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Supoj Klinpraneet, Guide Michael Lacher, Guide in the Hills Dave Parkins, Pharmacist from Bath Rosemary Hall, Teacher from London Leonard Evans, Dress fabric salesman from London Dr Brian Else, lecturer at Brunel University Mikha, from Holland living in America, ex-courier. Linda, worked at Reading University, research into hill tribes Anthony, school teacher, worked in Malay for three years. Les, Import Export from Birmingham Tony, from Melborne, Australia Paul, from Melborne, Australia
Saturday 11th August - Set off at 4.30am from Derby in the Charade. Steve and Robert come down with me, arrive at Heathrow at 7.30, check-in at 8.20, take-off at 10.15. Fly 747 with Pratt and Witney engines. Eight and a quarter hour flight to Delhi, two good meals and a film. Sit next to Len all the way. 10 seats wide, given an orchid when we get on board. One hour stop in Delhi, then three hours twenty to Bangkok, arrive 6am local time, midnight London time. Not sleep, much, another meal and a ripping yarn. When we walk off the aircraft the hot air makes me think that we are in the engine exhaust, but we are not. 30km drive to hotel, air-conditioned bus, Mr Supoj is our guide. 30 Baht is £1
Sunday 12th - Arrive at the Park hotel at 8am, Walked down to the park and railway station get a tut-tut back, B30. Have a good dinner at food centre and have little sleep. Talk from the leader at 2pm. Go to the Royal Place at 4pm in tut-tut, also see marble temple, see monks living quarters. Go to a traditional restaurant have a good meal and see traditional dancing. Three cockroaches, two inches long, in the bedroom. Air conditioning in all the rooms.
Monday 13th - Get up at 5.30am, go on the canal (kalongs) at 6.30am, ride for an hour, see a real floating market, have some local food. See electricity cables along the canal bank. Cross the river to go and see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), then go to see the Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha). Go for lunch at buffet restaurant. Go to see the Emerald Buddha. We later go to see some Thai boxing. Go for a meal, order six dishes between six of us, rather confusing.
Tuesday 14th - Go to see Golden Buddha, worth approx. £50M. Meet some guy who takes us to a special Buddhist ceremony, then a meal and a few beers. Go back along the canal. He asks for 200B for the canal man. Get train to Chiang-Mai, set off at exactly 6pm, very good scenery. Have two meals in the restaurant car, very stylish. Watch people working in the rice fields and see lots of water buffalo. Train is a diesel with 20 old-style coaches. Buy a half bottle of Mekhong whisky for 40 Baht, have a bit of a party. My camera gets stolen whilst we are in the dineing car.
Wednesday 15th - Good nights sleep, wake up with a hangover. Train is late into Chiang-Mai. Get lots of people looking for my camera, report to the police on arrival. Go on a visit to some local handicrafts, lacquer works, I buy a dish, silversmiths, silk ties, wood carving. A solid teak table and six chairs was £1800. Rain all afternoon and evening, also visit the umbrella factory. At 6pm go for a walk round the night bazaar and then for a good meal at the Doret restaurant, 43 Baht
Thursday 16th - Go to visit the local university, hill-tribe research centre. Drive up to Doi Suthep, mountain temple, 3400 feet, misty on the top, very steep drive. Come back down and go to the Daret restaurant for dinner, a Japanese man talks to me in English. Walk round local markets, no Europeans.
Friday 17th - Morning call at 7am, breakfast as usual of fried ham, two fried eggs, toast, marmalade, butter, papaya and coffee. Take the microbus to Mae Suai, takes 2½ hours. Dinner of rice and fried vegetables. Start up a rough track to Akha tribe village, about 60 households, 500 people, arrive at 2pm, explore the village. Get talking to one lad and then others join in. Have a look at their school and see English numbers, posters about opium addiction, general hygiene, Buddha and Thailand. They have classes for two hours in the evenings. They have electric light and motorbikes. 9 km and rough road to Mau Suei. We give piggy back rides to the children, play fight with them, piggy back race with Dave. Michael, our guide cooks tea of rice, vegetables and pieces of meat, also nice potato soup. No rain, clear sky all day. No mosquitoes till after dark and then not too bad. Village is at 1600m elevation. Try out the local speciality.
