Let me tell you Legion of Fans (LOF) if there are two words guaranteed to get me running a four minute mile in the opposite direction from the utterer, then those are them.
I can not stand it.
If you're a traditional dancer, then good for you... I respect you and your culture, but it's not mine. (If white Australian people had a traditional dance it would be chicks dancing around hand bags and blokes drinking beer.). So keep it to yourself and don't expect me, as a tourist, to sit through this thing that means nothing to me and then pay you afterwards. It doesn't happen when I'm in Africa and I wasn't about to let it happen in Asia.
After my in depth investigation of the girlie bars of Phnom Penh, it was time to me to do some different research in Thailand. I flew to Chiang Mai via Bangkok and got the hell out of that slightly dodge-like city (not really my cup of tea - a big city in the middle of nowhere, regardless of the country).
Together with a travelling companion and a local operative (this is a very top secretish non fiction book that I've been researching) we commandeered a car and set off for the Thai-Burma border. (That's me (above) overlooking the border, which is just beyond that first ridge of hills). Drug country. AK-47-toting bandit and warlike hill tribe country.
Well, at least it used to be.
The Thai government has had a major crack down on opium growing in this part of the world and the ethic hill tribes who live there have been encouraged to grow other crops (inclduing, as I was to find out that night, some very nice lychees. Not as mysterious and dangerous as drugs, but very nice, and more befitting a 45-year-old man).
Part of my book will be there, and a key part of story is the plight of the hill tribes who live in the area, particularly the La-Hu people. The La-Hu, I learned, I think, are descended from Tibetans who somehow found their way to Thailand (this all got a little lost in our host's translation, but I'll get it sorted in time for the book).
The La-Hu and other tribes span the border of Thailand and Vietnam and until recently they were put in the too-hard basket by the Thai Government and not afforded citizenship or access to basic government services, such as schooling and healthcare. That's changing since the crack down on opium growing, with the reward for co-operation being promise of citizenship and all that entails.
The grey area that La-Hu and other hill tribes occupied in Thailand's population also meant that their children were prey to people smugglers and sex traffickers. (There is another hint about what the book will be about).