Sunday, December 17, 2006

lao *miao*


e wandering straycat wanders off again....

updates at *miao* in lao (+ thailand)

meowy catmas + happy meow year in advance =)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 21 MAG + Ban Apa

[171205] some of e villagers were coming to town to get food supplies for e volunteers in Ban Jalae, & would give us a ride to MAG. at 1000AM in e elastic timezone of Thailand we were to look out for a Lahu guy at e bus station. e bag-loving bus station guy was there again, & paranoid us kept moving around to avoid him =P

finally met Jatee (whom Pi Moo referred to as 'Yatee' over e phone, making e cat rather confused - don't all Lahu guys' names start with 'Ja'?) & a twincab-ful of Lahus from Ban Jalae, & set off for e wholesale market:


e market is like a giant sheltered carpark, & farmers drive their trucks laden with fresh produce here, park them in e 'parking lots', & sell their stuff from e back of their vehicles. YK found a lady selling goreng pisang, & treated us all to some. e lady had a dog that gobbled up all e bits of fried batter that fell to e ground, a really unhealthy diet!

back at MAG in Ban Huay Khom one year after A.W.E. 2004:


& then we were off to Ban Apa in e back of a truck headed for Ban Jalae, with Hep, a Thai volunteer, e 'casualty list' Pi Moo had printed out for us, & photos of A.W.E. team members together with their host families that e cat had printed out to help in identifying people (but with e sheet with Atee's family photo folded & kept away). Agong's wife was on e list =| left a dust storm in our wake as e truck bumped along e rocky unsealed road out of Ban Huay Khom. got off at e bridge outside Ban Aja & started walking up e slope to Ban Apa, not knowing what kinda 'atmosphere' to expect.

met Acha's eldest son along e way:


relieved to see them - if e kids could still be playing, perhaps things weren't that bad?

as we walked in....e familiar swing, miss q's host's hut, an unfamiliar new wooden house next to it, Agong's house, e shelter where Acha parks his truck, another unfamiliar concrete house that has taken e place of e headman's hut, e info centre built by e A.W.E. team, Atee's hut, e shop, an unfamiliar new 'karaoke palace' hut outside Naga's host's 'panda' hut, & Ata as usual busy sewing at e shelter that serves as her handicraft stall....with a villager swathed in blankets lying next to her, & more villagers sitting on a mat on e ground outside rumpel's host's hut, some with bandages, waiting for their turn to consult e village herbalist.

Ata recognised us & sprang forward to offer us bananas from e bunch she had beside her =) rest of e afternoon passed by in a blur as we went from house to house to verify & update e 'casualty list' - who, how severe, back home or still in hospital, back to work or still recuperating, etc. Mithi had been buried e day (before?) we flew off from Singapore, & Atee was now away trying to sort out legal issues, with Michu in e care of e elderly Api & other village women. there was some confusion over whether SM + HY's host's wife was e mute lady that Pi Moo said was hurt...turned out that there are two mute ladies in e village, & it was Aseu's wife who was injured. Agong's wife was seeking treatment in nearby Ban Phukor & being cared for by relatives there, & Thanchanok was helping her granddad to take care of Ban-on & Aklor while Agong was away at work.


e truck with an apparently drunk driver slid downhill & overturned into e depression on e right of e road, pinning 26 villagers beneath. those who managed to crawl/dig their way out survived. two didn't. villagers believe that e site is cursed - a villager committed suicide there some years ago.

& then we walked out to e main road & to Ban Huay Mae Sai school, before catching a songthaew back to Chiangrai city to update those in Singapore on e situation.

