the Wanderling

"(Khun Sa) set out from the hills of northern Shan state with a large contingent of soldiers and a massive 16-ton opium convoy, destined for Ban Khwan, a small Laotian lumber village across the Mekong River from Chiang Saen in Thailand. More traders joined his convoy, and by the time it reached the city of Kengtung in eastern Shan state, its single-file column of 500 men and 300 mules stretched along the ridge for more than a mile."

I met Khun Sa face-to-face in the early-to-mid 1960s under some otherwise trying circumstances as described on this page in Footnote [1]. However, the background and history on Khun Sa that follows, although not totally excluded from my personal experiences, has not been gleaned from some mere happenstance that may have transpired between the warlord and myself years ago, but instead, because of our meeting, has been thoroughly researched and put together and presented here by me from a wide variety of quality and in-depth sources, drawing heavily from the well focused works of Jeffrey Hays.

As for calling Khun Sa the Second Warlord in the title, or the subtitle as the case may be, it has nothing to do with his position relative to any level of his operations or warlord status. Actually, along the way in the normal flow of things I had met the Laotian warlord Vang Pao some months before, making Vang Pao in a sense, for me anyway, the first warlord. For sure, calling Khun Sa the Second Warlord is not intended to diminish him in any fashion. For those who may me so interested, there is a full account of my meeting with Vang Pao further down the page.

the Wanderling

For many years much of the drug trade in the so-called area of Southeast Asia known as the Golden Triangle was controlled by Khun Sa, AKA Sao Mong Kwan or Chang Chi-Fu, sometimes given or spelled Chan Shee Fu, the son of a wealthy Chinese tea trader and an ethic Shan mother. He was born in Loi Maw of Mongyai in eastern Myanmar (Burma) and as an adult dubbed the "Opium King of the Golden Triangle." He was also as an adult the leader of the Shan United Army and the Mong Tai Army. For a while he was based in Thailand. The Thai army attacked his camp and drove him back to Myanmar, where he set up his own private fiefdom in East Shan State living in his well fortified headquarters in Ho Mong village in the East Shan State in Myanmar about nine miles from the Thai border town of Mae Hong Son. (Source: Ron Moreau, Newsweek, and Philip Shenon, the New York Times)

His above mentioned also known as AKA Chiang Chi-fu, was in fact his real name having in later years, adopted the pseudonym Khun Sa, meaning "Prince Prosperous." In his youth he trained with the Kuomintang (KMT), which had fled into the border regions of Burma from Yunnan upon its defeat in the Chinese Civil War. He got involved in the drug trade at an early age by working with Chinese Kuomingtan soldiers that lived in the eastern Shan State. In 1969, when he was 36, he was imprisoned in Mandalay for drug trafficking and stayed there for five years until his friends broke him out. He fled to Thailand and organized a drug network an army. In the 1990s, he controlled an army of 3000 men that watched over 600 tons of opium produced in Myanmar and 60 tons produced in Thailand.

Bert Lintner, who met Khun Sa twice, wrote on Asia Online: "Khun Sa was probably one of the most colorful and controversial figures on the Myanmar drug scene. Despite being indicted on drug trafficking charges by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York, in January 1990, he continued to live comfortably at his then headquarters at Homong near the Thai border opposite Mae Hong Son...By then he was officially the most wanted man in the world, indicted by the United States and referred to by then U.S. ambassador to Thailand William Brown as "the worst enemy the world has" (Source: Bert Lintner, Asia Online, November 1, 2007; Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review)

In 1994, it was estimated that Khun Sa and the United Wa State Army controlled 75 percent of the heroin originating in the Golden Triangle. A Panthay Chinese Muslim from Burma, Ma Zhengwen, assisted Khun Sa in selling his heroin in north Thailand. In 1996, Khun Sa retired and the United Wa State Army took over many of the areas he controlled.

According to Wikipedia: "Over the two decades of his unrivalled dominance of the Shan state, from 1974 to 1994, the share of New York street heroin coming from the Golden Triangle, the northern parts of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, rose from 5 percent to 80 percent. It was 90 percent pure, 'the best in the business, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.' And Khun Sa, the DEA thought, had most of that trade."


Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: Khun Sa was born in 1934 in a small village in Northern Shan State to an ethnic Shan mother and a Chinese father. He grew up as an orphan as his father died when he was only three. His mother remarried the local tax collector of the small town of Mong Tawm, but two years later she died as well. While his three stepbrothers went to missionary schools and were given the Christian names Oscar, Billy and Morgan, the young Khun Sa was raised by his Chinese grandfather amid the poppy fields of Loi Maw mountain in northern Shan state. His only formal education consisted of a few years as a temple boy in a Buddhist monastery. During one of our interviews, I noticed that all his correspondence had to be read to him and that his replies were dictated. (Source: Bert Lintner, Asia Online, November 1, 2007)

At the age of 16, Khun Sa formed his own armed band. He gained his first military experience in skirmishes with the Kuomintang, or nationalist Chinese forces, who had set up bases in Loi Maw in the early 1950s. He eventually went on to form his own army of a few hundred men. In the early 1960s, his small private army was even recognized officially as the "Loi Maw Ka Kwe Ye", a militia and home guard unit under the Myanmar army loyal to Gen Ne Win's Burmese government. Ka Kwe Ye received money, uniforms and weapons from the Burmese government in return for fighting the Shan rebels.[1]

In 1966, Khun Sa was deputzied by the Burmese government as head of a village defense force against the BCP (Burmese Communist Party), which at the time was at full strength and heavily involved in opium cultivation. Khun Sa cleverly used government backing to consolidate his power and beef up the strength of his militia. When Khun Sa had expanded his army to 800 men, he stopped cooperating with the Burmese government, took control of large area in Shan and Wa states and expanded into opium production. Khun Sa's militia eventually grew into the Shan United Army (SUA), also known as the Shan State Army. (Source: Lonely Planet)


In 1967 Khun Sa clashed with the Kuomintang (KMT) remnants in Shan State after the KMT attempted to embargo the SUA opium trade by blocking their jungle smuggling routes. Khun Sa started what became known as the Opium War of 1967, which resulted in his defeat, demoralizing him and his forces. In 1969, the Rangoon government captured him. He was freed in 1973 when his second-in-command abducted two Russian doctors and demanded his release. By 1976 he had returned to opium smuggling, and set up a base inside northern Thailand in the village of Ban Hin Taek. He renamed his group the Shan United Army and began ostensibly fighting for Shan autonomy against the Burmese government. (Source: Lonely Planet)

Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: Khun Sa, then 33, decided to challenge the supremacy of much more senior Kuomintang opium warlords. In May 1967, he set out from the hills of northern Shan state with a large contingent of soldiers and a massive 16-ton opium convoy, destined for Ban Khwan, a small Laotian lumber village across the Mekong River from Chiang Saen in Thailand. More traders joined his convoy, and by the time it reached the city of Kengtung in eastern Shan state, its single-file column of 500 men and 300 mules stretched along the ridge for more than a mile re the following quotes from Bert Lintner, Asia Online, November 1, 2007:

"The convoy crossed the Mekong and the Kuomintang rushed to intercept it. Fierce fighting raged for several days, but the outcome of the battle is still somewhat obscure. At that time, General Ouane Rattikone, the commander-in-chief of the Royal Lao Army, ran several heroin refineries in the nearby Ban Houey Sai area, and sent the Lao air force to bomb the battle site. Officially, he cheated both Khun Sa and the Kuomintang, and made off with the opium. Other sources told this correspondent that the opium had already been sold, and Khun Sa subsequently made his first significant investment in Thailand. On attempting to contact the Shan rebels, perhaps to switch sides, in 1969 he was arrested and imprisoned in Mandalay. He was charged with high treason for attempting to contact the rebels, not for drug trafficking, for which at the time he had informal government permission to engage in.

