have
happened the next day as well, during normal people and normal hours.
Her smart ass routine got old fast and when she got on the bottle about her personality changed drastically.
Kolf He and Lacey came back
from Belgium to visit like the do every year. Krijn is a
great moralizer and brushes people off that way, minimalizes their feeling
and experience, always preaching in this way, a kind of looking down on
people that is hypochritical and also not nice.
Joe Joe had a pretty long
standing reputation in town, first among the Burmese for not liking to share
any business around with them.
He had been like that for eyars but his difficulty of late had caused
some of the Burmese to threaten him about coming over to the Burma side.
He had screwed over the Pakistani in town by sending a false fax to the US
Embassy when the man was trying to get a visa for a Shan girl married to an
Generally he had bad mouthed everyone to the point where he appeared to have
a few guests but certainly no friends locally.
Cary Cary's business was even
more low porfile so you only saw him going around town with visitors, since
few other people made much contact with him after getting burned.
Usually Cary sold over priced gems to the foreigners
which they could not sell again let alone make a profit. This was an
old Thai trick too.
Driving around town in a dark blue Muzo car, a wise crack the first thing off
his lips, fat and getting older.
Engineer, Spiro He was young. He had
worked for Pratt and Whitney Jet Engines in Canada and then quit his engineering job and
came to Thailand. He rented a motorbike from the
Honda Shop. Someone stole it from out front of KK Guesthouse while he
was visiting there for two hours. Of course no one saw anthing.
The owner of the bike wanted him to pay and sign a paper that gave them the
bike if they found it after he was gone, a great scam.
Uwe Tells me that all the
girls from villages near to him go to Japan to work as hookers. I know it isn't
as bad as that in some places, but sure in others.
Paul from Australia Heroin at the Plaza and
down the street, but a kind hearted fellow
Robert He was from Australia
Then got room on fourth floor of Scar Faces Place
These two friends met me about the same time at the Plaza, both being from
Australia. Paul is addicted to heroin and looks like it, frail.
Robert is addicted to hookers.
Martin Leaves Thailand More like it to say he
had some kind of close call and was fined, jailed and deported. 300,000
Course he spent on translators, food, fees, payoffs along the way, even had
to pay the police to take him to the airport. Had to pay a lot of
people so he wouldn't spend a ton of time waiting in jail like the normal bad
Was an odd tale all along and hardly one that I can figure. He remains
friendly and optomistic in his own way of viewing life, which is good.
Akha Jim Nick
Tom Luango, waterfall village
what the missionary in Surin said
Stories What ever I did with the
villages it required that I first get there and then get out again. For
many years this was done by motorbike and I later was able to get a four
wheel drive truck.
crash May 97
I smashed up real bad on the motorcycle. Late night, , not thinking, in this road construction
area and forgot that I needed to make one more turnoff of the pavement to go
around construction. My first clue at thirty five miles an hour and a
dim headlight and a light rain was some gravel sticking out into the road on
my left. I went around it, distracted long enough not to see
more. Next I looked up after recovering from my little swerve was that
there was a dump truck heap of gravel stacked directly in front of me and
then I realized that I hadn’t turned of the road the last time
that I needed to. Unfortunately the warning sign I did’t
see till I went back later. I just felt I had made a very bad mistake,
never had a chance to brake, and hit the pile of wet gravel and sand doing
about thirty five.
Packed hard from rain, about five feet high, the motorbike hit it, compressed
the front fork hard and shot upand over it like a rocket. Violent sense
of shock I think you could call it. Next I knw, besides the violence of
the first impact, was that my body was rotating feet from behind and over the
top, still holding the handles, and then passing the motorbike in a violent
cartwheel as I noticed last of all the headlight illuminating the upcoming
gravel cov ered ground as it and I were headed straight back down for
it. I smashed hard and we cartwheeled along, my helmet being torn off
in the madness, screaming, dead without it, the pain excruciating and then
slammin to a stop a moment ahead of the motorbike, it slamming home on top of
me, the motor still runninng and the damn back wheel spinning on madly, me
wildly screaming and trying to through the damn thing off me to where for
some mad reason I then reached over concentiously as an all caring mechanic,
took hold the key and shut the damn thing off before collapsing back into the
muddy water and gravel and laying there until the man quit screaming, whoever
Pausing for a moment I sent out telegraphs to all the pertinent locations and
except for excruciating pain all over, it did not appear that there was any
jagged bones. I lay there in the mud, a little rain, quiet now, the
houses on both sides of the highway turned on their lights. People
talked a little, and then shut their lights off and all was quiet
again. I lay there for some time and was going to throw my helmet so a
car could see it but though what the point and crawled to my feet,
picked up one dislocated mirrow unbroken, stood the motorbike up, its fall so
much more cushioned than mine, started it and drove another thirty kilometers
home to where the cook drug my clothes off and put me in bed and spent her
night proppin a neck and left shoulder, cracked some ribs, didn’t break
the collarbone, and burised a lung, can’t cough or sneeze without great
pain but no blood. An xray wasn’t in the budget.
