28. Chiang Saen - Thoet Thai: Exploring Shan Army Country
The terrain is difficult to access, it is mountainous, forests are impenetrable, in other words, a perfect location for the regions biggest war- and drug lord to locate his headquarters (1970-80s). His name is Khun (Sir) Sha, or Sa, and his last bastion was in Thoet T(h)ai, near the Burmese border. At times he had several thousand men under his command, ages 16-60; they inhabited an army post in this remote jungle which was my destination today.
I don't need to go into too much detail who Khun Sa was since there is the excellent piece by Joel Barlow, a writer on SE Asian topics who lives here. Khun Sa died in 2007 of natural causes in Yangon, Burma, age 73 (diabetes and heart condition), after surrendering to the Myanmar military.
Please read the article/excerpt of Joel here in case you want to know about this fascinating piece of military, drug-trafficking and independence (from Burma) fighting history, not too long ago.
In the old Khun Sa camp one can visit the soldiers dorms, the kitchen, Khun Sa's Spartan living quarters and the jungle fortifications, and earth bunkers.
No tourists can be seen near and far, the site is freely accessible, and to my knowledge not much Western literature lists the remote location (Of course it was also not listed on my Thai (ESRI) GARMIN GPS navigation data base, which was a navigation challenge.) Without the excellent, highly detailed maps by Golden Triangle Riders (gt-riders.com) I would have been unable to find the location.
But before the images take you to the camp a turned over truck needed to get passed, maybe a little too fast in the curve in these morning hours.
|Sweeping off the diesel fuel. This makes for entertaining motorcycle riding.|
|Passing through many remote villages.|
|Farmer working on drying the rice.|
|Khun Sa's jungle camp|
|The Shan (tai ethnic minority in Burma) tribe was fought and decimated by the Burmese military in the 1960s-90s.|
|Several army groups fighting for freedom from Burma.|
|Depiction of Khun Sa in his living room in the barracks.|
|Shan army barracks in the jungle.|
|The well-known razor-blade sharp bamboo fences as perimeter fortification.|
|Girl hanging raw latex (rubber) sheets to dry.|
|Wat Pha Ngao, near Chiang Saen|
|Fishermen on "my" lake, view from my porch.|
I should also mention that on the way back from the Khun Sa camp, on a rough sandstone/compacted sand path through the forest and while avoiding a big pothole, I slid the motorcycle into a trench, unable to get it in proper riding position myself again, of course. But it didn't take long until a villager came along on his moped and helped me to get it out and back on the dirt track. No damage, neither to me nor the bike.