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]

chiangrai 2005 - 20 General Duan's tomb

[161205] General Duan's tomb on e hillside above Khum Nai Phol resort, overlooking Mae Salong in e direction of Ban Klang:


e guy who has taken over e late Huang Jiafu's 'guard duty' at e tomb:


interesting fella sits at a small table on e left & is more than willing to chat at length with e occasional visitor. told us that e late General Duan took care of e orphaned children of his men, ensuring that they received an education. he gave YK a photostated copy of some write-up (in Chinese) on e history of e KMT army in Mae Salong, & we gave him a 2 Singapore dollar note to add to his currency collection =)

souvenir shop at e base of e tomb, in a rather picturesque setting beneath a beautiful tree with e absence of leaves revealing branches most graceful:


e owner saw us trekking up e slope to e tomb & stopped to give us a lift in his 4WD =) he'd just finished clearing a hillside trail linking e tomb to e Goddess of Mercy temple above e morning market, & suggested that we use that shortcut to return to Shin Sane guesthouse.

e trail he cleared - had e honours of being e very first users:


at some points e trail wasn't really distinct, & we had to look for signs of disturbance to e vegetation, before finding e link to a path at e back of temple grounds:


kinda weird walking 'home' by such a path after a 'shopping spree' - we'd bought fried bamboo worms & coconut chips as gifts for Agong's family & our friends in Singapore =P

back of temple grounds:


saddest gibbon in Mae Salong:


so many of these amazingly agile acrobats are held captive & chained up in tourist spots around Thailand, even in bars & nightspots. & going by e experience of e gibbon rescue centre in Phuket, once taken away from their social groups, e success rate of rehabilitating captive individuals & reintroducing them into e wild isn't very high....a tropical rainforest devoid of their whooping & singing calls echoing through e morning light is a rather empty place.

finally got to see e mosque up close:


recycling bins outside mosque - an abandoned project?


saying goodbye to Mr He before returning back to Chiangrai city:


shared a songthaew with two guys in their twenties heading back to their jobs in Vietnam. on our way up to Mae Salong we'd been waved through at e Ban Akha Sam Yaek military checkpoint, but this time on our way down our songthaew was stopped & soldiers questioned who e cat was (illegal Burmese cat smuggling?)....& e two guys had to explain that it was a tourist!

got off along e highway a couple of kilometres shy of Chiangrai city, while e guys continued on to Chiangrai International Airport. e songthaew driver charged us only e 60 baht Mae Salong-Ban Pasang fare =P YK & e cat were left standing by e roadside along Asia Superhighway No. 1 until they flagged down a green songthaew heading towards e city. & then it was a mad rush climbing onto e songthaew roof to haul e backpacks up, & then scrambling into e back as vehicles zoomed by us on e expressway....something e cat will never try on e expressways back in Singapore! YK was somewhat miffed that e songthaew driver refused to lift even a fingernail to help us with our barang.

& that was not e end of e songthaew adventure. on reaching Chiangrai bus station, e cat climbed up again to get e backpacks down, & turned around to pass one into what it thought were e hands of YK - just as YK pulled e owner of e pair of hands away, & e backpack fell to e ground....this strange guy who spends e whole day hanging around e bus station was over eager in trying to help (we think....benefit of doubt) us with our bags (maybe for a tip in return?), & YK was trying to stop him from tugging at e cat clinging onto e songthaew ladder.

rest of e day was spent checking through e whole list of emails from A.W.E. 2004 team members, discussing e donations with 2 of them on web MSN, tallying up e total amount donated, & contacting Pi Moo....

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]

chiangrai 2005 - 19 chinese martyrs memorial museum

[161205] 豆浆油条 breakfast at e morning market again:


e kids took over e running of e stall after their mother passed away, & wake up before dawn (e market comes to life around 0500AM) to churn out you2 tiao2 & ham3 ji1 peng2 before rushing off to school.

