March 23rd, 2005

At Pai

I just got into Pai this evening from Lamphang. At 800 meters above sea level, it is noticably cooler than ChengMai and the plains of Thailand.

The last time I was in Pai was about 4 years ago. Once again, I am staggered at the changes even though only 4 years have passed. It expanded way beyond the quiet little nook set in a valley surrounded by mountains. I got lost when I first arrived unable to recognise the old landmarks and streets and buildings of the past.

The ride here was wonderful. The last 60 km of road went through forested mountains. That was a sight I expected from Laos, and as you have known, I was sad to see so many of the mountains in Laos stripped bare of trees. There was still a haze in the air from the burning of forests elsewhere.

I was reading this book "Raven, the secret war in Laos" over the weekend, a book that I should have read before going into Laos. When I was in Laos, I was wondering at the barbaric bombing by the Americans in Laos. The guides there kept showing the bomb craters as well as the bombis from the cluster bombs that still littered many parts of Laos. That book gave the other side of the picture, as well as the heroism of the American volunteer pilots as Forward Air Controllers in Laos. The FACs used slow prop planes at great risks to themselves and in heroic acts left unrecognised to today to aid the Meos (known as the Hmongs) to hold back the Vietnamese army. This is separate from the attempts to interdict the supply of war materials along the Ho Chi Minh trail which was part of the Vietnam War proper.

Apparently, there have been much enimity between the Vietnamese and the people of Laos from the past. The Vietnamese greatly outnumbered the Laotians. In light of the battles fought over land in Plain of Jars and elsewhere, the military use of bombs appeared to be justified. Unfortunately, a percentage of the bombs were defective. Its not the fault of the pilots that dropped them.

I salute the Ravens for the bravery and sacrifices that they made. I salute also all that died there in Laos whether they were the Vietnamese soldiers or the Meos or others for the bravery they have shown regardless of the causes that they think they were fighting for. The color of the blood that they shed was the same.

The place that I am staying in at Pai is along the river side. Now that I am out of the city and towns, the moon is again more apparent and is about to turn full soon even if it seems gibbous to me now. I am not sure if the moon tonight is what is meant by a gibbous moon.