8
   

A Brit in The Orient.

 
 
Mathos
 
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 03:46 pm
I normally let a few people who ask about my travels have a selection of e-mails and photographs. The list has grown over the years and several have asked me to put some of my tales onto a thread.

I have never been able to put photographs onto the threads, perhaps I need to master the issue, but my 'Good Friend from Down Under, Dutchy, has offered to put my snap-shots onto the thread if I e-mail the same to him, so perhaps we can see how it works out, or maybe I'll get the right advice regarding entering my own pics. Time will tell.

I was away for almost fourteen weeks this time, my travels took me mainly into the north, north west and central Thailand, with some time spent in Laos and Burma.

I made use of public transport, motorcycle hire, four wheel drive vehicle hire, elephant and rafts.

As usual I was with my wife, and for the first three weeks of the trip we had the pleasure of the company of two of our grandsons, aged sixteen and fifteen respectively, that was great fun, and whilst there was an air of relief at not having the responsibility of two virile young lads to look after for the full period of being away, we both found that we missed their company and presence very much once they left us on the 5th January and made their way back to England by Eithiad Airlines with a stop over in Abu Dhabi for a few hours.

I personally had a great time with them, they both enjoy amateur boxing and took in some training and sparring sessions in Thailand camps. One of the highlights of the time spent with them though, was teaching them both to ride motorcycles, which they became quite good at and although their mothers, (my daughters) are not too pleased with me following this course of action, the lads loved it, and enjoyed mastering the chosen machines, I felt quite good watching them enjoy the freedom of breezing around mountain and coastal roads, psychologically it makes me feel good riding motorcycles and my wife enjoys sitting on the pillion seat.

One might have no hesitation in thinking anything that makes you feel good, does you good.

I'm not going to put any particular order into the course of events and the places visited, but I thought I'd start with Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, the original is surrounded by a moat, and has over the years become quite a modern city. Truly it lacks the cosmopolitan attributes afforded to Bangkok. The city is surrounded by mountains and dense jungle areas, there are many rivers in the region the most important being The Ping which originates in the mountains of Chaing Dao and flows southwards for some 350 miles. The largest mountain in Thailand is found in the province, the Ithanon Mountain and rises some 8500 feet above sea level.

The City was founded in 1296 as capital of the Lannathai Kingdom, it officially became part of Thailand (Siam) in 1774 when King Taksin captured it from the Burmese.

The mountains are home to various Hill Tribe people such as the Akha, Hmong, Karen and Lisu. There are also perhaps several million refugees from Burma mainly Karen, most in Thai controlled refugee camps high in the mountain areas. I have some photographs of these camps and can offer some interesting tales regarding the same and some personal stories from people I have had the benefit of meeting over the years.
With my wife, we once lived in these mountains amongst the Hilltribe people for twelve weeks, we learned a great deal and suffered the hardships of the most basics of life, that was twelve years ago, whilst we both have no regrets about taking the challenge, we have no desire to repeat the same.

It was early morning on the 8th of January 2008, We left our apartment in Chiang Mai, I enjoyed feeling the powerful throb of a large four-stroke motorcycle engine between my legs, wearing shorts, simple shirts, trainers and crash helmets, my wife had her hands placed on my shoulders as we left the Super Highway taking route 118 towards 'The Golden Triangle'
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 04:09 pm
Welcome back, Mathos.

I'm looking forward to reading, and seeing, more about your travels.
0 Replies
 
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 04:15 pm
Me, too, also Smile
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 04:36 pm
The mountain ranges to the immediate north of Chiang Mai below the massive Himalayas are commonly known as 'The Yunnan Knot'.

Here the east-west alignment of the Himalayas twists abruptly. From these mountains the three mighty rivers flow almost parallel,

The Huang-Ho, The Mighty Mekong and the Irrawaddy, as they meet they form the area commonly known as The Golden Triangle.

The northern most town and border crossing in Thailand; Mai Sai is steeped in history and events connected with the opium trade, Khun Sa and a cosmopolitan assortment of people and trading, the likes of which are commonly associated with these quite lawless border towns.

The market features with goods from China, Mongolia, Russia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, India, Nepal cover anything and everything you could wish to buy, be it gold, precious stones of all types, novelties, fridges, freezers, televisions, engines, generators, plant and machinery in general, clothes, fake designer goods, from sun glasses to hand bags, to an alarming trade in human slavery. There are guns, knives, hand grenades, land mines and other weapons of death and destruction. Designer type drugs, mainly methamphetamine commonly known as yaaba, whilst not on show, are offered as under counter products. Caverta tablets, Viagra, hosts of other pharmaceutical products, be they the real product, copies, substitutes or total fakes, I have no idea, marijuana, hashish and various other plants with hallucinogenic or amphetamine type properties being assured by the vendors.