"In April 1973, his men who had gone underground in the jungle kidnapped two Soviet doctors who were working at the hospital in the Shan state capital of Taunggyi. An entire division of Myanmar government troops was mobilized to rescue the doctors. The operation was unsuccessful and it was not until August 1974 that the foreign hostages were supposedly unconditionally released through Thailand. By strange coincidence, Khun Sa was released from prison shortly afterwards. It was later revealed that Thai northern army commander General Kriangsak Chomanan had helped to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. Khun Sa later slipped away to northern Thailand."(source)

In October 1981 a 39-man unit of Thai Rangers and Burmese guerrillas attempted to assassinate Khun Sa at the insistence of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The attempt failed, however. In January 1982 a Thai Ranger squad from Pak Thong Chai, together with units from the Border Patrol Police and the Royal Thai Army, was used to force Khun Sa to move his headquarters from Ban Hin Taek across the border into Myanmar, where he initially directed his empire from a fortified network of underground tunnels. The Thai raid led to the break up of the opium and heroin production operation in the Mae Salong-Ban Tin Taek area of Thailand.

In 1985, Khun Sa joined forces with the Tai Revolutionary Council of Moh Heng and several other Shan armies to for, the Muang Tai Army (MTA) led by the Shan State Restoration Council. In the early 1990s the MTA reached a peak strength of 25,000 soldiers, by far the largest ethnic armed group in Myanmar. Through that alliance Khun Sa both gained control of the whole Thai-Burma border area from Mae Hong Son to Mae Sai and became one of the principal figures in opium smuggling in the Golden Triangle.


In 1975 Khun Sa's SUA increased it influence in the Golden Triangle region. As the Burmese government broke the KMT's control over the Golden Triangle opium market the SUA stepped in to fill the void.Kun Sa established a new headquarters at Ban Hin Taek in Chiang Rai province, Thailand. By that time the U.S. had pulled out of Indochina so there was no competition from CIA-backed traffickers. Khun Sa largely severed relationships with intermediaries, buying up opium directly from hill tribe and Shan farmers and transporting it to heroin labs in Myanmar, Laos and Yunnan in China, where the final product was turned over to ethnic Chinese (usually Tae Jiu or Chiao Zhou) syndicates which controlled access to world markets through Thailand, Yunnan and Hong Kong.

Khun Sa controlled his drug empire for over 30 years and reportedly earned billions of dollars in the drug trade. It is believed that he controlled about half of the heroin and opium that came from Myanmar, which in turn counted for about 60 percent of the heroin sold on the streets in the United States.

U.S. drug officials said that Khun Sa organized farmers to grow opium and ran or franchised 15 to 20 heroin refining laboratories along the Thai-Myanmar border. He reportedly made cash payments of $26,000 to Thai border police to make sure his heroin shipments got across the Thai border without being seized. He then distributed the drug using a sophisticated commercial network.

Khun Sa always maintained that he was freedom fighter not a drug dealer. He said he supported his army with revenues earned by taxing opium traders who moved through his territory. Khun Sa reportedly detested addicts. Anyone in his operation that became addicted to drugs was forced detox in his his "drug treatment center" a 10-foot-deep hole where junkies enduring cold turkey and stayed until they had kicked.

Khun Sa controlled a large amount of territory in the Eastern Shan State of eastern Myanmar near the Thai border. After Khun Sa's arrival Ho Mong grew from a sleepy village into a bustling town with satellite dishes at many homes. Much of the money he earned from the drug trade went to maintaining a 10,000-man army and a mini-state with its own education system and hospitals. He even went as far as proclaiming himself president of the Eastern Shan State.

Khun Sa occasionally granted interviews to journalists who trekked eight hours with a mule train from the Thai border to his headquarters. In 1988, Khun Sa was interviewed by Australian journalist Stephen Rice, who had crossed the border from Thailand into Burma illegally. Khun Sa told Rice he was willing to sell his entire heroin crop to the Australian Government for about $40 million a year for the next eight years, a move that would have virtually stopped the heroin trade into both Australia and the United States overnight. The Australian Government rejected the offer, with one Australia senator declaring: "The Australian Government is simply not in the business of paying criminals to refrain from criminal activity." In 1989, Khun Sa was charged by a New York court for trying to import 1,000 tons of heroin. By then he had proposed the U.S. buy his entire opium production.


Khun Sa commanded a force of 10,000-to-20,000 Shan fighters in the Mong Tai army, a private militia which was regarded as the last major revolutionary army to operate in Myanmar. It possessed modern weapons such as surface-to-air missiles, which even the Myanmar army didn't have. Many of the Mong Tai soldiers were in their teens. Thousands of Burmese soldiers were tied up fighting the Mong Tai army and the conflict depleted the government's supply of weapons.

Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: His so-called "Shan United Army", SUA, was supposed to be fighting for Shan independence from Myanmar, but was, in reality, little more than a narco-army escorting opium convoys and protecting heroin refineries. In 1982, the Thai army decided to turn against him, and Khun Sa and the SUA were driven out of Ban Hin Taek. But they soon established a new base, this time inside Myanmar, at Homong, where new refineries were set up to process raw opium into heroin. (Source: Bert Lintner, Asia Online, November 1, 2007)

Most of Khun Sa's key aides were relatives. Important players in Khun Sa's operation included Chang Su-chan (also known as "General Thunder"), Military Operations Chief; Yang Wan-Hsuan, Security and Intelligence Chief; and Chang Ping-Yun, Comptroller General and overseer of the refining operations.

Khun Sa battled Thai forces on the Thai-Burma border and fought the Burmese army in the Shan states. He maintained that he was fighting a war of liberation for the Shan people and drug trafficking was simple a way for him to raise money to buy weapons and pay his soldiers. One Burmese colonel told the New York Times, "We were fighting him for years. We were not gaining much ground because he was well-equipped, well dug-in and the terrain was terrible. We were sacrificing too many casualties."


Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: "By no stretch of the imagination could Homong have been described as a 'jungle hideout' --- a common phrase used by the press in the 1980s and early 1990s. On the contrary, it was - and still is - a bustling town boasting well-stocked shops, spacious market places, a well laid-out grid of roads with street lights. More than 10,000 inhabitants lived in wooden and concrete houses amid fruit trees, manicured hedges and gardens adorned with bougainvillea and marigolds. Huge signs indicated where you could have your travel permits to Thailand across the border issued, re the following by Bert Lintner as found in Asia Online, November 1, 2007:

"There were schools, a Buddhist monastery, a well-equipped hospital with an operating theater and X-ray machines, all maintained by qualified doctors from mainland China, video halls, karaoke bars, two hotels, a disco and even a small park complete with pathways, benches and a Chinese-style pavilion. Overseas calls could be placed from two commercially run telephone booths.

"Local artifacts, historical paintings and photographs were on display in a "cultural museum", and a hydroelectric power station was being constructed, but never fully finished, to replace the diesel-powered generators then providing Homong with electricity. Other unusual construction projects included an 18-hole golf course intended for the many Thai, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Hong Kong, Malaysian, South Korean and Japanese businessmen who were then flocking to buy precious stones at Khun Sa's gem center, also located in Homong. As a young man, Khun Sa was an avid golfer, and over the years he was known to have made several influential friends on golf greens.

