Friday, May 07, 2004

May 7th, 2004

Now, I have a bit of time to catch up. Ive been in Chiang Mai the past three days but before I get into Chiang Mai let me explain first that on the 4th of May I took an overnight train from Ayuthaya. The train ride was 12 hours and very pleasant for I bought a ticket for the sleeper car. The sleeper car has upper and lower beds. If in Thailand, and if you are going to travel by overnight train in a sleeper car I recommend the lower bed. The sleeper car was air conditioned and as soon as I got on the train I hoped straight into my bed and pulled the curtain to give myself privacy from the other passengers. Since my bed was already pulled out and made I simply sat on it with my legs crossed beneath me and spent about an hour staring out the window into the dark night as I listened to my M.D. player. I felt like I was in a little nest or a cocoon. Eventually I layed down and stared out the window unable to see very much through my window. I slept pleasantly - althought my body was rocked back and forth with the movements of the train and the metallic door at the end of the car kept banging against its door frame. But, other than the rocking sensation - which actually felt nice at times - and the banging door I slept very well.

The next morning - May 5th - I awoke by the light of the morning sun for I had no curtain to pull over the window. I sat up again and stared out the window watching the thatched homes of rural farmer Thai's pass by. I saw men working along the train tracks as well. Soon enough a train assistant came by and converted my bed back into a proper seat. I spent my last hour on the train sitting on my seat staring out the window.

Funny enough, just as we were about to stop in Chiang Mai, the train assistant sat on the arm of my seat and placed his hand right on my lap as if it was quite normal to do so to a total stranger. Im sure for him and most Thais that this is proper behavior but for me I was very uncomfortable and I assume that he felt that and soon enought removed his hand and carried on.

I got off the train and met up with a Finnish man I had met before boarding the previous night. Together we made for the exit of the train station but we didnt get that far. We were immediately attacked by local Thais trying to whisk us away into their mini-van and to their hotel or guest house. A particular lady did not give up on us and before we knew it we had agreed to take her offer of a ride into town and to see the guest houses she had in store for us. A French-man - who was still waking up - also joined us for the ride into town. The French-man and the Finnish guy both agreed to stay in the same guest house where as I went off to another hotel that my driver took me to.

As soon as I washed up I began my walk into town in search of breakfast but I came across a fellow traveler who was from Mexico. He name was Juan and he was very friendly. After sitting down in an outdoor restaurant he told me about his life and family and Mexico and his travels and adventures in India. It seems that India too is beginning to call to me. I believe that perhaps in a few years my next big journey will be in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. We shall see. Juan loved to talk and I enjoyed listening to him. The best part of what he had to say was that of how much he loved and admired his father. We talked about family and saw eye to eye on many things ranging from spirituality to family to love and the importance of loyalty and respect. We both ended up going off on our dislike of certain Presidents and politicians from the U.S. and Mexico.

Later that afternoon I was able to make contact with the Japanese volunteers at Ban Rom Sai ( Ban Rom Sai is a Children's Home for Thai orphan children who were born with the HIV virus. I made an appointment with Nanako - one of the Japanese volunteers at Ban Rom Sai - to meet at the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai the next day.

In terms of Chiang Mai itself as a travel destination . . . hmmm . . . well. To be honest I did not come to Chiang Mai to see the sites for they do not interest me in the least. I came to work with Ban Rom Sai and begin the process of developing an English website for them. Chiang Mai is a popular destination for many tourists because it is a stepping stone to visiting the northern hilltribes of Thailand as well as going on elephant rides and trekking in the surrounding moutains. It appears that Chiang Mai caters solely to tourists and because of that I dont care for this place at all. There are a few streets - particularly Loi Kroh, Chang Klan, and Thai Phae that look like streets in Wisconsin Dells or Niagara Falls. Tourist travel agency after travel agency abound in all directions here offering package tours of all the over-exploited sites and sounds of northern Thailand as well as package journeys to Luang Prabang in Laos. Prostitution and sex tourism is alive and well in Chiang Mai. There is not a moment that goes by as I walk through Chiang Mai where I dont see a lone Western man on the prowl for a nice young Thai girl. And at night you see western men of all ages either with a Thai girl or two or being sought after by a Thai girl. And it sadly seems that all the restaurants and bars and dance clubs here cater specifically to tourists. There are plenty of shops that sell an array of ethnic Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, and Lao clothing and jewelry. Everything here - I mean everything here - is for the tourists. I think the only great thing that has come of this is Gecko Used Book Store which has been a wonderful heaven for me. I have never seen so many English used books before in Southeast Asia. And here on my desk before me are a few purchases that I have made at the book store. Im sure I will be back tomorrow to buy another book or two.

