6,000 people from 118 villages, 11 tambon and two
municipalities participated in the grand parade along the main Chiang
Mai-Hod Road starting from San Patong District Agriculture Office, ending at
the San Patong District government office grounds.
grand parade proceeded along the Chiang Mai-Hod Road in San Patong.
The parade was to express their support of the anti-drug
campaign as a part of the 60 day countdown drug project initiated by the
government with San Patong district the first pilot scheme for Chiang Mai.
Prinya Panthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor led the
people in taking an oath not to get involved with drugs. He was then
followed by Thawatwong na Chiang Mai, a former MP for Chiang Mai and a
former minister who spoke on the problems.
This event in the anti drug campaign was called “Palang
Paen Din, Kachad Sin Ya Septid, or “People power can eradicate drugs”
which is a part of the 60 day countdown in honor of the His Majesty the King
on his birthday on December 5, this year.
The Drug Combat Operations Center in San Patong district organized this
campaign, with district officials, local administration officers, kamnans,
village headmen, and the public.
Governor Prinya led the people in an affirmation not to get involved with
of people took part in the parade.
marching band led the parade.
marchers carried the portraits of Their Majesties the King and Queen.
dance was one of the more active activities on the day.
majorette led one of the marching bands.
of adventurous people took part in aerobics exercises during the event.
Flying Tigers Reunion at Wing 41
Fortunately, they came in peace!
Michael and Marion Vogt
It was a truly special event - special was the venue,
special was the attendance, special was the decoration, and foremost special
were the people. Imagine the Tango Squadron’s hangar next to the Chiang
Mai Airport’s runway, with planes taking off and landing, and tables and
buffets set-up in the midst of warbird airplanes, such as the Curtis P 40
Fighter, complete with the painted shark mouths and squadron insignia. A
rather spectacular scenario.
Captain Veerayuth Didyasarin and his daughter, HRH Princess Siripachutaporn,
Consul General of the United States Eric Rubin and Hon.
Consul of the United Kingdom David Hopkinson were amongst the selected group
of attendees to await the arrival of the ‘Flying Tigers’ Squadron. It is
indeed remarkable that those veterans, nowadays in their late 70s and 80s,
made the effort to travel all the way from the US, half way around the
world, in order to attend this year’s ‘Remembrance Day’ ceremony here
in Chiang Mai, and to personally witness the dedication ceremony of the
Flying Tigers memorial (Chiangmai Mail issue No. 46, page 2), held earlier
on that day on the grounds of the foreign cemetery near the Gymkhana Club.
president of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) Captain Dick Rossi during
his opening address.
Upon arrival of the Flying Tigers, Group Captain
Veerayuth Didyasarin welcomed all, and personally showed them around the
hangar. The wreckage of a P-40 Hawk 81A-2, shot down on 24 March 1942 in Mae
Hong Son, drew their particular interest, and must certainly have brought
back some special memories. Looking at the remains of the plane, it seems a
miracle that the pilot William McGarry survived the crash.
of the props of the venue - albeit a real one!
As the last reunion dates back 3 years, all those
attending had to catch up on a number of things, and it was amazing to watch
the younger pilots chatting and exchanging experiences with those living
legends, who more than willingly stunned the listeners with their
adventurous stories, sounding more like coming from a Hollywood storybook.
miracle that Captain William McGarry got out of this wreckage alive.
The more stories they told, the more boyish and
adventurous became the look and expressions on their faces, and one could
imagine that if there would have been a fully-functional P-40 on stand-by,
the Tigers would have started to roar, hop in the plane, meaning
‘business’. Luckily, the warbirds surrounding the party venue were not
sufficiently fuelled, so that everyone could hold on to their drinks, rather
than anything else.
Tigers were busy signing posters, flyers and caps at the end of the evening,
as everyone wanted to have a personal autograph.
Sirens and a police escort signaled the arrival of one of
Captain Veerayuth’s daughters, HRH Princess Siripachutaporn, who graced
the evening with her presence. Dinner began to be served to the thunderous
sounds of another TG flight taking-off, and the light-hearted and blissful
atmosphere was enjoyed by everyone present.
wreckage of a P-40 Hawk, shot down and found in Mae Hong Son, brought back
memories to the Flying Tigers.
In his formal opening address, Captain Veerayuth
expressed how proud and privileged he and his squadron felt to yet again
host this important evening. Adding to this, Peeya Chakrapak, member of the
“Free Thai” group and representing HSH Prince Bhisadej, recalled a
number of adventures from his active times as a pilot.