"At that time, he was supposed to be the most wanted man in the world, but, in reality, he was pursued by no one. He lived in a one-story concrete building surrounded by a well-tended garden featuring orchids, Norfolk pines and strawberry fields. But his house was also ringed by bunkers housing 50-caliber, anti-aircraft machine-guns and swarms of heavily armed soldiers. 'You never know,' he once told me during an interview. 'I have an army, so I'm free. Look at poor [Myanmar opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi. She's got no army so she's under house arrest.'" (source)

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On a website I have about Phyllis Davis (1940-2013), an actress of extraordinary beauty and true natural talent, who died from terminal cancer, I write that in an attempt to assist her in her desire for a deep spiritual experience in her later years, I accompanied her to Thailand, heading into the jungles of Asia so she could become a frequenter of lonely places in an ever expanding attempt to enhance an oncoming deepening Awareness. After several weeks with me and feeling she was at a place she could be on her own, I bid her goodbye and headed out. Prior to my departure from Thailand, in that I had gone to Thailand before Phyllis caught up with me I had all intentions of going to meet up with Khun Sa's son to offer my condolences and tell him that I never got a chance to thank his dad for basically saving my life as found in Footnote [1]. Although I had all honorable intentions to do just that, in my attempt to do so I ran into a whole series of complications of which I outlined on the Phyllis Davis page. However, not everybody who searches for or reads about Khun Sa find themselves deep into the Phyllis Davis page, hence missing my meeting with Khun Sa's son. To make up for that I present the following from the Davis page:


"Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that he'd never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the whole galaxy than Mos Eisley spaceport."

I guess neither of them ever heard of Mong La.(see)

As easy as it may have seemed for Phyllis and I in Chiang Mai, and the graciousness of the help we received with transportation and all for her to reach a meditation spot where she could safely become masterful in Sila, Samadhi, Jhana, Prajna, and a frequenter of lonely places, which she was apparently able to do, it wasn't done without a cost. Nothing is free. Although Phyllis never knew about it nor did I ever have a chance to tell her, for the services rendered there was a price that was to be extracted.

The person I went to see in the Thai restaurant was willing to help in exchange for me providing a service for him. He knew I was a longtime Asian travel hand, sometimes under rather scary or unscrupulous circumstances with a once upon a time uncanny ability to slip through places without raising undue concerns. He also knew I was a trusted commodity, especially if leveraged against the fact that no harm would come to the "woman," i.e., Phyllis. After hearing his request, of which I thought was a little much of an overkill, to do his bidding I asked if when done, he would in turn do an additional small favor for me. Agreeing to do so, we shook hands and the deal was done.

After leaving Phyllis and her encampment, laughable out loud to me and of pure coincidence no doubt, I found that I was within easy striking distance to the Burmese-Thailand border town of Tachileik, the exact same place I was asked to go per the man's request before returning to Chiang Mai. Because of that request, I headed there, crossing the bridge several days later by foot from the Thai city of Mae Sai into Tachileik. In those days the Burmese side took your passport and gave you a temporary travel permit limited to only the Tachileik area and a day or two stay. People running out of visa time in Thailand often made "visa runs," crossing over to Tachileik from Mae Sai, get their passport stamped, then when returning to Thailand, even after a few minutes, could get a new 14 day extension. Me, I had bigger fish to fry. The last thing I wanted was not fulfill my side of the bargain and have Phyllis, completely unsuspecting, harmed because of it.

The first thing I did after crossing into Tachileik was negotiate with a number emaciated-looking cigarette smoking tuk-tuk drivers for a ride at a fair price to the Allure Casino, of which turned out to be what would have been a super easy walk, probably not more that a quarter a mile away. The casino-resort was as plush and clean as almost any Las Vegas or the like high class establishments. As I walked across the floor toward the registration desk after several days through the jungles of Thailand, dried mud on my clothes, unkempt hair, unshaven and unbathed, I could see the woman behind the counter was getting increasingly unnerved. When I reached the counter however, she, looking all the same as she was about to call security or run for her own safety, I slapped down a brand new shiny one ounce Krugerrand gold coin on the counter. With that her whole demeanor changed.

She picked up the Krugerrand, turned and went through a door behind her returning in a few minutes with a man who came around the counter to my side. He handed back the Krugerrand, not actually mine, but a token of introduction provided by my benefactor back in Chiang Mai. He said I must be tired from my journey, most likely wanting to clean up and rest, which was true. Seeing I had no luggage other than my shoulder bag, he requested my waist and shirt size saying we would talk later at dinner. Before I even reached my room, which was quite nice besides having a river view, a man was at the door with a pair of clean and pressed new khaki pants and a white dress shirt.

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I went into the bathroom, turned on the hot water full blast until the whole room was steamed up, covering any potential camera with condensation. In the fog I removed one of the cover plates from one of the bathroom electrical plug-in outlets and slipped a SIM card given me back in Chiang Mai in behind the wires. Then, reducing the water to a more comfortable level I duly took a shower, shaved, put on all my new clothes and laid down on the bed taking a nap. Later I was waiting in the dining area when the same man from earlier stepped up to the table apologizing for not be able to join me that evening, saying however, I should be ready to leave the hotel by 10:00 in the morning the next day as I would be going to a nearby office across town. When I got back from dinner and some time in the casino my whole room had been carefully gone over, including my private stuff. My cell phone, which I had left on charge, was also gone over. What wasn't was the electrical outlet, the hidden SIM card left untouched.

The "office" was a whole makeshift kind of a dump, part office, part warehouse, part storage yard, nominally identified on the outside as the Greenland Group. After I got there I was told the man I was looking for wasn't there, but in a place called Mong La about 85 miles north up along the Chinese border. I thought, "FUCK!" Then the man told me they make transportation runs up and back to and from there on a regular basis and there should be one leaving anytime if I wanted to tag along. In that I had everything with me, having left-left the hotel and safely secreting the Chiang Mai SIM card inside my own phone, I told him I would wait.

Soon I was brought out on the loading dock, introduced to a man I was told would by the driver by a man who said he was the dispatcher, then I climbed up into the cab, the truck being of one of those snub-nosed jobs with the cab sitting high up over the top of the front wheels. Neither the driver nor I could speak or understand each other's languages, so I thought to open up a friendship of sorts, thinking he was most likely Buddhist, I showed him the medallion on my necklace. He jumped back holding his arms in front of his face, elbows and forearms facing me as though he had been confronted by an about ready to strike cobra. He threw the door open falling to the ground, all the while yelling and pushing himself away backwards on his butt with his heels as fast as he could. Everybody came running. He continued yelling and pointing at me. By then I was out of the truck, the dispatcher asking what had happened. Not understanding he went inside and came out with a very beautiful Asian woman, most likely of Chinese descent, dressed in a dark navy blue or black business suit, high heels, and long back hair all coifed up looking all the same as a flight attendant.

She talked to the driver, apparently receiving some sort of an explanation, then turning to me and in perfect English requested to look at the medallion, asking how it was I came into possession of such an item. I told her it was given to me many, many years before. She said the driver accused me of being a high priest sent by the Buddha to do him harm for not adhering strongly to the scriptures. I said I was just a wanderling, a traveler along the path with no special powers or abilities. Playing hard and loose with the facts, making it up as she went along, in calming the man, the woman told him that the necklace was a gift, that it was easy for him, the man, as a native born Buddhist to be considered a Buddhist, but for me, not only a foreigner but a Caucasian as well, it was hard to convey the fact, so I needed such accruements to demonstrate to others. After a little hesitation the man bought the story and we were soon on our way.

In the Star Wars film, when Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that he would never find a more "wretched hive of scum and villainy than Mos Eisley Spaceport," there was no clarification. However, it thrived in being so mostly because of being located so far from the galaxy's political epicenter, and rarely if ever policed. So it is with Mong La.

