Photographer's Note

In 1977 I visited Thailand for the first time. In Chiang Mai, with the help of Lonely Planet's 'Southeast Asia on a Shoestring' I discovered Mr Moo, who provided treks into the area of the hill tribes, just within the famed Golden Triangle, where the inhabitants made their living from the cultivation of poppies for the opium market. These three or four day journeys by van, boat and foot, were in those days considered slightly perilous, and I remember well the guides cleaning their guns at night and having to lie low while they investigated something like a still-smouldering cigarette or remains of a fire beside the walking track. Or other unpleasant human deposits.

Here, on the bank of a broad river beside a rickety wooden footbridge leading to an equally rickety village, somewhere near the borders of Burma and Laos, I can remember watching for half an hour or so people unloading vegetables. We had travelled there by boat, something similar to the shallow-draft boats shown here, with their long propeller shafts.

After thinking about this photo I searched for Mr Moo on the Internet, and was amazed to find an account by an American traveller of his trek with Mr Moo a couple of years earlier. His article - 'Trek into Oblivion' - can be found at

I hope the copyright police won't catch me pasting in here a small excerpt from the beginning of Randy Johnson's article:

"Beyond the bustling civilized world of Bangkok, Rangoon, and Vientiane, beyond even the leisurely, lackadaisical world of Chiang Mai, Mandalay, and Luang Prabang, lies another world -- largely unknown and inaccessible. This is Asia's mountainous "Golden Triangle", where primitive tribes people exist as they have for centuries, beyond the pale of laws and progress.

We caught a glimpse of that extraordinary world, high in the dense hills of northern Thailand, verging on the border of the Burmese Shan State, some 200 kilometers beyond Chiang Mai. We had planned only to while away several more days in delightful Chiang Mai. And so we would have, if we hadn't met Mr. Moo, a young man well acquainted with several of the remote tribes to the north. His full title is S. Sithichai Moo, but he is well known locally as Mr. Moo. This refreshing young man offered to take us along on his next trek into the jungle.

And so it was that early one morning Jean and I met Mr. Moo and his friend Wat outside the darkened Ladda Tohrung Cafe, which they used as a headquarters. The rain from the previous day persisted in a steady drizzle and I recalled an ominous warning from the proprietors of our guest house. They were a young Thai couple with broad grinning faces and the readiest, most infectious laughter I have ever witnessed. They had advised us against making such a trip into the northern hills."

Scanned from a slide

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