2 days ago they were fresh:


landslide that explains why e designated area for a market remains unused:


Chinese Martyrs Memorial Museum:


we were e only visitors that morning, & some guy appeared out of nowhere to collect e 20 baht entrance fee & unlock a gate for us, though it seems that anyone can just walk in for free from e back....

spent e longest time in e exhibition hall which was full of extensive write-ups in Chinese, Thai & English:


Kuomintang (KMT) retreat route (blue) from Yunnan through Xishuangbanna into Burma & Vietnam with Communist forces in pursuit (red):


appears that Muang Sing, Luang Namtha & parts of Phongsali in today's Lao PDR & Kengtung & other northern bits of Shan state in present day Myanmar were then part of China?

crossing at Tachilek (Burma):


presumably across e Ruak(?) river into today's Mae Sai, e northernmost point of Chiangrai & Thailand where tourists flock to enroute to e Golden Triangle? e account of their journey across e mountains & rivers of Xishuangbanna & Shan state & e numbers of soldiers & family members who didn't make it to e end & had to be buried along e way or abandoned to die in e jungle reminded e cat of e stuff it'd read about e Long March & e Hmong escape from e Pathet Lao into Thailand.


some of e forces ended up crossing into Thailand from present day Lao PDR, establishing themselves at Doi Pha Tang in Chiangrai:


J of Baan Bua Guesthouse is from Doi Pha Tang, & a 3rd generation descendant of e KMT forces that settled there. Doi Pha Tang is somewhere north of Phu Chi Fa along e Thai-Lao border, & we'd wanted to visit e place. supposedly beautiful with cherry blossom trees like Mae Salong, but getting there without your own transport is difficult.

HM e King Bhumiphol & Queen Sirikit:


e KMT forces in Mae Salong & Doi Pha Tang were useful to e Thais in e days of territorial disputes with Burma & Lao. they also became involved in e opium trade around e time of e Secret War in Lao & Vietnam War.

Generals Lei Yutian & Duan Xiwen, two key figures whose names we heard several times while in Mae Salong:


we would later meet e 'successor' of this guy who used to stand guard at General Duan's tomb on a hillside overlooking Mae Salong every day until he passed away:


across from e exhibition hall is another hall with pictures documenting e development of Mae Salong with Taiwanese aid. completion of a bridge along Yong Le Road, along which we'd trekked e day before:


[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]

Sunday, December 03, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 18 Ban Panasawun to Ban Heka trek

[151205] third leg of Mae Salong to Ban Klang trek: from Ban Panasawun to Ban Klang & then to Ban Heka....

yet another Akha village:


e imperata grass thatched roofing is perfect for keeping e sun out & e interiors cool even in e blazing midday heat, no need for air-con =)

on either side of a small bridge:


everything is dated according to 'nth year of e Republic of China'. e road we have been walking along is called Yong3 Le4 Road

spirit gate of e Akha village:


salaa with a wonderful view of e valley below right outside e village:


e kinda place where you can sit down with a good book for a long long time =)

unidentified plant:


descending into tea plantation near Ban Klang:


& a final climb up to Ban Klang proper along e Ban Pasang-Mae Salong highway. sat down for ice cream & a chat with Mrs Li, who runs one of e roadside provision stores, & her husband, who has been to Taiwan for higher education. decided to continue with an approx 4km roundtrip to Ban Heka since we'd walked all e way here, & have never visited a Lisu village before....

between schools & villages there will be e trail of non-biodegradable litter left behind by kids:

photo by YK

in e days before plastic wrappers & tetrapaks & tin cans, littering wasn't so much of a problem. everything was wrapped up in huge teak leaves or fragrant banana fronds that you could throw just about anywhere, & e village cows, pigs, goats, chickens, dogs, rats & ants would take care of it.

left fork goes downhill to Ban Heka:


Ban Heka:

photo by YK

only evidence of this being a Lisu village:

photos by YK

a lady in a traditional light green Lisu top with e characteristic multiple super-thin-coloured-stripes sleeves.

Ban Heka was full of meows:


back at Ban Klang we had no luck hitching a ride from passing trucks & vans. Mrs Li came to our rescue, hailing 2 passing motorcyclists on their way to Mae Salong & asking them to give us a ride back....YK rode pillion with a young lady who has a Singaporean boyfriend, while e cat got a lift from some guy who was nice enough to drop it off right at e doorstep of Shin Sane =)

YK's choice of strange-looking 'noodles' for dinner at Salema again:

photo by YK

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]