Took another girl from the school back to the mountain last night and slefpt
very painful at her families house. Couldn’t turn over on my side
or even get up again on y own. The akha family was very nice to me,
the kids quiet and the warmth of that less than perfect family was so
soothing despite my having a screaming desire to cough from an oncoming cold
and not being able to, a somewhat clostrophobic drowning feeling of
The old boy smoked. His daughter's name was Meeh Smm. She had one bad ear,
couldn't hear too well. The hut was small. They were very poor, BUT a
family. I think of this each time I see the misisonaries do their
children stealing thing. He smoked opium, gave some of it to me for the
pain, and his wife gave me a massage. "She has the best box there
is" he said in pride. His frank love and their unity were
Still real sore this morning, my leg swollen on the thigh where the bike
landed and my neck and shoulder abd back on the left side pulp.
Fortunately the Akha know a good message and therapy from keeping the
mountain workers alive. My shoulder sloshes around and grumbles in ways
that I get a lesson on how many parts are there from all their unpleasnt moving
Motorcycles Motorcycles make up a
great deal of the personality of thailand and it would seem especially
maesai. The streets are full, and they wiz byt the guest house at great
But never mind, and they occasionally collide with each other as they did one
late evening. One motorcycle tried to pass a car and didn't see the
other coming as well and struck the other motorbike no more than 20 feet from
where I sat. The woman of the on bike froze on impact for a second and
then slow motion pitched off onto the ground rag still. I went down to
the street and tried to stir her. Finally a police truck came and they
loaded her like bad potatoes into the back. I rode down to the hospital
where they dumped her off and the nurses took over doing a little minor stich
up. She puked. She was dead. Dead drunk on saki.
The thais love their bikes. Riders of all ages. They don't
particularly have rigid rules but follow more of a get along principle, a
trait of the whole country. Under line this. It is a very
important point about Thailand.
The young kids love the noisy ones, I myself prefering to use them for moving
targets. They race along, hair pulled out behind them, the pride of
Then there are the old hondas, held together, chugging down the road in the
most affectionate manner. As I sit writing this, the new spire of the fancy
byuilding the burmese are finishing near the bridge is findished and the
scaffolding is slowly creeping down and off the building, the lower parts not
I had nearly killed
myself on those mountain roads and trails a number of times. Once the
throttle pulsated and I flexed the clutch and brake in a flukish rhythm that
produced the effect of an unstable wobbling bullet which is what the motor
bike was at that moment, and headed straight at a concrete flash flood
culvert. I pulled out of the wag still upright before getting
Again turning a u-turn on another bike, the throttle cable accelerated the
engine as the handle bars turned and shifted the cable somehow and the bike
throttled out from under me, sending me violently over the handlebars and
banging my knee stoutly on a protruding bolt head.
I was only stopping to talk to some Akha fellows whose horse just
hauled peanuts up out of the bottoms. This was a ridge road between Burma and Thailand.
Another time not far from there I stopped to view a viper of some sort and it
came flying across the road at me, head a good six inches off the ground
mouth agape and hissing. I rapidly backed across the gravel road as it
headed on by and into the jungle.
Or the large tree lizard I chased on the motor bike, as it catapulted down
this dirt leaf covered road at incredible speed, body showing day light
underneath, and then plunged down on incline too steep for me to
follow. These were big lizards, two feet long and longer.
Sometimes they were for sale in the market for meat.
As long as I road those motorcycles I crashed them despite my best efforts
Once I borrowed a heavy, forward center of gravity Suzuki Slingshot Bandit
400cc. A truck driver was in front of me in a blue Toyota pick up full of guys. He blinked
his tail lights and I thought a signal to pass and so I pulled out.
Wrong, instead I had initiated myself between oncoming traffic and more sure
of accelerating the weight of the bike than I was of stopping the bike, I
rocketed like a skipping stone down a very frightfully narrow corridor
between opposing moving meat grinders.
Once on the way back to town, with that same bike, during sawn krahn
festival, with two friends on back, I had the joyous experience of having a
woman on a Honda dream 100 slowly turn and linger across my path. Even
at 10 mph slow for caution, I couldn’t stop quick enough and went
over. The badly located center of gravity didn’t work so well at
these times. I went under the bike with a might an horrendous cacophony
of smashing graceful beauty as every part possible slammed and shattered, as
the two friends riding along skidded down the street, shiny, painfully shiny
debris scattering. My helmet slammed the concrete hard. The woman’s
face was in shock. She didn’t stop even to help. My friends were
I had to pay over $500 to fix the bike.
a travel mode Very dangerous, big ones
not good for rainy roads, small ones beat your body
Close calls I have had.
Wreck It is amazing how some
simple goal we have can take us into such complex events.
I was near the bridge in this border town talkin to the kids. Somehow
during the conversation I learned that Meeh Yer and Meeh Tah wanted to go to
Chiang Mai or Chaing Rai to work.
I tried to explain to them the dangers inherent in this to little
avail. It is one of the Akha’s best attributes that they are
stubborn and you have to work around it rather than try to change it.