If you want to come to Chiang Mai and do something that is not so typical of what the tourists come here to do then I recommend that you volunteer your time at the many orphanages that are here in Chiang Mai.

Well, today is the 7th of May both yesterday and today I spent time at Ban Rom Sai (
As I said before Ban Rom Sai is a Children's home for Thai orphan children who were born with the HIV virus.

It is estimated that about 1 in every 60 Thai's have the HIV virus. It is estimated that more than 50% of all Thai prostitutes are infected with the HIV virus. Tourism brings 4 billion U.S. dollars to Thailand every year and is directly responsible for the economic miracle that Thailand has achieved in the past two decades. Since the beginning the the Vietnam war Thailand had become known as a Sex mecca for G.I.'s and now Sex tourists from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, Malaysia, and other Asian and Western countries. Oddly though the Thai government says very littly publicly about their AIDS crisis. And you may ask why? Well, to be honest they do not want to scare away the Sex tourists that come here to fulfill their sexual fantasies with little Thai girls and boys. Sex tourists bring in a large portion of the 4 billion dollars that are made in the Thai tourism industry. All over Thailand I have come across offers and shops that offer sex, sex, sex. It is impossible to travel through this country and not be confronted with the vibrant prostitution industry here.

And the result of all this. Simply said AIDS is spreading like a wild fire in Thailand and Southeast Asia. And Western and Asian Sex tourists are coming here and getting infected and taking the HIV virus back to their home countries - to their wives, their girlfriends, and even their future children.

Since there is a fear of HIV/AIDS among Sex tourists there is a high demand for incredibly young girls who are bought by Thai pimps for ridiculously little amounts of money from their parents in the rural poor areas of Thailand. The younger the girl and the more likely she is a virgin the better she will sell for a night's pleasure to a middle class Western man. What does this say about the West? I should also mention that Burmese girls are also in demand by Thai pimps and are smuggled into Thailand from the Golden Triangle (the northen border of Thailand). Since Burma is so politically isolated fromt the rest of the world HIV/AIDS has not had a chance to have a strong foot hold in the country. As a result Burmese girls - who are all believe by the Thai's and the Sex tourists - to be devoid of any STD's are in high demand.

And who is to pay for all this? Children. "Every year over 7,000 HIV positive Thai women give birth and 30% of their babies are born with the virus. The typical child born with HIV in Thailand will be orphaned by the age of two and can expect to die by the age of 5. The consequences of poverty and insufficient medical care in Thailand make their time on earth very brief."

I have spent these past two days at Ban Rom Sai learning from the Japanese volunteers there about their organization and playing with the children. There are 27 children at Ban Rom Sai. All of them are HIV positive. There are five infants between the ages of 2 to 3, 11 kindergarten kids between the ages of 4-7, 11 middle school children between the ages of 9 to 10. The children live in a small paradise provided by and cared for by the Ban Rom Sai staff. There are three buildings where the children sleep in rooms for 3 to 4 children. They all have their own beds and closets and clothes. But, they do not have many toys to play with. But, they have plenty of outdoor space to play around. And they have a pool. Nanako - one of the Japanese volunteers who has been working at Ban Rom Sai for the past three years - explained to me that the children used to go to a public pool to swim in and play in. But, when it was discovered by the pool staff that the children were HIV positive they were officially banned from coming to the pool. Luckily Giorgio Armani Japan Inc. donated funds to Ban Rom Sai to build their own private pool where they children are free from fear of discrimination. Nanako also told me that they try to keep the fact that the children are HIV positive from the schools that they attend for fear again of discrimination agains the children for the virus that they carry. I learned that the children were not admitted into a local school due to fear of the virus they carry. As a result the Japanese staff has to drive the children to a school that is farther away than the local one.