Saturday 18th - Awake by 6:30 by the noise of animals, people pounding corn. Breakfast at 8am of coffee and toast with pineapple marmalade. On the move by 9am, carrying very little. Arrive at Lahu village, Christian, very basic church with Christian wall posters. Rather dirty village, takes two hours to walk. Have a good swim in the stream, very fast flowing. Dinner of noodle soup, very nice. Short walk up to another small village in the afternoon, another Lahu village, a lot smaller. See growing of dry rice, maize, vines, also terraced fields. Takes about 2 hours. Have dinner of cabbage and pineapple. Go to see the local school. The children are taught lessons and the adults are singing Christian songs. This goes on till about 10pm. No government teaching in the rainy season. The only rain today was at lunch time, rest of the day was very hot, just wearing shorts.
Sunday 19th - Breakfast at 7:20am, set off at 8am. Get to the first village in the dry and then it starts raining, it rains very hard, but is still warm. Rain continues for another 4 hours. The road becomes extremely muddy. Pass through another village on the way, when we get there we have tuna sandwiches. To get to the village we must cross a normally small stream. It has swelled so much that we could not cross. Have to walk across a log bridge. After 2 hours the level has dropped by a foot and a half. Attempt to walk up to see a waterfall but cannot get across the river. Have a walk around the village. In the evening we have dancing laid on. A few of our party join in. Try the local rice wine, 20 Baht for a bottle, real fire water.
Monday 20th - Have a bit of a lie in. Two parties set off, one up the river, cross it 31 times, the other one over the mountains. I go over the mountains, very sweaty, hard days walk. We follow the ponies that are carrying all out gear and food. Arrive at a large Lisu village, 150 families, about 1000 people. Akha arrived in this area about 3 years ago from Burma. In order to live in the same place as the Lisu, the Akha had to pay £6000. The Akha women wear half a kilogram of 90% pure silver on their foreheads, they are quiet wealthy people. Each of the households has got an M16 carbine for protection. Walk down to see the spirit gate, last night on the trek. The head porter is an Opium addict. Most of us try the local delicacy, 10 Baht a go.
Tuesday 21st - Porridge with egg for breakfast. Depart at 8:45am. Have an armed escort for the first part of the journey. Very misty. Highest peak in the area is 1750m. Have good conversation on the way, with Anthony about my education, about computers with Dave. Mules follow the same trek, takes about 3½ hours. Arrive back in the first Akha village. Meet trucks to take us back to Mae Suai, have lunch there, fried vegetables and rice. 1½ hours drive to Chiang Rai. Eat out at a nice place with Rosemary and David.
Wednesday 22nd - Leave hotel at about 8:45am, using the same two microbuses as yesterday, drive first to a Monkey cave, heavy rain. See a few monkeys catching bananas and also a Buddha in the hillside. Then drive to Yao hill tribe village. Village is just by the side of the road. They were of Chinese descent. Buy a black jacket for 250B = £8. Very shy about babies being photographed. Drive to border point of Mae Sai, walk half way across the bridge to Burma. Len walks into Burma and then wanders back again, border is very open. Get told off for not wearing a shirt. Go to Golden Triangle, so called because of the opium trade. Meeting point of Burma, Laos and Thailand. Go to the Mae Kong river hut. Great place, individual bedrooms with mosquito netting. Have a bit of a party by the banks of the Mekong. Drink lots of Mekhong whisky, now 50B for a full bottle. Some people stay up till 5am.
Thursday 23rd - Get up at 6am to try to get a picture of the sunrise and to go for a swim in the Mekong river, but it is cloudy and there is raw sewage floating down the river. Usual breakfast of lots of toast and 2 fried eggs. Set off in microbuses at 8:30pm. Go to Chiang Saen, see temple built in 1290. Then drive to see Meo tribe, came from Laos 32 years ago. Tiled roofs and lots of motorbikes. Very close to the road, look inside one of the houses. See hot springs at dinner time, strong smell of sulphur. Continue on to Chiang Mai, arrive at 3:30pm. Hang off the back of the bus most of the way, but get told off by a policeman. Start reading “Burmese Days”. Go out for a meal with Rosemary and David. More frogs legs in ginger sauce, sweet and sour pork, fried beef with bamboo shoots, chicken with cashew nuts, fried rice and a Singha beer, all for 90B. Walk round the night bazaar, buy some more t-shirts. Stay at Prime hotel, as before.
