NEWS & HIGHLIGHTS
Lecture at RGS Hong Kong "The Salween River – Source to Mouth: From Tibet via Yunnan to Myanmar/Burma"
Lecture at RGS Hong Kong "Wild Yaks: Protecting the Endangered Giants of the Tibetan Plateau"
With a traditional house of Inle Lake turning into a Burmese Cat Café, the cats finally grace the land of their origin again.
WILDLIFE AT THE CROSSROADS
William Bleisch, PhD
Luang Namtha, Northern Lao PDR
I am standing at a crossroads, quite literally. From here at the bus terminal, I could go southeast to Luang Prabang and the temples of the ancient capital of the Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang. Or I could go north, to Muang Sing where the Lao, Thai, Myanmar/Burma and Chinese borders all come together in the Golden Triangle -where the drifters’ blogs report that Akha ladies from the mountains still hawk their “agricultural products” from the poppy fields on the streets. Or I could go east, across the border into Vietnam, to Dien Bien Phou, where, in 1954, General Giap and the Viet Minh army, supported by local Shan partisans, defeated the French colonial forces and their air force after a two month siege, a turning point for western colonialism in Asia. Or I could go southwest, back the way I have come, to the Mekong and on to Chiang Rai in Thailand, once the capital of Lana, a kingdom that stretched from Chiang Mai north to Jing Hong in China, and from Luang Prabang in Lao in the east nearly to Mandalay in Myanmar/Burma.
NAGA NEW YEAR
A former headhunter’s festival
Wong How Man
“Mind your head,” said my interpreter as I entered a Naga home. Too late, as my cap shaded my view of the low-hanging doorway and I banged my head. But that phrase of warning rang deeper and went back centuries into time immemorial for the Naga living along the border of Myanmar with India, up near the foothills of the Himalayas. Headhunters the Naga were, up until at least 1983, perhaps even into the 1990s, as one account puts it.
Thus visitors in the past always had to “mind their heads” when traveling among the jungles of the Naga hills. When the Naga hit, like guerillas coming out of the jungle, they took no hostage, just heads. Some of these raids among villages netted not just one head, not even a dozen heads, but hundreds. Feuds among neighboring tribes could last for generations, at least until the British colonial power finally extended their rule and penetrated the remote region with an attempt to pacify the area and put an end to such barbaric tribal warfare.
TREASURE IN OUR BACKYARD: THE CRABS OF TAI TAM
William Bleisch, PhD
Tai Tam, Hong Kong
One by one, we carefully untangled them; first their legs, then jointed mouth-parts and finally claws came away from the tangled clear filaments of the nylon net. I could see Jocelyn’s frustration; she was used to just tearing out the dangerous claws and discarding the wounded bodies of the crabs back into the sea as worthless “by-catch.” But to me, each one was precious, a record of the treasures of the bay. In one haul of the net, we found no less than 5 species of crabs. And the excitement was only beginning. Once the crabs were safely in the glass-sided tank, I poured over the books in the library and surfed the web to learn more. The stories that popped out were as amazing to me as anything I had seen in Xinjiang or Tibet.
TRAIN RIDE IN MYANMAR
Wong How Man
“Your tickets are for upper class,” said Klai Klai my driver. With that he handed me a scrubby and coarse piece of paper, a printed form with some handwritten Burmese on it. Our names were written on it, together with our passport numbers behind.
Momentarily something flashed into mind. Is upper class like the many pick-up trucks around the country, with people sitting on the roof? Or is it like some of the Indian trains I have seen in pictures with passengers sitting on top? After all, Thirty-six US Dollars for the three of us to ride from Mandalay to Lashio, a lengthy sixteen hours ordeal on a local train, hardly promises to be an Oriental Express or Road to Mandalay experience.