There is a Ban Rom Sai office in Tokyo, Japan that organizes events and awareness and raises funds and aquires members to donate to the organization. Right now the majority of the people who donate to Ban Rom Sai are from Japan. This is due in part to the fact that their website is only in Japanese. As a result I will work with friends of mine and any of you out there who may be reading this in the States to begin the process of building an English website for them. I have already bought the domain name for the future English site of I will be returning to the U.S. in August and I will be contacting many friends and family for their support and help. There are many things that the children need to medication, to toys, to clothes, to computers, etc.

They are wonderful children and so well loved by the Japanese and Thai staff. I have taken many pictures of them. It is a wonderful thing to be with them and to play with them and enjoy their laughter, smiles, and hugs. They have so much joy and I am so honestly proud of the Japanese volunteer staff who are working with these children everyday. They are amazing people and true hero's. I have come back to my hotel after working at Ban Rom Sai completely exhausted. I dont know how the staff at Ban Rom Sai keep up their energy and strength everyday. They are amazing and I love them for all the work they have done. They are making a wonderful difference to these children. They have given them a home and a sense of family and a sense of possibility and wonder. Please have a look at the Japanese Ban Rom Sai website. I know you will not be able to read the text but you can search and find the pictures of the staff and children.

Their website is

With Love and Magic,

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

May 6th, 2004

I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand yesterday morning via overnight train. The train ride was 12 hours from Ayuthaya and a very pleasant one at that. I bought a ticket for the sleeper car and made sure that I got a lower sleeper for it is more spacious than the upper and has a window which the upper does not. As soon as I got on the train I hoped into my bed which was already prepared for me and sat with my legs crossed staring out into the dark night as the train began its journey into the north of Thailand. All was quiet within my sleeper car. Many of the passengers had boarded the train in Bangkok and were fast asleep or quietly keeping to themselves behind the curtains that provided them some privacy while they either slept or read a book.

I highly recommend travel in Thailand via overnight train as long as you stay in the sleeper car(s). After watching the night view and listening a selection of progressive rock music on my M.D. player I laid down across my bed and allowed my tired body to fall into a deep slumber - which was a bit difficult since the train would rock my body this way and that as it moved along on its tracks - it also didn't help to hear the train door at my end of the car bang heavily and repeatedly against its own door frame.

Regardless of the train rocking and the door banging I slept very well. The rising sun woke me up the next morning - for there is no curtain over the train window. I laid in bed looking out seeing the tops of trees pass me by. Soon enough I sat up and watched my window-vision which was permanently stuck on the moving landscape channel. I saw small villages of thatched homes on stilts - much like the homes that I saw in the rural areas of Myanmar and Thai men working along the tracks clearing land or burning dried grass.

About an hour before arriving in Chiang Mai a Thai train attendant converted my sleeper into formal train seats. I sat and awaited for my arrival to Chiang Mai. And then, just as we arrived, the same Thai train attendant say on the arm of my seat and rested his hand on my leg as if it was completely normal to touch a stranger. Im sure it was normal for him but I was not comfortable with his hand on my leg at all and soon enough he got up and began assisting the other passengers unload their things.

As is always expected for a traveler arriving in a Thai bus station or train station - there were Thai men and women running up to all us backpackers - there were quiet a few of us that got off the train - trying to persuade us to go to their hotel. I wanted to find my guest house on my own but I finally gave into a Thai lady who would not give up on me. She promised me a nice hotel room complete with air-con and TV for 400 baht. She whisked me away to her driver and with a guy I met from Finland and France we were driven to our guest house's.

I reviewed my room first before agreeing to stay at the Winner Inn which is located beyond the South-eastern corner of the old Chiang Mai city. As soon as I began unpacking a bit in my room I received a phone call in my room, Odd?, I thought. I picked up the receiver and heard a male Thai voice that said, "Hello, Sir. I want to give you a map. Can you come down?" "Sure," I replied without thinking. After locking up all my important belongings again into my bag I went downstairs to see who this guy was.