Friday 24th - Breakfast at 7:30am, depart for bus station at 9am. Government bus leaves at 9:30, goes very slowly. The hostess gets found out on the way for not having a licence. See some marble spikes being mixed. Read most of the way. Arrive in zzt at 4pm. Walk round town for an hour. All the people stare, because of our hairy legs and they have obviously seen very few English people. Buy a Durian and a Mangosteen. Durian has a very bad smell and very little flesh. Transfer to a rice barge and set sail at 9:45pm. The barge is made of Teak and is 50 years old, very good condition. Fluorescent lighting on board. Have a few drinks till 2:30am. Evening meal consisted of rice and 3 main courses, chicken and cashew nuts, beef and cabbage, fried vegetables. Say goodbye to Dr Brian Else, he is heading to Sumatra.
Saturday 25th - Awake at 6am, totally overcast, turn into a canal (khlong) and start negotiating a lock. Stop at another lock and wander round the village market for a while. No Europeans there, very run down market, hundreds of TV aerials, buy an ice-cream. Go a bit further along the small river. Then go to the biggest Buddha in Thailand, about 50m high, cost about 20 million Baht. Made of concrete and gold porcelain. It has a heart made of solid gold. This is common in the bigger Buddha. Get on the boat again and go further down, very hot. Have dinner of hot chilli beef and rice. Have a very good fruit punch for tea, also chips, beef burghers, sausages and general buffet. Have a few drinks, I finish “Burmese Days”, sad book. Go to bed early, boat stops at about midnight and drops anchor. Most people are very tired and crash out at about 10:30pm. The three of us stay on till 12:30am
Sunday 26th - Still at anchor, I wake up at 6am, not sure where I am, everyone is peaceful. Set sail at about 9am, arrive in Ayutthaya at 10:30am. Rosemary is not feeling too well. Go round the ruins. Lots of Buddha with their heads chopped off by the Burmese. Drive back to Bangkok and stop for a meal on the way. Get there about 3pm, laze in the pool all afternoon, doing back flips. Say goodbye to Anthony, he was heading back to Chiang Mai, then getting a motorbike and riding round for a week. He was very interested in my schooling. He has spent three years in Malay Rubber plantations. He was previously a boarding school teacher, doing Ruga (Rugby). Go out for a meal with David and Rosemary, starter of fried Chinese roll, main course of fried rice with crab, chicken and cashew nuts, wild boar with limes and green pepper. Also squid, crab, prawn in a curry sauce, fried noddle with chicken, cutty fish in a salad dressing. Plenty of Singha beer, total cost of 140B.
Monday 27th - Get up at 8:15am. Walk into the city centre, past the World fellowship of Buddhism. Walk round the Siam centre, very posh shops, but all very expensive. Meet a friend of Rosemary from first few days in Bangkok, she takes us to the government shop. Quite good jewellery, poor exchange rate there. Buy a few shirts and tapes and belt on the way back. Walk back to the Park hotel, then get Tuk Tuk to the Golden Mount. A monk talks to us for a while in English, he has a gap in his lessons. He is 21 years old and has been a monk for 11 years and before that he was a novice. He can speak English, French, German, Thai, Buddha language. He wishes to disrobe and work somewhere near Bangkok. He is called Chantee Soukserm. He came from a village in the east. I take his photograph. Tuk Tuk to the Ambassador Hotel for the final meal. See Steve Davis, Tony Meo and lots of other top snooker players. There was some competition or snooker demonstration at the hotel. Collect pair of trousers and shirts at 10am, made to measure in silk. Order another set ready for 4:30pm, £60 for both sets. Leave hotel at 7pm. Flight supposed to be at 9:55, but delayed till 10:30pm, sit with Dave and Rosemary. No baggage checks at all. Three video screens on the plane. Fifteen channels of music. Three hours 20 minutes to Delhi, wait for an hour, eight hours 45 minutes to Paris, wait for an hour, 45 minutes to Heathrow. Collect luggage and get on the tube. Six hours difference between Thailand and England. Touchdown at 2pm Bangkok time, 8am London time. Get quick train from St Pancreas at 10:30am, 2½ hours to Derby.
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