As far a Mong La itself is concerned, being compared with Mos Eisley, or perhaps even the cities as seen in Bladerunner or the early scenes of the Fifth Element, movies all, they are some writers thought up view of what someplace like what they are trying to depict would be like. In real life I don't think any writer, producer, director or actor would step foot in Mong La alone without a whole lot of a protective entourage. Without any knowledge of how things work a person can and will sometimes, just disappear.(see)

Of course, when I arrived in Mong La the man I was looking for wasn't there either. Powers that be told me he was supposedly at a place called Panghsang, 70 miles further northwest. More specifically at his private fortess-like mansion west of the main section of town directly edging up to the Myanamar China river border but still in Myanamar, called Wan Nalawt. I was also told I would be taken there the next day and in the meantime just hang out.

Taking the powers that be man at his word besides having as well a car and driver provided by the same man I decided to look over the town, eat on the streets, visit some of the casinos, and cross over into China via motorbike on hidden trails and the river.(see) Mong La is crawling with casinos. However, six or seven years before, in 2003, as told by my driver, in nothing less than a sovereign invasion, China sent heavily armed Peoples Liberation Army troops cross-border into Mong La an effort to shut down the Casinos. Word had it that high-ranking Chinese government officials had lost billions of yuan in the town's casinos. One report said the daughter of a senior Chinese official had lost more than the equivalent of $1.6 million U.S. dollars using nothing but government funds. Sai Leun, the warlord who runs what is officially known as Special Region No. 4 wherein the city of Mong La is located, responded to the Chinese incursion by moving the casinos to a jungle area I estimate to be about 8 miles east and slightly south out of town. By the time I was in Mong La he had built more than two dozen casinos in an area now known in the vernacular as "casino city." After that most of central Mong La became a ghost town, although at the time I was there you could see a recovery was going on albeit never loosing a step as to its disreputable reputation.

"While the abandoned casinos are left to crumble in the center of Mong La, the glitzy new casino area is a truly incredible sight --- huge columned palaces with names like Royal Casino and Casino Lisboa rise up in bizarre contrast with the villages and rice paddies that surround them. Armies of young casino workers in waistcoats mill around outside, and inside they robotically flip cards and spin wheels for the crowds of Chinese men and women squeezed around the tables."

MONG LA: MYANMAR'S SIN CITY, Charlotte Rose, Myanmar Times

No sooner had I returned to the hotel and closed the door than there was a knock. Opening the door, standing in the hallway just in front of me was a man from the lobby area that I recognized. Accompanying him was an Asian girl with heavy eye and face make-up, super long straight black hair, six or seven inch stiletto heels, and a yellow over the shoulder drop-down dress so short it barely covered her business. Also, if she was any age much older than 14 it would be a miracle of nature. In so many words the lobby man told me she was "mine" for the night to do whatever I wanted with her. Then he said if I would rather have a boy that could be arranged too. I told the man I would appreciated it if the two of them just left, I didn't want anybody that night of either sex. He said he couldn't because if he did there would be big trouble for both him and the girl. I told him I wanted to see the Madame. Soon a short little round woman who looked more like she sold noodles on the street than running a string of hookers was at the door. I explained everything through the man as an interpreter and she basically said whatever, she just wanted her money ... and if the girl didn't stay the night she wouldn't get paid. We eventually worked everything out and all of them left including the 14 year old girl. After that nobody bothered me for the rest of the night.

However, the next morning when I left to go downstairs hoping to get a western-style breakfast, just to the right of the door on the floor against the wall, curled up in a rather tight fetal position, was the 14 year old girl, fast asleep. To get paid the Madame must have made her stay the night, even if it was outside the door. I got her to join me going downstairs, with me being able to order what I wanted for breakfast and her shoving what looked like 300 pounds of food down her throat in a highly uncouth manner as everybody in the room watched. Otherwise the time was spent with her positioning herself in every possible manner she could find in order to expose as clear as possible and as far up and down as possible her not-old-enough to have pubic hair vagina to me.

Just on time and in time the driver was at the table to take me north, eating whatever scraps off the plates he could find, even some off empty adjoining tables, all the while making a series of "you dog" side glances toward me and the girl. They talked between themselves for a few minutes with me thinking at first he was hoping to get in on a little 14 year old action himself, but I think what they talked about was what really happened as he seemed to change his demeanor towards me in a more positive manner. He said the girl wanted to come with us, but I said no and soon the driver and I were on the road.

Not long after that we were in Panghsang with me introducing myself to Wei Hsueh-kang. He ask if I had the "item." I opened my phone and handed him the SIM card. He praised me for a job well done, saying everything he heard about me was true. Then he asked how it was I knew Khun Sa. I quickly explained to him the whole story saying I felt he was instrumental in saving my life. I did what I did regarding the SIM card for two reasons, the safety of Phyllis Davis and the chance to give my respects to Khun Sa's son regarding his death. Wei Hsueh-kang waved to a man standing across the veranda who handed him a large manila envelope. Wei Hsueh-kang dumped the contents on the table spreading them apart. There were several grainy black and white photographs of Phyllis and I together and one of her taking an outside shower back at the meditation encampment. He said he could see why I was concerned with her overall well being. Also among the items on the table was my passport that I left at immigration when I entered Myanmar. He said everything was arranged for me to meet Khun Sa's son but I would have to go back clear across Thailand to do so. As innocent as it all seemed on the surface it was clear I was being monitored every inch of the way, plus if I would have decided to skit back across the border rather than do what was expected of me I would have found there was no passport in my name waiting for me at the Tachileik crossing and people other than simply just the authorities would have been informed.

A few days later I was crossing into Mae Sai from Tachileik headed toward Chiang Mai and beyond to catch up with Khun Sa's son. I stopped by to see the man in the Thai restaurant telling him all was in order, that Wei Hsueh-kang sends his best and now I was on my way to see Khun Sa's son. With that he handed me an envelope and said as far as he knew all was in order with my part of it as well. The only thing in the envelope except a business card, was where I had to go, that being a place called Myawaddy located along the Moei River that delineates the border between Myanmar and Thailand on the western side of the country across from Mae Sot, about 150 miles south and somewhat west from Chiang Mai. On the back of the business card, as a sort of a letter of introduction, was some handwritten Asian script I couldn't read. A little background to set the scene:

"In 1996 the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), made a deal with Khun Sa. The warlord had been indicted by the US Justice Department in 1990, but the SLORC announced that he would neither be sent to the US nor brought up on any charges in his own country. Instead, he was given the Burma-to-Thailand taxi concession and a 44-acre site where his son has plans to build a gambling and shopping complex."

BURMANET NEWS: Weekend of February 19-20, 2000, Issue #1466

That gambling and shopping complex so mentioned turned out to be the 140-million-baht Casino Club operating under the flagship of the Myawaddy Riverside Resort Complex, located on the Myanmar side about two miles from the Friendship Bridge, the official crossing spot between the countries of Thailand and Burma in those parts. Htoo Than Kyaw, a onetime close aide to Khun Sa, is the major shareholder with other co-investors being Thai and Taiwanese businessmen. It is there I met Khun Sa's son.


Khun Sa was known to have at least six offspring although some say as high as 30 from a variety of liaisons. The son I met was the one most high ranking and heir as far as Khun Sa was concerned and I was told of such by those who were regarded to be in the know. Me, I took him at his and their word. His reactions and response to me and the gratification he seemed to receive from my being there just to pay homage to his dad seemed to underline the truth of the matter as being so. Although he had never heard the story from his father he was quite pleased that I gave Khun Sa credit for ensuring my escape and eventual return to the U.S. unharmed. The fact that I, a white male Caucasian, embarked on such a pilgrimage so many years after fact just to give thanks and offer condolences was something he would have ever expected, especially in relation to his dad. When we were done he said to stay as long as I like but I would have to cover all of my gambling losses. Then as a joke, with a slight jab to my shoulder accompanied by a little laugh he said of course any winnings would have to be split 50-50. A couple of days later I crossed back over the Moei River and headed back to Chiang Mai.