Responding to his speech on behalf of the group, AVG
President Dick Rossy said how much each and everyone appreciated the warm
welcome, and that everyone is looking forward to return to beautiful Chiang
Mai next year. On behalf of all participants, he presented a number of
memorabilia and George Shaw’s painting replicas, autographed by as many as
30 Flying Tigers.
Late at night, a truly memorable evening came to an end,
and everyone left with the impression ‘I am one of them’.
Military Camp, a new choice for university freshmen?
The initiation rites and ceremonies involving university
freshmen have been getting out of hand, according to some authorities.
Oppression and threats have become commonplace according to some students
who have been through it in the past.
freshmen were under the instruction of a military trainer.
However, things have changed at Payap University.
Pongthep Termsnguanwong, a lecturer announced that they would not have any
freshmen activities in the university area.
The members of Payap University Faculty talked about an
activity which could establish the relationship between students in each
year. The committee concluded that a military camp should be suitable for
new students to learn the discipline, sacrifice, and respect senior
students, under military trainers.
Unjai, president of the project.
Lt. Col Wisit Dechsakul, leader and trainer in this 33rd
Military Circle camp, said it was good to get the freshmen heading in the
right direction under instructors and military trainers. However, the
training had to be adjusted to be suitable for women.
Jaturadaj Unjai, the second year student and president of
the project, said besides forging the relationship between each year, the
instructors would stay with them the entire project 3 days 2 nights. “We
could also reduce the gap between teachers and students,” Jaturadaj
enjoyable campfire on the second night.
However, it has not received universal acceptance. Chaleampong Thondee, a
1st year student who attended the camp, revealed that on the second day
senior students still used mental intimidation with them. “Some of us were
not satisfied and they requested to leave the camp,” he said.
who did not follow discipline were punished.
Lanna Art in Chiang Rai
Small museum for art lovers
If you’re an admirer of Lanna artistic heritage, you
will have already seen the gorgeous photos of royal court and temple art in
Michael Freeman’s and Susan Conley’s well-researched texts on Lanna
culture. But there is one item you probably will not have seen-even in a
photo. I’m referring to the magnificent gold-gilded teak throne from the
ancient Lanna court at Chiang Tung (present day Keng Tung in Burma).
Suriyachai, a teacher and art connoisseur, who began collecting Lanna
artifacts when he became concerned about foreigners buying antique works and
taking them out of the country.
At the Oub Kham Museum in Chiang Rai, you can see the
real thing. The throne is a masterpiece, and probably the only throne left
in Southeast Asia of the former Lanna kingdoms. This small exquisite museum
is too much of a well-kept secret. The museum is a private collection of
Lanna art from the last 300 years up to the recent past, when the provinces
of north Thailand, northwest Laos, parts of northeast Burma, and Yunnan
China were ruled by local royal courts independent from the increasing
encroachment of Siam.
museum itself consists of a number of small reconstructed Lanna houses like
this one, delightfully arranged in a tropical garden.
Set within its own enchanting garden of plants,
sculpture, woodcarving, bubbling fountains, with a small outdoor cafe, the
museum itself consists of a number of small reconstructed Lanna houses.
Touring the museum, one goes from one to the other, experiencing wonders at
There are some absolutely magnificent items here.
Foremost among which, and the namesake of the museum, are collections of oub
kham, giant elaborately carved and gilded royal food bowls. From Yunnan,
come outstanding examples of silver jewelry, one strange piece being a large
hair pin that also doubled as a small dagger for women in proverbial
collection of ‘oub kham’, giant elaborately carved and gilded royal food
The museum also contains exquisite Buddha statues from
Chiang Saen as well as other outstanding examples of centuries-old temple
art. Lovely examples of contemporarily-woven textiles in traditional
patterns are on sale in the 15,000 baht range.
We have Julasak Suriyachai to thank for preserving these
wonderful items. A teacher and art connoisseur, he began collecting Lanna
artifacts when he became concerned about foreigners buying antique works and
taking them out of the country. He felt strongly that Thailand’s Lanna
heritage should be kept here for the study and appreciation of Thai’s and
local visitors. A wealth of information, Julasak is usually available onsite
to give you a personal tour of the museum.
If you’re an art lover, don’t miss this museum. For
you, a trip specifically to visit the Oub Kham would not be out of the
question. There are now 45-minute direct flights from Chiang Mai to Chiang
Rai at affordable promotional rates. If you have wheels, the season is now
splendid for a 3-hour drive on highway 118 with khi-lek trees and
bougainvillea in full bloom.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 200 baht admission for
foreigners. Located on the far west side of Chiang Rai on Na Khai Road next
to the Den Ha market. Call 053-713-349 for more info.