I decided that it would be a good idea to take them over to talk to Som Pop,
a Thai man from south Thailand who had come up here to make a village of
safety for girls at highes risk of bing taken into the flesh trade.
Maybe he could convince them of the dangers. Later on I found out that
he didn’t speak their language.
I got them to both climb on the motorbike which I had borrowed from a
friend. A sleek racing bike. I carefully took my friends down
through town to the village and down its rough dirt drive way. Once at
the compound both girls became quite shy and retracted. At any rate Som
Pope wasn’t there and so we left, their girls already beginning to walk
Back on the main road through town I had to go quite slow because it was the
dry season festivity Sawn Krahn and the street was glutted with people in
cars, trucks and motorcycles. I was going about as slow as I could and
still keep the bike upright when this woman on a hinda dream coming out of
the other lane turned right in front of me, crossing my path, slow and
She looked up and kept looking as I braked and then all three of us went over
hard, the motorcycle making a horribel breaking clatter and crash and us all
sliding along underneath it. My yellow helmet hit hard on the blacktop
When the broken parts finished flying and the bunch of us came to a stop, the
woman kept going, probably fearful but staring blankly as though she didn’t
realize her involvement in the matter.
A nearby police officer helped stand up the beautiful motorcycle and I picked
up the break lever and scraps.
A loot of damage. Then I looked around and saw that the oldest Meeh Yer
had taken off like a rabbit and was no where to be seen. The younger
one I got back on the motorcycle and took back to the bridge. Her toe
was skuffed but would be ok. The oldr Meeh Yer was concerned with being
caught by the police. Here as on all the earth, the police were not so
Repairs to the borrowed bike were over $500 unfortunately, fixing it all and
all the chrome and such.
motorbike Mae Chan This was a night run,
coming back from Tatong.
motorcycle you get in a wreck as a
foreigner, you have to pay
This is the story. Be careful. I hit a motor bike guy one time at night,
turned in front of me. Broke his nose.
Wreck on the
San Mah Keeh Mai Curve Then the school teacher
in Huai Krai.
VR Car repair
Greed will get you no where
You are bad
man The wife of the man who
blocked my lane said as she stood in front of my truck.
A beggar came to my truck window. Holding out his hand.
I told him to go away.
The lady kept talking, a big black wolf mark on her face.
I told the boy to go away.
Then I looked at the lady.
"What did you want to say?"
Motorcycles Dead motorcycle guy in
street after he hits truck, ‘falang, falang’. Yep, hit a truck on
the curve out of town and everyone just gawked. People are more afraid
now of blood and aids. I have had to catch myself a time or two.
They get hit, they paint white paint around them, load them unceremoniously
into a truck and take them to the hospital where they will say they died of
this and that and bag them.
Everyone was gathered around when I shot through the curve in the dark on my
I braked, stopped, parked and walked back.
He was laying in the road, hit hard, the bike mangled, the small blue Dyna
dump truck there which he hit, and he was still twitching. Best word
for it. Then when they saw me looking they all got very self concious
about it, kept saying ‘falang, falang’ ‘foreigner,
foreigner’ and so they brought a pickup quickly, loaded him like so
many bruised potatoes, into a truck and were gone.
I had seen these cases before. Like the guy who got hit and lay dead in
the road like a rag. Broken neck, didn’t understand what a road
was. Crossed it half way. An old guy. Just going for noodles.
Hey you live and learn or die.
Trips Short of time.
Trip to wavi across the mae kok at night in boat, then traveled all night to
base of Loi Chiang.
01 karoake Owned by Asawa's husband,
The beadshop Bought many beads here
over the years
A baby dies Doh Loh's latest brother,
from Bkk debt bondage?
Old woman runs
away from police station takes a hike to her skirt
Boeuh's Village Woman stands up in boat
boy and her drown
surgeon rapes and kills girl
Soldiers raped a girl and she died. She had no mother, was buried at his
Soldiers had to pay her father money or go to prison
Baby in photo
dies I have that photo.
The mother came after and asked for the photo but would not stop begging the
child, who was already sick, on the bridge.
come to maesai A symbol of the wealth
and drugs happening in this town.
Trips to the
art shop For paint
no cobalt drier
chinese girl visits for money, works
at the meat stall, her parents had a restaurant in the second big hotel in
All the well
equipment in my room
The mad man
below my room the cooks husband
Pounding on the walls. Demons in the walls of the other cabins, a retired
banker, went nuts, walked with an umbrella, then a rag over his mouth, a
paunchy man, other Thais in town said he talked fine.
People need to
learn more kindness
latch off the door on 28 My wife locked the door,
but wasn't sure what I would do about it.
Prasit He is one of the tourist
police. He was just about the most corrupt cop I had ever seen anywhere. He
also got himself into lots of trouble so that he had to be asking everyone
for money. In the old days he used to chase and beat the kids. Someone caught
him at it on video and he got a lot of shit for it. But in Thailand, a cop can survive anything, and he
stayed on as a tourist policeman. But no one could be as crooked as
Prajat Another tourist
policeman, very polite, educated and very proper, always pleasant to talk to
and very straight up. An exception to the normal behaviour of the