Ever heard of Khun Sa? I hadn't, until Jim picked me up from school early one afternoon. Just a normal Wednesday, after a day of teaching Akha hilltribe kids in my limited Chinese and Thai to help pull me through. I only had two classes on Wednesday afternoons, so Jim drove up in front of the teachers office at 2:30 with her motorbike and popped the seat and handed me my elephant pants to change into.
"I think we can go to the Chinese village this afternoon because you finish early. You can change and we go, ok?"
In a few minutes we were off down the hill until we stopped at a noodle restaurant. We sat outside and ate the most delicious spicy salad I've ever had. I'm still not really sure what it was made of, other than some cucumber (and definitely some chillies) but the rest remains a mystery.
Then we stopped for coffee. Well, I did. I had read about Chiang Rai coffee while still in Canada, googling things about what would be my new destination. Most of Thailand's coffee grows in the hills of Chiang Rai; nothing like a good cup of local mountain coffee. So driving up the hills to House Bethesda for the first time I expected to see picturesque cafes overlooking the mountains, but there were none in sight.
Of course, I had found the tea. Doi Mae Salong is a Chinese/hilltribe village in northern Thailand, so there's tea plantations everywhere. But I was determined to get my coffee fix. We walked up to a little coffee cart and I requested one iced coffee. First, the lady put some freshly ground coffee in a cup and mixed it with carnation and LOTS of sugar. Then, she put a ton of ice in a plastic bag. She put the bag of ice in a little paper bag to go. I was like, "what am I gonna do with that?". Then she just poured the coffee mix into the ice bag, and popped a straw into it and handed me the bag. It cost 50 baht (about $1.50). Best.Iced coffee.Ever!
After a few sips we took off again. To where, I had no idea. I just sat in the back of the motorbike. We finally pulled up to what looked like someone's front lawn and then I saw it; a statue of this dude named Khun Sa, the iconic Burmese drug lord and known as "the opium king". It was a museum, set on the grounds of his original army camp. Of Chinese and Shan decent, Khun Sa was a part of the Kuomintang (rebels from the Chinese revolution at the beginning of the 20th century) who fled to northern Thailand (many settled in Taiwan) after the People's Republic was founded, so many Chinese immigrants are still living there today who settled in the Mae Salong area. Apparently this Khun Sa was a big deal. He started his own army, the Shan United Army. He helped in the making of the Shan state, where Burmese, Thai, and Chinese all grew and traded their crops to the outside world, making Shan state a pretty distinctive state of southeast Asia. He took the name Khun Sa which means "Prince Prosperous". In Thailand, "Khun" is a polite word you give to your elder. He avoided lots of attempts of his arrest by the U.S, and settled back in Burma. He is buried here in Yangon.
Basically, the area where I lived in northern Thailand was pretty badass.
After taking pictures and walking around, being the only people at the museum, we rode out of the museum grounds and wandered around the hills. We saw a double rainbow and families huddled together under trees in one of the most beautiful areas of the world I've ever seen, preparing dinner.
|My yummy salad, Chinese/Thai style |
|Entrance of the Khun Sa museum|
|Khun Sa wax figure, in his old meeting room quarters|
|Can you see it?|
Labels: burma, khunsa, teachingenglish, thailand, yangon