Let any reader note well, the penalties for possession of drugs in Thailand can be as severe as severe can be, death cannot be ruled out, and a life sentence in a hell hole Thailand prison can mean exactly life.

I have visited many Europeans over the years incarcerated in prisons for thinking they could get away with making a good deal of money for a pittance of an outlay in The Golden Triangle, I have seen their suffering and cannot stress strongly enough, it isn't worth it!

I'll write a little up on two of the prisons I am familiar with as a visitor and conditions there at a later date.
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 04:37 pm
Eh Beth, Izzie..........Hi... Thank you!
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 05:06 pm
More!
0 Replies
 
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 05:13 pm
Can picture your words - you write them so we can see into your/their world... thanku for sharing that ...MORE! Smile
0 Replies
 
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 05:18 pm
Yo, M

Good man, thanks. Please accept my BOOKMARK

I took a while to learn about posting pics, but it's easy really.
You have to put them in an online hosting site: there are many, but I use Photobucket, which is free.

The site will assign a URL number for each pic, and that is what you copy over to A2K.

The site will re-size big files too, so you don't have to worry about that.

Good luck.
0 Replies
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 05:28 pm
interesting mathos thanks. What medical/insurance/inoculations did you take?
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 09:16 am
Inoculations Steve!

To be honest with you, I feel concern for youngsters, especially taking my grandsons. Many diseases are transmitted via the bites of infected insects be it flies, fleas, ticks, lice and the ever present mosquito.

The risks regarding malaria have increased of late especially in Laos, Burma, Cambodia and consequently along the borders of each country with Thailand.

My main concern on a personal basis has always been Dengue Fever, I have seen people (occidentals) go down with this infection and resulting illness and it is quite a nasty episode, some don't get through it. There is no vaccine or preventative medication for Dengue Fever.

Other diseases spread by flies and other insects such as mosquito's include; Filariasis, Chikungunya, leishmaniasis, typhus, and plague.
Food and waterborne diseases are really the number one cause of travellers problems in general. Results include Diarrhea, vomiting, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and polio.

Obviously we take the precautions of taking all possible injections, malaria tablets for risk areas and always ensure the water we drink is bottled. well boiled or treated, depending on it's source. It is imperative that only very well cooked food is eaten also.

We have taken rabies injections and applicable boosters for some twelve years or so now. I dread the thought of rabies.

Water should always be treated with concern, it is impossible to determine between infested and non infested water. Swimming in fresh water in rural areas should be avoided, but this is not always a rule strictly followed, especially in moments of relaxation and perhaps a hard days walk in humid conditions, any watering hole looks kind of good!
I always carry hayter (bleach) whisky, banochin and iodine, any bites, scratches or cuts are treated immediately. I also carry various types of anti-biotics for self treatment just in case an infection is apparent.

Only last year in The Khao Lak area of Thailand we were strongly warned to be extremely careful of dogs in the area. Believe me, dogs are not always mans best friend! Many strays and feral packs roam in the mountain areas. Hydatid cysts can be contacted by simply stroking the dogs as the larvae eggs stick to the animals fur. There is no reliable medicinal treatment for these cysts, they have to be surgically removed from the liver where they end up being lodged. An additional infection problem is creeping eruption a nasty syndrome where hookworm larvae penetrate the skin, creating itchy red moving worm shaped trails, normally on the feet and legs. We were also warned of the adorable looking night monkey, it will definitely bite if touched, the bite is extremely infectious. Large gecko's if cornered will also bite quite severely and you would need checking for diptheria and tetanus along with the severity of the bite.

You might appreciate, you have to be cautious, especially with jungle squirrels entering your tree house during the night time, I have been stung by a large black scorpion, stung by wasps and large bees over the years. Numerous insect bites etc etc. I have experienced very bad sickness etc on occasion.

I have been stitched up in an odd clinic or two over the years, last year included.

You have to realise, neither my wife or myself are not getting any younger, we will both be 63 years of age on our next birthday. Insurance cover for the type of undertakings we both undertake is not an issue. We take our chances in other words.
0 Replies
 
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 09:28 am
Mathos wrote:
. We take our chances in other words.


But my oh my -

O how you "live" Mathos. Smile

"Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do."
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 09:39 am
Northern Thailand contains some of the most fascinating people on the planet! The lower slopes of the uplands and the lowlands themselves are claimed by people referred to as northern Thai's or Khonmuang, strongly related to the Shah and Lao. The mountain areas with all of their outstanding limestone peaks reaching in places around 2600 meters above the level of the salt water is homeland to a very culturally distinct selection of folks, minority groups including tribes and customs from the Tibetan Burmese, Lahu, Akha, Lisu, Hmong and Lao of course. Then the major group of Karens who are quite different from either the lowlanders or the highlanders. There have been many so called population count of the mountain people, I am of the opinion that a true figure could never be reached, it's more than difficult to tell who's who and whats what in the mountains, mountains which are simply home to these tribes and they diversify in so many different manners.