Laos: The Hidden Heart of Southeast Asia
A Map Review
Situated in the heart of the golden mainland of Southeast
Asia or Suvannaphum, the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic has a high
potential for adventure and eco-tourism projects alike and is fast becoming
an exciting tourist destination within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. The
number of tourist arrivals has increased gradually from 14,000 visitors in
1990 to 737,000 visitors in 2002. Would it not be because of the outbreak of
the Iraq War and SARS in 2003, Laos would have easily welcomed a million
Unkovich as people know him: on his bike somewhere exploring the best roads.
That is why a timely detailed map, especially for
motorcycle enthusiasts, is heartily welcomed. Surveyed and researched by
David Unkovich, an Australian long-time resident of Chiang Mai, and
digitized by his son Jason Unkovich, the Laos Guide Map was published in
2001 by ‘The Golden Triangle Rider Company’ in Chiang Mai and since
August 2003 is in its second edition.
The handy map comes alone and is printed on protected
paper that can be cleaned after a dusty bike ride or after getting wet in a
heavy rainstorm. There are nine city & town maps mainly on the back side
of the main Laos Guide Map plus a very helpful sketch of the pre-historic
sites on the Plain of Jars.
- The Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
Also, there are very useful written guidelines for the
visit of the several indicated National Bio-diversity Conservation Areas
(NBCAs) and eco-tourism guidelines, taken from the booklet of the Nam Ha
Eco-Tourism Project in Luang Nam Ta. The map legend considers 6 different
road conditions, branching out from National Route No.13, which connects
China in the north to Cambodia in the south. Special signs for tourist
attractions such as waterfalls, caves, and temples are colorfully exposed
and indicated, also the only private run elephant camp, managed by German
national Markus Peschke in Luang Prabang.
With a total area of 236,800 square kilometers, Laos is
around 70% mountainous, reaching a maximum elevation of 2,820 meters in
Xieng Khouang Province. The Mekong River is the main watery highway and
flows nearly 1,900 kilometers through Laotian territory, partly forming
borders with Myanmar and Thailand in the west, while the Annamite Cordillera
forms the border to Vietnam in the east. The Mekong in Laos runs through the
Middle Mekong River Valley, stretching from the Green Triangle in the north
and via the Golden Triangle to the Emerald Triangle in the south, where the
Mekong creates 4000 islands and an endemic zone for the ever-dwindling
David Unkovich has indicated all updated international
border crossings, where it is possible to get a visa on arrival with a fee
of 30 USD and a validity of 15 days. But besides the Nampao international
checkpoint in Borikhamxai Province, there is also the Naphao international
checkpoint in Khammouane Province to connect Nakhon Phanom and Thakhek
directly with Vietnam by National Route No.12. The highly promoted East-West
Corridor runs from Danang in Vietnam on National Route No.9 through
Savannakhet Province and Thailand’s I-san to Myanmar and India.
A tricky border crossing is between Laos and Cambodia’s
Stung Treng Province, where you have to cross over the Mekong from Voeun
Kham to reach the checkpoint at Dong Crorlor with a pre-arranged visa. There
are now two other authorized land checkpoints with visa hold in advance: one
from China to Sobhun in Phongsali Province and from Myanmar to Xiengkok in
Luang Nam Tha Province. To enter Xayaburi Province from Nan Province or Loei
Province in Thailand is still a political problem.
It is not very easy to get all the different place names
and geographical terms in the right spelling. It depends if you are picking
them up from French, German, or English written sources. Nevertheless, there
is a local system of writing slowly emerging and David tries to follow it by
exactly copying from the traffic signs and official advertising boards.
Nobody can really know how much working hours went into compiling this Laos
Guide Map on a scale of 1:1,400,000. Meticulous notes and shared information
from fellow companions make this map as accurate as possible. It is human
nature that there are some mistakes such as the wrongly indicated course of
the Mekong at the top of the map or the failed marking of the new Mekong
Bridge, south of Pakse down in Champasak Province.
There are some overseen sightseeing stops on the Luang
Prabang city map, which gives details such as hotels, restaurants, bars,
hospitals and bus stations. Also, there must be at least some bars in
Oudomxai, I’d guess.