If you haven't done so as of yet, please be sure and visit Footnote [1]








Their Life and Times Together




(please click)

As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.


The First Warlord as cited in the link that brought you here refers to the first of two warlords that the Wanderling met and interacted with during his travels in Southeast Asia circa 1964, to wit:

Following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in March of 1954, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.

One of those closely allied mercenaries relative to American interest was an otherwise minor Laotian warlord that through his association with the U.S. grew much more powerful than otherwise would have been ordained. Through a series of events I found myself in the court of that same warlord, as so pictured below. The downstream outflow from that encounter, an encounter of which was put into place by others well beyond my control, later found me miles and miles away high in the mountains of the Himalayas outside the confines of any warlord or political power, in one of those ancient monasteries truly beyond the reach of time.


The unfolding series of events that led to me being in the court of the warlord, actually the first of two warlords I had the good fortune, or bad fortune of meeting as the case may be, was described quite well by a somewhat defunct looking homeless man that I met across the street from the Union Station in Los Angeles many years after the fact. He came out of nowhere one day while I was waiting between trains saying he knew me, with me basically telling him I was sure the two of us had never met. Then the homeless man, speaking about me, laid out the following that only a person who had been there could have known, as found at the source so cited:

"(W)hile other low-ranking members in the military contingent I was with were off trading cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were all sheep-dipped and I was in civilian garb, I had gone off on my own volition easily passing myself off like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages. An advisor to the warlord, a shaman, informed the general of my actions and the general invited me join him for dinner."(source)

Years later, not long after the official or formal end of the American military presence in Southeast Asia, it came to my attention that two people who had at one time played major roles in my life in that region of the world had moved to the U.S., more specifically, Orange County, California, and for no other reason than I could, I sought them out. One, of course, was General Vang Pao, with the other being onetime Air Vice Marshal come vice president of Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky. As for Khun Sa, unlike both Nguyen Cao Ky and Vang Pao I never met or saw him again in or outside of Burma after that night I first met him.

Me ending up having both the time and luxury of being in a position to seek out both Nguyen Cao Ky and Vang Pao really came about primarily because of a number of Orange County based "to do" requests by my Uncle. My uncle and I had a long time running relationship with Orange County going clear back to when I was a kid. My Stepmother had for years owned a small weekender or summer-type cottage in Laguna Beach a short distance south of Main Beach on the west side of PCH, of which my Uncle and I used regularly in my youth --- my uncle having developed ties with the art colony there.

However, as time moved along and I grew older my Uncle had long since left the Laguna Beach art scene and returned to his even longer established old haunts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For whatever reason, even though he had moved back to Santa Fe he continued to maintain or have access to a post office box in Laguna. Every once in awhile a package would come to me from my uncle through a variety of means, hand delivered, etc., that I would then take to the post office and put into his P.O. box or, if requested to do so by my uncle, hand deliver it to someone associated with what was known in the late 60s early 70s as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of 1960s counter culture indulgents such as marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and LSD --- reportedly with upwards of $200 million in sales in the late 60s. In that the Brotherhood operated mostly beyond the legitimate confines of the law in a majority of their business transactions they were a little touchy about who they let close. However, it all went down fairly easy for me because I was already semi-known by many of the higher ups and inside-members of the Brotherhood.(see)

I was delivering a package to the Laguna Beach post office box for my uncle when I was approached by a man who said he was an associate of a man by the name of Johnny Roselli. He told me after being advised by members of the Brotherhood on how to find me he had been monitoring the post office for sometime in an effort to contact me. It so happened Roselli was a high ranking member of organized crime, also referred to as the mob, the Mafia, the syndicate, the outfit, and any number of other names and titles. Call it what you will, Roselli was an integral part of it all most of his life, from a young teenage boy in the 1920s to his ultimate demise under their aegis in 1976. Even though he was never a don in the classical sense, he carried a huge amount of sway, influence and stature ahead of himself in the mob, most certainly well beyond his made-man status.

I wasn't even ten years old the first time I met Roselli. One day my stepmother drove up to Santa Barbara to visit him in a hospital and took me with her. At the time I didn't know who he was, what he did, or how the two of them knew each other. All she told me was that he was a longtime friend and was recuperating in the hospital after having been in the army and she wanted to pay her respects.

While it is true Roselli had been in the army, he only served until he was arrested on federal charges, found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. After serving roughly three and a half years he was paroled. Roselli had tuberculosis and the time in prison only aggravated the condition. As soon as he was released he immediately put himself under hospital care. When my stepmother and I saw him in the hospital he may have been recuperating alright, but not from the army, but prison. From that day forward, continuing on-and-off for another twenty-five years, mainly in connection with some aspect of my stepmother, I had a variety of interactions with Roselli.

The man in Laguna Beach, asking me to wait, being in those days a time long before cell phones, went to a nearby payphone and made a call. The person he called had to call someone else. When he called back the man handed me the phone. The man on the other end said he was a friend of Roselli's and to prove it he was told to tell me not to ride any more trains to Sacramento.(see) Knowing full well what he meant I asked what he wanted and he responded with wanting to know if I remembered delivering a letter to a lady in Long Beach for Roselli. When I answered yes he asked me the name of the lady. When I told him her name was Brenda Allen he said on behalf of Roselli he needed to meet with me.

A few days later, feeling compelled to take the man at his word, especially since his Sacramento comment and knowing it wouldn't be known either by law enforcement officials or members of the mob other than Roselli, as instructed I met the same man who I had talked to in Laguna Beach in the downtown Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles. He inturn took me by taxi to the L.A. Chinatown district. I was hustled through the back door of a scummy little restaurant off a pig sty of an alley and pointed to a very narrow wooden set of steps that led upstairs to a surprisingly sunshiny and immaculately kept small room just above the kitchen. In the room were two extremely fine looking skimpily dressed, albeit notably high class mid-20s Asian women sitting on a couch and close by some obviously recently used drug paraphernalia spread out across the glass coffee table in front of them.

Also in the room was a burly older white man in a dark sports jacket with a white dress shirt opened at the neck and no tie standing with his back to the door staring out the window. The man kept his back to me most of the time while he continued to stare out the window and I continued to stare almost exclusively at one of the Asian women who had not long after my arrival, propped both her feet and long bare legs up on the coffee table knees together. When I glanced over she immediately spread her legs wide apart revealing she was clearly clean shaven all the way up a la a Brazilian or Hollywood wax with no underpants. The man asked if I knew Roselli as well as how, why, and how long.

By this time in my life I had been a lot of places and done a lot of things, but catching me off guard almost as though I was out of my league, the young woman placed the index finger of her right hand in her mouth slightly wetting it as she turned it, then wiped it across the residue of white powder on the coffee table. Almost like a Miami Vice episode of ten years later without the background music she gently rubbed the powder along both sides of the up-and-down outside edges of the fold at the top of her legs all the while looking at me then down then back as though inviting me try some. Redirecting my thoughts as much as I could I told the man I had known Roselli since before I was ten, had interacted with him several times, primarily on behalf of my stepmother over the years, but as far as I could remember, had not seen or been in contact with him in over a decade. The man said that was perfect as I would be "clean." Explaining further he said Roselli had helped me in the past, now it was my turn to help him.

