14 September 2008

Letter 3.34

Kaeng Pan Dao, Thailand – '78

Though the days are warm, just short of being hot, it must drop to the low 40's at night, and a cold fog rolls in, which doesn't burn off until about 9 in the morning, and sets the trees dripping and is sharp enough to cut through cloth. Consequently, I need a few blankets at night. December, I'm told, is the coldest month here. In Ceylon, as I recall, January was the coldest, It's surprising how cold the tropics can be in winter. And this will be my third winter this year, for it was wintertime in LA, and when I arrived in Bali (south of the equator) it was winter there also. Though it wasn't cold in Bali -- far from it -- it got dark early and light late. Now it gets light shortly after 6 AM and dark by 6 PM. The thing I enjoy about Northern summers is the long summer days. I've had more than my share of short days this year.

Still, the north of Thailand seems to be the right place in the cold season (which ends in 2 months), for in the south it's still raining (they have two rainy seasons, as was the case in Ceylon at Dodanduwa), and in the east it is also cold, but without the hill tribes and the color and beauty of the hill country of the Golden Triangle. (There's gold in them thar hills: opium.)

The country hereabouts is mostly heavy jungle with clearings in the valleys. Some tea is grown, and some coffee, as well as more infamous crops. Houses are made of bamboo and are on stilts, raised about 2 feet off the ground. Beneath the house I stay in there are dozens of little indentations, the work of hermit spiders set to trap ants. One never sees the spider -- at most a leg flicks out and throws some more dirt out to steepen and deepen the inverted conical walls of their traps, and make it harder for ants to escape, etc. I remember these spiders also from Bin Gedi. (I doubt if they remember me.)

While not expecting to meet any more ghosts of Bin Gedi, I did. In a tea house I met a guy I'd met briefly at the kibbutz in '65, He was, at the time, on his way back to the States after 2 years in the Peace Corps in Thailand. Now he's made his home here (10 years ago). He didn't remember me, and I didn't remember him, until Bin Gedi just happened to pop into our conversation. He's a lawyer now with less idealistic interests.

In a few days I'm going up to Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen, right on the Mekong, where Thailand, Laos, and Burma meet -- the heart of the Triangle -- to see what there is to see, then move south again (there being no other direction to go from there), perhaps reaching Bangkok again in a few weeks from now.

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