Monday, November 23, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

We're in Chiang Mai now, the center of northern Thailand and gateway to the madness that is the Golden Triangle jungle. We trundled in a few hours ago on a sleeper train. It smelled strongly of grease and chunked its way relatively slowly over a rough track. Nevertheless, I slept well after walking around Bangkok all of yesterday.

Tomorrow morning, we're going on a three-day jungle trek. Of all the places we've been on this trip, this is the least beaten path. According to those storytelling history bubbles in Lonely Planet, Northern Thailand only became reasonably stable in the 1980s. Before that, it was torn between Burmese, Chinese, and, during the Vietnam War, even CIA influence. It was home to a vicious drug trade, a lot of the world's opium production, and to some colorful personalities like this guy.


That's Khun Sa, the Burmese warlord who got his start with the Kuomintang, amassed a personal army big enough to have territorial feuds with the governments of Thailand and Burma, and trafficked more than 1000 tons of heroin to America. The party, it seems, has since moved to Afghanistan, and the indigenous people now cultivate rice paddies where the poppy fields used to be.

...and now

The plan is to ride some elephants, go bamboo rafting, and hang out with some hill tribes. I'll have some pictures and updates when I come back.

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