On August 26, 1973 Roselli was transferred from the prison at McNeil Island, located in southern Puget Sound, northwest Washington to the prison on Terminal Island, located in the harbor a few miles south of Los Angeles. A month and a half later, on October 5, 1973, he was going to be released from Terminal Island and placed on parole. The man told me he wanted me to visit Roselli in prison prior to this parole, but since only relatives or approved friends could see him I needed to be put on the visitor's list. He handed me an addressed business-size mailing envelope with some papers inside to fill out which, when returned to the prison, if cleared and after Roselli's OK, I would be put on an approval list to visit . He said after I was approved to go see him, but be advised that during the visit I may be not be left alone with him, possibly monitored or even recorded. He will already be prepped so don't try and give him anything or take anything from him that might raise any suspicions. Just be an old friend and talk to him about anything and everything --- the old days, my stepmother, whatever --- but, somewhere along the way, after talking for a while swing the conversation around so I could insert the following sentence in the exact words:

"One more thing before I forget Mr. Roselli, I was going to see your sister in Florida, but can't because of traffic. She is still upset because Uncle Sam treated you so badly when you were in the Army."

He handed a white sheet of paper with the sentence typed in caps in the center of the page and said after I memorized the sentence verbatim, emphasizing the word "verbatim," he told me to burn it. That was it.

As an extra added insight, whenever either of the two women in the small room above the cafe in Los Angeles' Chinatown as so described above come to mind, I cannot picture anything other than The Infamous Madame Toy as characterized by my favorite artist/cartoonist Wallace 'Wally' Wood in his spy-story series Cannon and so depicted in the graphic below. For more regarding Madame Toy et al, and any potential comparison thereof, please visit the following:

(please click image)





Footnote [1]

"He eventually went on to form his own army of a few hundred men. In the early 1960s, his small private army was even recognized officially as the 'Loi Maw Ka Kwe Ye,' a militia and home guard unit."

Even in the above early stage of the game Khun Sa was building for his future supremacy and power in the area. In those days up to recent history the majority of the opium being grown was already falling under the control of Khun Sa. Most of that opium came down from Burma to Thailand by mule train to the railhead in Chiang Mai under his auspices, with one vital exception. On the long mule train trail to the railhead, in that his militia was still small, Khun Sa recruited remnant soldiers of Chiang Kai Shek's old KMT, the Kuomintang to help with the protection. When Chaing Kai Shek and his Nationalist troops escaped to Taiwan a good portion of his army had been split into separate parts with large remnants remaining in the far reaches of the western provinces basically living off the land and scrounging for a living. Some of that scrounging included providing security for Khun Sa's opium being moved overland by mule to Chiang Mai.

A few short years later, in 1967, Khun Sa clashed with the KMT remnants when someone in their hierarchy decided rather than providing security through what was not much more than flat out extortion they would just take over the whole operation, beginning with an attempt at blocking his routes and ambushing his caravans. Because of the KMT actions and Khun Sa's effort to negate those actions, what transpired became known as the 1967 Opium War.

At the very top of the page is an opening quote that mentions Khun Sa's massive 16-ton opium convoy that left the Shan states sometime in the spring of 1967. The convoy was his attempt to wrest the extortion ability of the KMT out of their hands. Khun Sa, keeping the KMT at bay or staying just ahead of them most the way with most if not all of the local militia groups on his side, his convoy was able to cross the Mekong into Laos --- albeit, with the Kuomintang hot on his heels.

No sooner had Khun Sa crossed into Laos than the KMT did so also, followed by a huge fire-fight erupting between the two. Then, simply put, once in Laos with a gun battle raging between them and with both sides refusing to leave Laotian soil after officially being ordered to do so by Laotian authorities, Ouan Rathikoun, the commander-in-chief of the Laotian official government military, sent two Royal Laotian Air Force AT-6 Trojans to bomb and strafe both groups. After two days Khun Sa retreated back across the river leaving all the opium. The KMT being left without boats headed north along the river carrying the opium with them. Striking a deal after Rathikoun forces surrounded them, the KMT basically traded the opium for freedom, ending up back in their old stomping grounds a short time later.(see)

The "(see)" link, previous, probably provides the most indepth and accurate account of the 1967 Opium War, including maps and such. Most of what has come down to us regarding the war is, one way or the other, taken from that same source. However, it was published in 1972, some years prior to Khun Sa's renewed rise to power. Shortly after the battle, with his 800 man army in disarray, Khun Sa was arrested by Burmese authorities and incarcerated. A few years later he was "sprung" by advocates and not long after that he was ruthlessly back on top, commanding a 20,000 man personal army and completely in charge of large swaths of land and all of the opium trade, staying that way until his retirement many years later.

As found in the source so cited in the quote below, in the early years, prior to any of the above, on the way back through Burma from high in the Himalayas and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau the Wanderling came across Khun Sa's encampment with the following results:

"On the return trip we stopped for a couple of nights at a military encampment or compound of Khun Sa. At first I thought we had been captured and taken to the camp, which for all practical purposes, we were. However, once we were inside the perimeter of the compound it was quite obvious the Australians and Khun Sa knew each other. He wanted to see the man under the protection of the Lord Buddha. After a quick introduction I was told I was under HIS protection now. Everybody laughed. Then Khun Sa motioned me closer, almost immediately dropping his eye contact from my eyes to that of the the small gold Chinese character dangling around my neck. Reaching forward he softly took the tiny medallion between his thumb and index finger, looking at it very carefully and rubbing it for what seemed the longest time. The background noise and the overall din of the soldiers in the camp became quiet and the air stilled. As a man who could have and take anything he wanted I thought he was going to yank the chain from my neck. Instead he allowed it to gently fall against my skin and stepped back and the sound returned to normal. Basically a tribal person seeped in superstition, Khun Sa, and no doubt along with a good part of his camp as well, knew that for the necklace to have the intended power vested in it, it had to either be given freely and without malice or found after having genuinely been lost. Otherwise, if taken or stolen, its intent would be reversed and what would befall the person so involved would be quite the opposite of the protection it provided."


The immediate circumstances leading up to me being in the encampment of Khun Sa in the first place basically goes back to the operation of a newly established heroin manufacturing refinery located in Long Tieng, Laos --- and because of that refinery, a greater need by the operators for ever larger amounts of opium to feed it --- hence the need in the same people's minds to catch up with Khun Sa's opium carrying caravan.

The problem with the whole scenario as presented above and elsewhere, most notably as it has been reported in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery, is that most experts on the subject are pretty much in agreement that during the same period of time I am talking about there were NO operational refineries anywhere in, near, or close to the area --- or for that fact the whole region --- especially so any remotely capable of producing an end product as pure as No. 4 injectable.

Alfred W. McCoy, the author of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), is considered the utmost authority on such things as related to the above and most people who bloviate on-and-on about the subject garner their information from his works or from those who have. The only bone I have to pick with McCoy, and what is of interest here because of my of my own personal involvement, is what McCoy has written about heroin refineries and when they first appeared in the Golden Triangle. He states that in the EARLY 1960s "none of the Golden Triangle's opium refineries had yet mastered the difficult technique required to produce high-grade no. 4 heroin (90 to 99 percent pure)." Further down in the article he writes that it was only toward the END of the 1960s that opium refineries in the Burma-Thailand-Laos tri-border area began producing high-grade heroin --- and then only in limited supplies.(see)

A great number of people who profess to know about such things typically go with with McCoy and his research, which again I say for the most part, at least on the broader sense, is accurate. So said, great number or few, not all agree with McCoy, including myself and author Martin Booth regarding there being NO available injectable No. 4 heroin in Burma-Thailand-Laos tri-border region prior to the end of the 1960s.