He asked me to sit down at a hotel restaurant table and it was immediately clear that he wanted to sell me some tourist trekking tour or elephant ride just outside Chiang Mai. I could give a shit for I did not come to Chiang Mai for the very, very typical travel tours that tourists do of the surrounding Thai villages that are composed of the Thai ethnic tribes and so forth. I quickly shot down this Thai tour guide and returned to my room.

After taking a proper shower I left my hotel in search of breakfast and soon ran into a Mexican traveler named Juan. He approached me and after speaking a bit of Spanish he decided to join me on my search for breakfast.

We soon found a place and as I ate he told me all about the PRI party and the work his father does in Mexico. As he spoke I recalled bits and pieces of news that I had seen or read of certain events that he was referring to. I spent most of the day with him talking about everything from Yoga to his travels in India to my travels in Burma to our families to the importance of respect and loyalty in all relationships.

Well, today is the 6th of April and after spending the morning walking around Chiang Mai I must tell you that I am not impressed or pleased with what I see here. Thailand is being completely run over my tourists. There are streets here that look like streets in Niagara Falls or Wisconsin Dells in the States -super cheesy touristic shops and restaurants. All one one city corner block - just a block or two from the Tourist Information Center - there is a McDonald's, Starbucks, and Haagan Daaz Ice Cream shop. And if you look a bit down from this corner you will see a Pizza Hut and 31 Flavors Ice Cream Shop. There is also a strip along Loi Kroh road has several German restaurants complete with German flags, German beer, and Thai staff dressed like German hill people - its ridiculous!!! And there are tourists everywhere ready to shop at the many clothing stores here for exotic articles of pants and shirts that have a Thai feel to them, although all the clothing sold here has been completely altered from their traditionalness to the design needs of foreigners. But, Im sure there are a few shops that due sell the genuine article . . . but I doubt they sell well. And the restaurants. It seems that nearly all of them except VISA and MASTERCARD. There are Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Japanese restaurants, and everything else. I am only getting the sense that this city thrives and depends heavily on tourism. And at night there is no shortage of bars that cater only to foreigners; complete with billiard tables, beer, and Thai women ready and waiting to be picked up. And there is no shortage of foreign adult men here in Chiang Mai. All morning all I have seen are foreign adult men walking into and out of their hotels.

To be honest it is my opinion that Thailand has lost itself in its quest for the tourist's dollar. Tourism brings 4 billion U.S. dollars a year to Thailand; and it is very apparent in Chiang Mai. There are tourist travel agencies providing one or two or three day journeys all around the northern regions of Thailand all over Chiang Mai. And because tourists have come and continue to come by the train/bus/airplane load the exotic essence which was the first reason why tourists began coming here is being lost. Soon Chiang Mai and the rest of Thailand will feel no different from a resort in Hawaii. So the tourists of the future will turn to others Southeast Asian countries in search of the exoticness that is being wiped away from Thailand. Soon, Laos and Myanmar will become hot tourist travel destinations. But, this is a sad thing to see. Foreigners here in Thailand are beginning to say that in 5 years time Laos will also begin loosing the "innocence" that makes it so special. It looks like Myanmar will be the last of the Southeast Asian nations to fall to armies of marching tourists who travel knowing very little about the country they are venturing off to.

Well, I didnt come to Chiang Mai for its tourist offerings. I came to visit an orphanage run by Japanese volunteers. The orphanage is a hospice for Thai children born HIV positive. They have a website at The site is in Japanese and I am here to begin the process of creating an English website with the aid of my friend Pete Mitchell so that they can begin getting attention and help from English speaking nations and individuals. When I return to the U.S. I will begin the process of putting this English website together for Ban Rom Sai. If you would like to help in any way you may contact me at


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

May 4th, 2004

I'm in Ayuthaya, Thailand which is just north of Bangkok. I was in Bangkok for 6 days. A lot longer than I expected. I am fully recovered from my illness in Myanmar so now the journey to the north of Thailand begins. I must share with you an act of God - or coincidence - which ever you would like to call it - while I was in Bangkok.