The size of a mountain or hillside village especially can vary from one area to another at an alarming difference, mainly depending on the land, coupled with the needs of the community. I have seen villages consisting of over a hundred homes built of bamboo, planking, thatched, grass, leaves for roofs.

The majority have migrated from China during the last hundred years or so, Lahu & Akha originating from Yunnan territories. they still migrate from those areas today. Their homes are established in Burma, Laos and Thailand.

I have heard that there are over four million Hmong, and well over a million Yao, in excess of three quarters of a million Lisu and a quarter million Lahu still living in China!

It is quite well accepted that almost five million Karen live in Burma.

Thai provinces with really high concentrations of hill people include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Tak.

The mountain people are hardy folk to put it mildly even. They have their own languages, ancient beliefs, customs, mode of dress, and were best known to the outside world for their cultivation of the opium poppy. They are extremely strong in their beliefs of the supernatural, Thais in general tend to show this trait too, along with I have noticed, the Burmese, Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese and many Malaysians. Perhaps it is part of the onus that is attached to the territory?

There was a time when Khun Sa had total control of these mountains, a live and let live manner existed, everybody in the mountains recognised the importance of the Golden Triangle as the heroin capital of the world, benefits were obtained by many.

The DEA ensured the Thais too military action against Khun Sa's Thai headquarters in 1982 (January I seem to recall) at Ban Hin Tack some fifty or sixty kilometers to the north-east of Chiang Rai.

I recall a pre-dawn raid taking place, ground assaults and air support from helicopter gunships! A hasty retreat into the mountains of Burma was made by Kun Sa's Shan Army soldiers. Khun Sa wanted revenge for this assault and had approximately two hundred of his soldiers attack Mae Sai. they attacked the Police Station robbed all they could from The Thai Farmers Bank and set many fires going in the vicinity, vehicles especially.

Khun Sa soon established a new control point in the Burmese mountains opposite Mae Hong Son Province. He extended his forces and built several fortresses at strategic points in the mountains along the full length of the border.

He later joined forces with Moh Heng a powerful Shah warlord, between them they took control of the whole border area raising the world wide status of Khun Sa to Opium King and bringing notoriety to the Golden Triangle in general.

I understand he resided in palatial retirement in Burma!

There is quite a process involved in converting raw opium into morphine!

Opium is placed into drums of water and boiled, lime fertiliser is added. the mixture is stirred and left until the matter is suspended in the water. The water is then drained off and the solution is poured into a different drum and heated. Concentrated ammonia is added, the morphine (as it becomes) will sink to the bottom. Drain off through a flannel type cloth leaving chunky particles of morphine which is then packaged.

The manufacturing of heroin is much more complicated and the skills of a master chemist are required to produce the fluffy white powder!

The final stages require the use of ether, {extremely dangerous} if mishandled explosions of a very powerful nature can occur.

The morphine and acetic anhydride are heated together in clean water until they bond. Impurities must then be removed. Sodium carbonate is then introduced, this causes a solidification of crude heroin. Again it has to be filtered and purified in alcohol with charcoal. The alcohol is allowed to evaporate and granules of heroin are left. These granules are then mixed in the perfectly correct ratios with ether and hydrochloric acid.

For crying out loud don't read this and start cultivating your own poppies in the greenhouse!

Khun Sa actually passed away in Burma on the 31st October last year.. (2007)
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 11:17 am
Error.
0 Replies
 
pieman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 01:54 pm
It's good to hear from you Mathos.

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
0 Replies
 
Mathos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 02:32 pm
Cheers Simon, nice to see you about, your comments are appreciated.

There is some outstanding scenery in this particular area of Thailand, the roads aren't too bad either, but care has to be taken especially in the mountains. There is a natural human tendency to relax when you feel the freedom that two wheels and a rather powerful engine give as you coast up and down the sides of mountains. The reality can be abruptly brought back into focus though when you round a bend at some 60mph and find a heavily laden pick up coming towards you as he's overtaking an old Mercedes bus, not a care in the world, no regard for safety or what might be out of sight around the next corner, it can be a lottery at times driving in Thailand, be it two or four wheels.