In his book "OPIUM: A History," Thomas Dunne Books (1996), Booth, using other or additional sources than McCoy, and of which I am in agreement with because of my own experiences, states that the first, albeit rudimentary, operative refineries for making fairly high quality injectable No. 4 heroin began showing up in in the general area in 1963. To my knowledge there were at least two. One in Thailand in a village Booth has identified as Mang Tang Wu and the other in the vicinity of the then so-called secret city of Long Tieng, Laos, of which I saw myself personally in operation. The problem in the operation for both was finding and keeping knowledgeable chemists and putting into place and maintaining a reliable, trusted source and delivery of necessary chemicals into such remote areas, then sustaining the operation for any continued length of time.(see)

the Wanderling




My experience has been that web sites come and go all the time. It seems that a vast majority of good or excellent pages such as what Jeffery Hays' has gathered together regarding Khun Sa, for whatever reason, are either so covered by advertisements they are unreadable, OR if they aren't, the very moment I link to them or list them as a source they seem to inexplicably disappear into cyber space, gone forever, leaving me with the need to search for a new or other source. With thousands of links amongst my pages it becomes almost incomprehensible to keep up. So said, a good lot of the above Khun Sa page, because his works are so well sourced with a quality and depth of information, they been adapted by me and presented here by me. In a general overview of all Hays' works, he writes:

"I have used mostly print sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri (a Japanese newspaper), Times of London, International Herald Tribune, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Sports Illustrated, Atlantic Monthly, Natural History, Archeology magazine, Reuters, AP, Kyodo News, AFP, information from national tourist offices, tourist brochures I have picked up from places I have visited, Lonely Planet Guides, other travel guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications."

As of 2013 Hays writes the following about himself:

"I am a teacher and writer currently living in Saga, Japan. I was born in the Mojave Desert in California and brought up mostly in Reston Virginia, in the Washington D.C. suburbs. I graduated from Wesleyan University in 1979 and later took courses to be a high school teacher. Over the years I wrote about rock music and had some pieces published in the Washington Post, the NME, The Face and other publications, wrote a guide about sports in the Washington D.C. area, worked construction, did a stint as bike messenger in D.C. but mostly I have worked overseas as an English teacher at an elementary school in Istanbul, language institutes and a university in South Korea, as a freelancer in Barcelona and for the last 10 years or so running my own little informal schools in Japan. Being an English teacher is not a very high status job but it does allow one to travel around and has given me ample free time to pursue the website project that you see here."(source)


There was never any mail in the box when I was there and the packages I placed into the box were always gone when I put another one in. It is my belief the packages, because of their small size and light weight, contained Peyote buttons for someone's private or personal use. My uncle had strong connections to a number of southwest Native American groups and considered the use of Peyote as spiritual or religious in nature and not breaking any fundamental law. He was, however, very familiar with the federal statutes and the penalties behind them, and made stringent efforts to cloud the issue as much as possible between himself and any recipient thereof. For some mysterious reason not long after the Brotherhood ceased operations the delivery of packages mysteriously stopped as well.





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While in Mong La I crossed over into China at night without benefit of a passport, riding on the back of a motorbike crossing the river and riding on hidden trails for one reason and one reason only --- to meet a man who I heard, in China, owned his own private plane and did "missions" for he Burmese drug cartels. He was easy enough to find, it was just harder to find someone who could interpret for me. I told him I wanted to visit the Flying Tiger Museum in Kunming. Although there was no plane in evidence he basically told me he could fly me there and back for $200.00 U.S. dollars cash and the cost of fuel, a roughly 600 mile round trip. Then, with a slight sneer and moving closer to me across the table in a one bulb lit room powered from a barely functioning generator, he asked if I had that kind of money or any kind of money on me. I informed him I was where I was because of a job I was doing for a certain man, a certain man I was to meet the next morning in Panghsang. I told the so-called pilot if I wasn't there and his people backtracked to find me and found you responsible for interfering you might not live to see the following day. He threw his head back in a huge roar of laughter and in absolutely prefect English said, "You are a careful little asshole aren't you." He said come back and see him when I was done and he would take care of me.

The pilot had the motorcycle driver throw the bike in the back of a pretty nice looking nearly brand new Toyota pick-up then took us on a shortcut across the border. While travelling at a fairly high speed in the dark with no headlights on he told me after the Flying Tigers disbanded his grandfather still needed work and heard that a group of P-40s had arrived in Karachi, India, so he and a few former ground crew Tiger stragglers headed over there, eventually working on P-40s of the Burma Banshees. They moved from there to Tingkawk Sakan in Burma, then to Myitkyina, Burma. About that time the Banshees began phasing out P-40s for P-47s and P-38s. Since the P-40s were sitting around falling apart, more idle than not, and with more and more being rendered unflyable because of being cannibalized, with no pressing need for mechanics with P-40 expertise, toward the end of the war he just left, returning to China. He said while with the Banshees his grandfather never received the respect nor recognition he had when he was with the Flying Tigers. So too, without anybody knowing about it, he learned to fly under the auspices of testing planes he worked on telling them that was how they did it in the Tigers. Using that expertise, when he returned to China, with nobody watching, he simply took a P-40 with him. In turn his grandfather taught his father everything he knew about flying and P-40s and his father taught him, at least he said, about flying.

Years before, as a young adult just turning 21 or so and having bought my first brand new car, I decided to go to Las Vegas for the first time on my own. On the way I stopped to see my now longtime ex-stepmother and slip her a few bucks like I often did. She had at one time, especially during my youth and before, been rich and powerful and a person of influence in many circles. She was now alone, friendless and fallen on hard times. When she learned I was going to Vegas she asked if I remembered our trip to Santa Barbara when I was a kid and the man I met in the hospital. When I told her yes she scribbled a few things on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and told me to look him up and give him the note. Which I did.

The man was Johnny Roselli a high ranking member of the mob and their main man in Vegas, who my stepmother had helped years before when he was released from prison, down on his luck and destitute. Now things were totally flipped. The timing of the delivery of the note just so happened to coincide with Roselli now being at the absolute top of his game. At the time I had no clue who he was, his stature, or the reach or scope of his power. After he read the note he asked where I was staying. When I told him he picked up a phone on the table, dialed a number, told them he was Johnny Roselli, talked a few more minutes, then hung up. He told me he had "comped" my room for me, moved me up to a suite, and that during my stay, except for gambling, everything was on the house. He said if there was any problem tell them to call him. Then he told me it was very, very important I looked him up before I left as there was something he wanted to give my mother and not to leave without contacting him. Just as I was getting up from the booth he made one last comment asking "Ride any trains lately?" I just pointed at him and we both laughed. The riding trains Roselli was talking about referred to my older brother and cousin having been caught by a railroad bull in the train yards in Sacramento as young kids and the bull was going to beat the shit out of them with a club. My stepmother had Roselli intercede with some of his associates so it didn't happen and I went along with my uncle to get my brother and cousin.(see)

I was reminded of Roselli's comment that day because of something that was said to me just as I was leaving China to cross back into Burma.

The pilot, who was driving the truck, was for whatever reason not willing to cross over into Burma legally or ill-legally, especially not so with his truck and us. He did however have an inflatable boat with a small electric motor in the truck bed. Acting as though he had done the same thing a hundred times he picked a spot along the river taking the boat out of the bed, then, leaving the motorcyclist and myself, drove down stream parking his truck just off the river in the woods. His plan was to use the inflatable to cross the river somewhat upstream from where we were going to be let off in Burma using the downstream flow and the motor for guidance. Then, using the downstream flow and motor for guidance, cross back over, again downstream, to the China side and where his truck was. All he wanted from me was to make sure that Wei Hsueh-kang knew it was he who had helped me so graciously, i.e., without any suggestion of compensation.