The story goes as follows.
On my second day in Myanmar I met Manuela very briefly. She is from Hamburg, Germany and had been traveling in Myanmar for nearly a month. We exchanged emails in the hope of meeting up in Bangkok. As soon as I arrived back in Bangkok we emailed each other and met up and spent several enjoyable days together. On one particular day - Saturday - April 1st - Manuela wanted to go to the Chatuchak market which is north of Bangkok. The market, which is extremely large, is only open on the weekend. Manuela was on a mission to find and buy Swatch copies in the market in the hopes of selling them for a profit back in Germany on Ebay. We arrived at the market and discovered thousands of Thai's and farangs (foreigners) shopping for copy-cat brand names. We searched high and low for these Swatch watches with no luck but funny enough I ran into Angela Nichols in the market. Angela is a good friend of mine who I had known during my three and a half year stay in Tokyo. She is a wonderful artist and I am proud to have three of her paitings in my parent's and sister's home back in the States. Her paintings are very vibrant and up-lifting - just like Angela. We were both shocked and completely amazed to have found each other again in such a place as the Chatuchak market in Bangkok. Angela left Tokyo at the end of January and I left at the end of March. Both of us thought that it would be a few years before we ever saw each other again but there we were, standing before each other in this giant market in Bangkok. What a small world, ne?

Angela was with her friend Laura and I got Laura's cell number and later met up with them near Nana station and then for dinner in Little Arabia which is also near Nana station. After dinner we smoked from Turkish pipes in a Arabic styled cafe. I got buzzed from the tabacco and ended up beaming with a wide smile for most of the night.

Well, now, here I am in Ayuthaya. I am at this internet cafe killing time for I have to wait to take my overnight train to Chiang Mai. Ayuthaya makes for a great day trip or overnight stay from Bangkok. It was originally the Thai capital until 1767 when the Burmese invaded and destroyed it. The town is kind of on an island surrounded by a river and full of temples both on the island and off it. Many of these temples in one respect or another reminded me much of the temples that I saw in Bagan, Myanmar but also I saw some very unusual temples that looked like the type of temples that I would expect to see in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The main attraction for me to come to Ayuthaya was Wat Phra Mahathat which is a giant red-brick temple ruin but curiously enought there is a stone Buddha head that was probably severed from its statue body during the Burmese invasion. The stone head fell onto the base of a Banyan tree and now, centuries later, the head has been embedded into the growing branch veins of the tree. It is quiet a remarkable site.

Well, let's see if I can finish up my Myanmar thoughts . . .

Inle Lake, Myanmar - April 21, 2004
The wonderful thing about Inle Lake is that it lies high up in the mountains where it is cool. It was a relief to be in a cooler climate from the heat that Aung and I had to endure on our journey there. I was staying at a pleasant and quiet hotel that Aung recommended over another hotel that he claimed was haunted in the town of Nyaungshwe.

After breakfast Aung drove me to the river where I met a man who was to be my guide around Inle Lake for the day. My guide and I got onto a very long and thing wooden boat and our boat driver manuevered the boat out of the pier and away we went south into Inle Lake.

Our first stop was Kaungdaing which was the site of a 5 day market (meaning every five days villagers from around the day would coverge on the site to sell, buy, and bargain). Before arriving at the market by foot, after we parked out boat, we saw men, women, and monks gambling. My guide explained that I should not take any pictures since it was illegal in Myanmar to gamble. There were two games that people were gambling on. The first was composed of three very large dice (perhaps the size of one's head). The sides of the dice had colorful paintings of animals on them. the dice were held up against a wooden type wall and after people had placed their bets the dice we released onto the ground and whoever was able to bet on the three correct sides of the dice won. The other game composed of a type of dice again that would be spun and then quicly covered by a bowl so that no one could see which side of the dice was facing up. People would bet on the side of the dice and then the bowl was lifted to reveal who won.