The Khmer sanctuary of Heuane Hin is worth a visit and is
located in Ban Dongdokmai right on the Mekong and 66 kilometers south of
Savannakhet. Nearby is the ancient That Phon Pagoda dating back to the 8th
century as part of the mythical kingdom of Sikhottabong. Further south
stretches the relatively unknown Boloven Plateau, where in the eastern parts
there are still remnants of the Vietnam War along the infamous Ho Chi Minh
Trail. Treks and excursions to local hilltribe villages are easy to arrange
and are much more rewarding than visits to the overrun Akha villages of
Muong Sing in Luang Nam Tha Province.
We have to give honorable credit to David Unkovitch to
supply a low-cost Laos Guide Map for 175 baht - a piece that will endure
many years to come, of soft and hard adventure travel in the land of a
million elephants. Furthermore, the map would be a highly recommended
addition to the information kit for all the delegates of the upcoming ASEAN
Tourism Forum that will be hosted in Vientiane January 30 - February 7,
For further information, please contact the web site www.GT-Rider.com or
Reinhard Hohler, GMS Media Travel Consultant, by
e-mail [email protected]
The shadowy life of the gender benders
Story and photos by Chin Raitamkul and
Among the drift of air in the winter night, the light
from many cars passed me by at Thapae Gate, where transvestite prostitutes
earn their livelihood. They are regarded as beautiful flowers, but they are
actually just made out of plastic.
I stopped at a restaurant where I met Nui, who has lived
with husbands from three different countries. Nui talked about her job, and
that she did not take it too seriously, but was mainly hanging out with her
friends. She added that she was happy when going out with someone, as she,
at the same time, could make some extra money.
between a transvestite and a potential customer.
While she was talking to me, she glanced at someone
passing by, shouting “Hey! Boy free for you. Come on!” She immediately
walked towards a guy whom she found very attractive, I noticed. It was
amazing that in a fraction of a second of that first sight could make her
attracted to someone she did not know before.
their arrest, there are no transvestites left on Loi Kroh Road.
I left the restaurant hoping to understand and get more
insight, but regrettably rarely found cooperation. While I was walking back,
my hopes were raised again. I saw an old man sitting in front of another
restaurant. He was a fortuneteller who was acquainted with the transvestite
prostitutes since they had worked in the same area for a long time.
“During the day they won’t go out, but rather stay at a cheap rented
room, paying probably only 100 baht. They only start working at night,”
said the fortuneteller. He also introduced me to Pat, and I hoped that she
could help me achieve understanding.
Road, a main area where transvestite prostitutes roam.
Pat has never had gender reassignment surgery, because
she was afraid of the pain, and didn’t want to be like her friends who
became demented after having the operation. She was 27 years old, and
probably had experienced much during her time as a transvestite.
Pat talked about her life before becoming a transvestite
prostitute, and that she had graduated from a vocational college of
hospitality. She used to work in various jobs in hotels, or in many salons
as a beautician. She found that it was not easy to express what she really
felt inside, her real identity.
fortuneteller at Thapae Gate, familiar with transvestites in this area.
As a result of that frustration, she began work at a Gay
Bar, before starting to look for customers on her own, mostly at Thapae Gate
and Loy Klor Road. Her customers were both Thai and foreigners; however,
paying a different fee: foreigners 500 baht, but Thais only 300 baht.
My next question might have shocked her but I wanted to
reflect on those aspects, and how she really felt when giving sex. She
grinned and said the feeling was really different from real women. The
sexual emotion would be aroused by the customer she liked. This, to me,
illustrated that she was not happy every time despite being paid for her
I spent about an hour talking with Pat. I asked what her
highest objective was in life. She immediately answered that she wanted to
take care of her parents as much as she could. “I have given up love, just
being a transvestite is a life of sin,” she said.
I was surprised when I was went back to my car, that
there were no transvestites left. Then I noticed that there was a white van,
approaching from Kotchasarn Road, with big letters showing “Tourist
Police”. I was confident that they must have arrested the transvestites,
and I followed the van. It stopped at the Muang District Police Station. One
of the undercover police told me they have to control them so that they do
not disturb foreign tourists, or create a bad image for Thailand. However,
after releasing them, they all went straight back to their ‘beat’. They
could do that, as they had committed only a minor crime. After paying a
small fine, they were released.
I returned home with many questions still unanswered.
Whenever the social rule limits people’s lives who are not like ordinary
people, it results in physical and mental pressure. Do they have any place
in our society? Even though it was confirmed that Thai society accepts
transvestites, and much more, it was still an ambiguous fact that they were