In the mountain regions especially, progress and development go hand in hand with getting the job done or getting from A to B. Most motorists have never had a driving lesson. They learn the basics and off they go. It's nothing to see farmers coming off the land onto dual carriageways and regarding them as two roads, taking their pick as to which lane they decide to use for the moment in time. Alongside these skills you may just come across a mahout sat astride his elephant which can be dragging a colossal teak log, probably illegally as well. Children as young as ten or twelve years of age can be riding old motorcycles, bare feet, or a pair of flip flops if they are lucky.

Some old girl and her off-spring think nothing at all of setting up a stall selling hardware on the central reservations!

After Mai Sai we were cruising down alongside the Mekong towards Chiang Khong a river/border town with Laos and our intention to spend some time in the area as well as take in an extended boat trip down The Mekong. The Border Police appeared quite interested in seeing a couple of Farangs riding a motorcycle in these parts and we were stopped twice at check-points, the communication between us on both occasions was not so good, dialects change quite dramatically in northern Thailand, but once they had a look around the bike, and peered into our ruck-sacks, prodding around rather aimlessly, they waived us on with a smile and a look of confusion, being no wiser than when they first stopped us. You get used to them over a period of time and normally when they stick their hands up to wave me down, I give them a big toothy grin, wave heartily towards them and carry on, I've never been chased following this response.
0 Replies
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Mar, 2008 03:37 pm
Mathos wrote:
Inoculations Steve!

To be honest with you, I feel concern for youngsters, especially taking my grandsons. Many diseases are transmitted via the bites of infected insects be it flies, fleas, ticks, lice and the ever present mosquito.

The risks regarding malaria have increased of late especially in Laos, Burma, Cambodia and consequently along the borders of each country with Thailand.

My main concern on a personal basis has always been Dengue Fever, I have seen people (occidentals) go down with this infection and resulting illness and it is quite a nasty episode, some don't get through it. There is no vaccine or preventative medication for Dengue Fever.

Other diseases spread by flies and other insects such as mosquito's include; Filariasis, Chikungunya, leishmaniasis, typhus, and plague.
Food and waterborne diseases are really the number one cause of travellers problems in general. Results include Diarrhea, vomiting, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and polio.

Obviously we take the precautions of taking all possible injections, malaria tablets for risk areas and always ensure the water we drink is bottled. well boiled or treated, depending on it's source. It is imperative that only very well cooked food is eaten also.

We have taken rabies injections and applicable boosters for some twelve years or so now. I dread the thought of rabies.

Water should always be treated with concern, it is impossible to determine between infested and non infested water. Swimming in fresh water in rural areas should be avoided, but this is not always a rule strictly followed, especially in moments of relaxation and perhaps a hard days walk in humid conditions, any watering hole looks kind of good!
I always carry hayter (bleach) whisky, banochin and iodine, any bites, scratches or cuts are treated immediately. I also carry various types of anti-biotics for self treatment just in case an infection is apparent.

Only last year in The Khao Lak area of Thailand we were strongly warned to be extremely careful of dogs in the area. Believe me, dogs are not always mans best friend! Many strays and feral packs roam in the mountain areas. Hydatid cysts can be contacted by simply stroking the dogs as the larvae eggs stick to the animals fur. There is no reliable medicinal treatment for these cysts, they have to be surgically removed from the liver where they end up being lodged. An additional infection problem is creeping eruption a nasty syndrome where hookworm larvae penetrate the skin, creating itchy red moving worm shaped trails, normally on the feet and legs. We were also warned of the adorable looking night monkey, it will definitely bite if touched, the bite is extremely infectious. Large gecko's if cornered will also bite quite severely and you would need checking for diptheria and tetanus along with the severity of the bite.

You might appreciate, you have to be cautious, especially with jungle squirrels entering your tree house during the night time, I have been stung by a large black scorpion, stung by wasps and large bees over the years. Numerous insect bites etc etc. I have experienced very bad sickness etc on occasion.

I have been stitched up in an odd clinic or two over the years, last year included.

You have to realise, neither my wife or myself are not getting any younger, we will both be 63 years of age on our next birthday. Insurance cover for the type of undertakings we both undertake is not an issue. We take our chances in other words.
hmmm. I remember taking similar precautions for a day trip to Clacton.
0 Replies
 
Dutchy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 04:27 am
http://img406.imageshack.us/img406/6279/jim1nd5.th.jpg
(Click on picture to enlarge)
0 Replies
 
Dutchy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 04:47 am
http://img406.imageshack.us/img406/8243/jim2in1.th.jpg
(Click on photo to enlarge)
0 Replies
 
Dutchy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 05:00 am
http://img441.imageshack.us/img441/2701/jim3ug0.th.jpg
(Click on photo to enlarge)
0 Replies
 
Dutchy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 05:11 am
http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/4251/jim4xh6.th.jpg
(Click on photo to enlarge)
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » A Brit in The Orient.
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 12/08/2021 at 09:36:07