The market itself was very interesting to see. A lot of different foods and spices were being sold. There was fresh fish, skinned chickens and pigs, grounded red peppers, mounds of a very salty paste, dried fishes for snacking on, tofu, and everything else your mind can imagine at an out-door rural market. There were also hygenic items beign sold such as soap and the branches of the tree bark that women used to make the cream that they would apply to their faces everyday. Weights and measures were always being used in the market. It was a very curious and wonderful site of activity.

From there my guide and I hoped back onto out boat and went to a village of homes that were built on stilts over the lake. The village I believe was called Seko. There I met two blacksmiths that were working with several other boys in fashioning tools used by villagers all around the lake. They produced knives, fishing spears, hoes and other equipment for farming, and gongs and tea kettles. I was very intrigued by their work of cutting scrap metal, heating it, molding it with the aid of the boys who would hammer down the red hot pieces of metal, and so forth.

From there we hopped onto our boat again and headed south down the lake to Inbawkon. Along the way I saw fields and fields of tomotoes being worked on and attended to by farmers. These fields sat on the marches of the lake and farmers would sit on the boats gliding from one row of crops to the other. There were also farmer out near their fields and in the middle of the lake racking up the underwater plants from the lake and piling them onto their boats. These plants they would use as natural fertilizer for their crops. I also saw these farmer paddling their boats employing a curious technique of wrapping their leg around their paddle and paddling and steering their boat with a single motion. I got this on film show :)

In Inbawkon I went into a silk weaving factory. Everything was made by hand and I spent quite a bit of time simply looking at the women work their looming machines trying to see exactly how the created the patterns in the cloth they were making. I also saw a girl cutting open lotus flower stems and spooling a natural thread from them with the aid of water. I was absolutely amazed by this and later saw a lovely scarf made from these lotus stems.

From there we took our boat on a slow cruise through another village built on stilts over the Lake to observe the daily life of these people. I smiled at them with fascination as they smiled at me with wonderment. Some of the pictures I took here I am particularaly fond of, especially one I took of a very young girl sitting on her boat with a beautiful and slightly chubby smile.

From there I believe I had lunch and then we stopped in Nampan to see natural paper and umbrellas being made. I didnt really care for this for I have seen paper being made in the traditional fashion before but I was amazed to learn that they used a specific berry to waterproof their umbrellas. Amazing that everything we need for our tools and products can all be found in our natural surroudings without the aid of chemicals and factories. This waterproofing berry simply blew me away.

From there we went to Phaung Daw U Kyaung which is a famed temple in Myanmar for 5 golden Buddha statues that they have. But, what you will see are not 5 golden Buddha statues but 5 golden balls. In all the working temples in Myanmar a devotee can purchase paper thing slivers of pure gold - the size of a U.S. quarter coin - and press it onto a Buddha statue. What happened to these 5 golden buddhas is that over the centuries so many of these thin layers of gold have been pressed onto them that they no longer appear as statues but as golden balls.

My guide led me up to the 5 golden balls to see them up close. Then he ran down toward some women and tok their offerings of gold and placed them onto the statues for them. Women are not allowed to approach most Buddha statues and holy sites. I guess Buddha wasnt much one for the feminist movement. I also saw a boy all dressed in pink garments and with a face painted up in make-up. I first thought that he was a boy and then assumed that he was a girl because of how he was dressed. But my guide explained that indeed it was a boy. They boy was at the temple with his family celebrating his journey into monkhood that would commence the next day. They family was so proud of him and I later saw him on his own boat that was decorated and blasting traditional Burmese music. He sat in the middle of his boat on a throne of a chair.

From there we stopped by a monastary where I was able to play a bit of football (soccer) with some fellow monks who were all half my age.

Then we made it to our last stop - Nga Phe Kyaung, which is also known as Jumping Cat Monastary. The temple was dark and relaxing inside. A nice breeze off the lake would flow in and men and women sat or laid lazily all around the temple as children played outside. Soon enough a monk threw dried fish crumbs to a group of temple cats and then held out a metal ring that the cats would eagerly jump up and through.