Two things happened just at the time we were getting ready to leave the pilot's place. One, the motorcyclist was told he couldn't take his bike across the river in the rubber boat. He either had to leave it or find his own way back. When we got to the river he just decided to leave it and cross with me, and besides he said, it was stolen anyway. The pilot's father, who I was introduced to just as we were leaving, joined us and as it was, it was his father who piloted the rubber boat.

Just as I was getting out of the boat and being helped up onto the bank with the father's assist he put something of a fairly good size in my back pocket. While he did, although it was dark, he clearly looked straight into my eyes and said something in a Chinese or Asian dialect I didn't understand. Then he laughed and if to say goodbye to a a long lost buddy, he clasped his hand in a firm but friendly manner on my shoulder. Then the boat boat silently disappeared downstream in the darkness. I asked the motorcyclist if he knew what the old man had said and he told me he clearly understood the words alright, he just didn't understand the meaning. He said the father told me just as he was helping me out of the boat to stay off the top of telegraph poles and out of culverts. What he had slipped into my back pocket was a long spent casing to a .50 caliber machine gun round.

When I was a teenager looking around for a Ford woody wagon to restore I was always hoping that someday I would come across a nearly pristine wagon long forgotten and stashed away in some barn. For some reason, all the time I was with the man I thought he was going to blindfold me and take me across the woods to some abandoned building in the jungle. There he would throw open the doors and inside sitting there all by itself right in front of me would be a fully intact Curtiss-Wright P-40 Tomahawk in all of it's full flying glory. I still have an inside gut feeling such is the case to this day. If you take a look at where the grandfather worked on P-40s as well as the bottom photo below, you will find after leaving the Flying Tigers he went to Karachi, India, then Tingkawk Sakan in Burma, then to Myitkyina, Burma, all locations of the Burma Banshees. The P-40 he absconded with most likely had Burma Banshee markings on it, making it for all practical purposes, to those who saw it and knew nothing about the Burma Banshees or World War II, a Ghost Ship.



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At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and of which in his spoofing, Wood called Teddy and the Pirates.

Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip presented Terry and the world he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's spoof below, again, basically just at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, with no particular thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service System, found me in Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, and in those ten year later years, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a high school teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew.

"They told the consulate to send me on through, only provide me with a cover, which they did. It took awhile, but a few weeks later, using a pseudonym or an actual person's name of somebody else, I was a civilian aircraft mechanic under the broader umbrella of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) on my way to Calcutta to catch a C-47 to Dinjan."

After arrival the military powers that be kept me incognito for the most part, distancing me from anybody that might matter, ensuring I didn't get trapped into some conversation that might expose a lack of specific aircraft mechanical knowledge, otherwise I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted. Wandering around Calcutta was like being in some huge Bazaar, with all or if not more of the implied underpinnings and intrigues found in the movie Casablanca. Most people don't think of the Indian people in such a fashion, but along the gutters of the streets and back alleys there wasn't anything you couldn't find, buy, or have done to, by or from somebody if you had the money. There were so many providers, purveyors, and entrepreneur there was even space to haggle prices between whatever you wanted or wanted done. I even discovered there were a number of German military in the crowds that I would bump into on a occasion, some saying they were POW's, others deserters, almost all from submarines with a few from merchant raiders, just counting down the days for the war to end. Not sure how much of it our side, British, Indians, or even the Germans knew about it --- or if they did, even gave a shit or somehow used it to their advantage, but it wasn't a secret to me in my wanderings. I think most of them that came across me thought I was in the same boat so even though there was an on the surface "enemies" thing, there was a below the surface camaraderie thing. Crossing paths for the first time from a distance or otherwise, under the circumstances that existed it wasn't always easy to tell if one was an a American or German, but being white, almost anywhere you went not British/ American military or an English lawn party or polo match type thing, you definitely stood out.

Generally thinking Calcutta is seldom thought of as being anything like that during World War II, if they think about it at all. As far as the war was concerned Calcutta was just a forgotten backwash. Matter of fact, most of the whole China-Burma-India theater was thought of as being not much more than as bothersome thorn in the foot.




BEFORE LEAVING CALCUTTA----------------------------------------------------AFTER LEAVING CALCUTTA

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"Sometime in the spring of 1982 and a year or so after being gone two years in the Peace Corps, a very good friend of mine, a onetime philosophy major that I had known in college, but somehow now having morphed into a big time computer geek, contacted me.

"She told me the man she loved was on the waiting list for a heart transplant at Stanford University and that she had moved to a small studio apartment in Campbell, California to work in Silicon Valley and be within driving distance to see him. She wanted to know if there was some way I might be able to console him as he was wrought with anxiety almost to the point of a total breakdown --- in turn adversely impacting his health and preparedness for the transplant. Before a new heart with his match was available he died."

The above quote opens an article about Adam Osborne, a friend of mine and major foe and adversary to Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame in their early years. Osborne is, however not the person so mentioned on the waiting list. He came into the picture because of the person on the waiting list.

In the main text of the Osborne article I write that my initial stay of several days after going to Silicon Valley turned into several weeks, then several months, eventually extending into a period pushing nine months. However, I wasn't there totally from day one day-after-day around the clock through to my departure. During that period I was sort of using the area as a base of operations just like I would almost anywhere, coming and going as needed doing any number of things. Plus, for most of that period my friend had a regular day job and mostly unavailable during working hours and just as well, often not able to put together several days back-to-back over any extended span on a regular basis either.

It was under the above circumstances that during a trip to Southern California I ran into Madame Ky, the former Dang Tuyet Mai, at her boutique. The two of us knew each other through her husband, I just didn't know she had opened a boutique. As it was, typically I would have no call to be at the particular mall her business was located, but on the day we ran into each other I had gone there specifically looking for someone. The daughter of a couple I knew who lived on the east coast had only just graduated from college and moved to Southern California and started the very first year of her very first job as a special needs teacher. The school, Gill Special Education Center, an Orange County Department of Education school site, was located in a residential area in a former elementary school about three blocks south of the mall. I had told the parents, given a chance, that when I was in Orange County I would go by to see how she was doing. The day I went by the school she had taken her class on a community outing to have lunch at the mall. While at the mall I just happened to come across Madame Ky. We made arrangements to see each other again and after that I saw Madame Ky several times, usually for tea and chat.


During one of those meetings I told her that on that particular afternoon, as soon as we were done with our tea, I would be heading out to Cabo San Lucas for a few days to stay at a hotel resort located basically right on the tip of Baja California called the Twin Dolphin owned by a friend of mine, David J. Halliburton, Sr. Embellishing the story a bit, although still true, I told her that one of Halliburton's first loves was a niece of my Stepmother who was babysitting me for the summer, a girl he always held in high regard. In turn Halliburton made it a point to ensure my stay at the Twin Dolphin was always special. With that Madame Ky said she wanted to go too. So she did, the two of us spending several days or more together at the Twin Dolphin. General Ky, thinking of me more as a monk and apparently slipping his mind that I was a onetime G.I., it presented no problem. Hah!



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As found in "OPIUM: A History," Thomas Dunne Books (1996), by Martin Booth, Page -288- (see)

"The first refinery for the making of high purity, injectable No. 4 heroin was erected in a Thai village called Mang Tang Wu in 1963. Its product was sent to Hong Kong. Other primitive refineries were also established but soon closed, the restriction on the expansion of No. 4 heroin production being the dearth of competent drug chemists."

OPIUM: A History