Daily Archives: April 25, 2007


Rest and relaxed in a nice environment
The mixed-cultural design guardhouse

In Malaysia, I rarely see soldiers, let alone chatting with them. In Thailand, especially in Southern Thailand, the soldiers are commonly seen. Today, after my shooting lesson, I walked across the road with a friend to chat with the soldiers. The weather was cool and they were relaxed.

I asked a few questions like about their clothing and their daily life in Betong. They were very friendly and answered me patiently. According to the soldiers, they are off duty for 15 days for each 45 working days. Many of them will go home during their off days and of course, they bear their own traveling expenses.

According to the army officer, conscripts are entitled to two sets of uniforms per year while regular cadres have to purchase their own uniforms. The material for the uniforms are bought from a government owned textile factory. I found the material of good quality, soft and comfortable, different to those fake uniforms sold in the market which are hard and hot to wear.

The friendly soldiers

The armies carry M16 rifles and each riffle carries 30 bullets. The bullet proof jackets they wear seem bulky and heavy. I was shown the basic stuff they carried: 4 packs of extra bullets, walkie talkie and a flashlight.

Under Thai constitution, all Thai males are required to register when they reach 18 years old but are not liable for compulsory service until they reach twenty-one. At 21 those who have not undergone reserve training are subject to a draft. Volunteers are subject to six to eighteen months service depending on their education while those chosen at random are subject to twenty-four months full-time service. Students are allowed deferments until they have graduated.

Tu, 23, (middle in the above picture) was chosen by conscription and had another 6 months to go. According to Tu, should he opt to reenlist, he can continue his service if permitted, on a yearly contractual basis up to 5 years. If he opts not to reenlist, he will be released and placed on unassigned reserve status for an additional twenty-three years. During this period of reserve service he is subject to recall whenever a need arises. However, he said he had no intention to continue as he prefers to work elsewhere.

Currently there are about 200 army personnel stationed in Amphur Betong, under the leadership of the Commander of the Fourth Army Area. Soldiers don’t come to Southern Thailand alone; they brought with them a lot of stories….

Some locals complain that many inductees are so ignorant. While they are stationed in Southern Thailand, they bought pork which was not properly wrapped and walked around, not considering local custom and the feeling of locals.

The soldiers also had some romantic encounters which resulted in unpleasant situations. They are tall and handsome and attracted local girl students… Some of them also being taken care of by the affordable and lonely women, which may be a lot older than them…

Songkran in SipSongPanNa – Day 01

Sunday, 8 April 2007 Kuala Lumpur – Chiang Mai – Chiang Khong

The chief stewardess proudly announced that flight AK896 arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule arrival time after the plane touched down on Chiang Mai international airport. With the new fleet of Airbus, it is not surprising that the captain is able to catch up the lost time and repeat his feat every time.

60 days in 6 months
Although we have intentionally hand-carried our luggage so that we don’t have to wait for our luggage, we were still held back in the immigration department. I was shown a regulation card written in English by the immigration that foreigners are allowed to stay in Thailand for 60 days within a period of 6 months. It took awhile for the immigration to count how many days I have been in Thailand for the past 6 months. (Malaysians do not need Visa to visit all ASEAN countries except Myanmar. But it seems that a new regulation must have added or old regulation strictly enforced to limit the stays in the Kingdom)

A ride on SongThiaw (2-row-bench pick up van) to Nam Khong travel near Tapae Gate costs us 100 bahts, a good deal considering that if we were to take taxi, we will need 2 taxis and that will cost us many times more.

Lost & Found
My team mate Lai only realized that he has left his packback on the SongThiaw some 10 minutes after the SongThiaw has left. Although I have earlier get the SongThiaw driver to speak with Nam Khong staff for direction, the calls were made to the fixed line and there was no ways to find out the telephone number of the SongThiaw driver. Lai’s beg contained some medications and personal items that totaled up to 2,000 bahts.

We had lunch in a cozy restaurant next door while waiting for the driver to show up. I took Lai to a Erugstore to buy his medications after lunch. On our return from Drugstore, Nam Khong’s Ms. Pui showed us Lai’s beg which were returned by the driver. We felt sorry for not leaving some cash and a thank-you message for the driver should he return. There is no way to thank him; except that we hope he get his merits paid many folds in future. It’s nice to stay in predominantly Buddhist country.

The chances of having your beg left in a taxi returned is almost zero in Kuala Lumpur – it only happened in dreams and occasional news in newspaper. Barely 2 weeks ago, my wife’s handbag containing hand phone, cash and credit cards was snatched in Kuala Lumpur.


Lunch at Chiang Mai while waiting for Van

To Chiang Khong
There are 2 vans to Chiang Khong today. I got a seat next to driver which is good and bad. Good is that I am taking video and I got unobstructed view of the journey. Bad is that you will get a lot more sun and heat. As expected you get a lot of farangss for the trip.


2 Vans heading to Chiang Khong

The vans stopped twice along the route to Chiang Khong. Once at a souvenir and coffee shop where we can also witness the cracking of cashew nuts


Cashew Nut Tree. Every nuts is openned by hand. Sadhu to the worker.

and another time at Khuntan, about 40 KM from Chiang Khong.


Stop @ Khuntan

We experienced occasional splashing of water along the road. Once, the water came in through the window opening – apparently, the air-conditioning was far from cool and one farang open the window slightly.

On arrival at Chiang Khong town, we checked into Nam Khong Riverside Hotel (600 bahts for 2, and 800 for 3 with breakfast cheap) instead of Nam Khong Guest at 50 bahts per head. The hotel is really value for money. Our rooms have a good vista of the Mekong River and Huay Xay across the river in Laos.


Nam Khong Riverside Hotel

Eat & Do
After dinner at the Hotel Restaurant, we head for a foot massage opposite the hotel which I experienced one of the worst foot massages I ever had.

Chiang Khong is already sleeping by 9:00 PM. I really enjoy the cool air and the quietness and serenity which I seldom had in Kuala Lumpur. This is what life should be.