Later that night Aung took me to the home of his friends. He was dressed up - which was unusual - and full of joy. I later learned that he had been in the markets shopping and cooking for me for most of the day. It was a very kind gesture on his part. We arrived at his friends house and I saw a table with candles laid out on it. He poured me some Burmese rum - ? - and then the feast began. This is the beginning of the end for me. The Burmese family was incredibly nice - it was actually the family of the guide who took me around Inle Lake. I learned from my guide that he had lived and worked in Malaysia and in Thailand, in Bangkok to be exact. He had lived independently and enjoyed his life but his father had passed away and he had to return to Myanmar to care for his mother. He confessed that he missed working in the factories in Malaysia and Thailand and wished to return for he did not like working as a guide around Inle Lake. He also confessed that his brother had died five years ago from a heroin addiction and that heroin was a big problem in the Shan state.

The eastern portions of the Shan state are not fully controlled by the Myanmar military government. There are independent drug lords who police their own areas and opperate independently of the Myanmar government. They export their poppy seeds turned into heroin products into China and Thailand. Unfortunately Thai pimps also buy Burmese girls in this area and sell them to brothels in Chiang Main and in Bangkok.

The Shan state also has 5 distinct ehtnic groups: The Inda, Pao, Shan, Danu, and the Wa head hunters. I saw a few Pao women in Inle Lake. The Pao always where black garments with any color headware they desire. The Pao women I must confess are beautiful.

Getting back to dinner. The Burmese family I was with kept filling my plate with fish, rice, and all other dishes they could find to give me until I was simply beyond stuff. I felt so sick by the time I ate my last spoon-full of food. I ate and ate so as not to be rude to them. I constantly told them how good the food was. But, that was a mistake. They took that as a sign to keep feeding me. Finally, dinner was over and Aung dropped me off at my hotel and I told him how happy I was to eat what he had prepared. I then went into my room and tried to rest but my stomach was very upset. To make a long story short I spent most of the night either on the toilet or vomiting into the sink. Thank God no one was there to see or smell the horrors in my bathroom that night.

April 22nd, 2004 - Inle Lake to Bagan
This was a long journey by car, about 8 hours or so. It was on this journey that I came across beggars for the first time in Myanmar. Aung and I had lunch in a town along the way (I couldnt eat much) and when we approached our car I saw an very old woman come up to me holding out her hand. Then a boy came and I thought the two were together. I gave some money to the boy and he ran off. The woman kept holding out her hand. I told her that I had nothing left to give her and the boy, now across the street, called up with pride making fun of the old lady and her inability to get any money from me. I then got into the car and we left.

When we arrived at our hotel in Bagan I simply went straight to my room to rest. I was still very sick and suffering from severe diaherrea.

April 23rd to 24th, 2004 - Bagan
During these two days I explored as many of the temples as I could bare to see in the desert landscape of the Bagan region. There are over 2,000 temples and chedi's dotting the area in literally all directions. Anywhere you walk or drive in Bagan you see temple after temple. Many of these temples were built nearly 1,000 to 800 years ago. The beginnings of the temples started with the King Anawrahta who conquered the area in 1057 A.D. and imported as many artists, artisans, builders, monks, and Buddhist scriptures as he could afford. I have a mountain of pictures from Bagan and will simply put these pictures up when I develop a site to this journey. There were simply too many temples that I saw for me to go into any detail about now.

But, I must saw that Bagan is a place of magic. Especially during sun set. You can climb one of the numerous temples and sit and relax barefoot - for you are not allowed to set a single shoe onto the temple grounds - and look out into the horizon to see temples dotting the area. Bagan is a ghost of its former self and it is said that many of the temples are haunted. In fact I saw a ghost! Well, not personally but funny enought Dhammayazika Paya (Temple) there is a photo that a Frenchmen took only a couple of years ago and right there in the photo there is an image of a man that should not be there . . . it was a photo of a ghost. And it was a bit frightful to see this image.

All right. I am pretty much caught up on Myanmar. After Bagan Aung and I went south to Pyay for a night and then back to Yangon.

There are thousands of little moments that I had in Myanmar that I will one day put down to paper.

For now stay tuned for my travels into Northern Thailand . . . and soon Laos.