National Geographic : 1967 Jul
In the dark the captain fiddled with the radio. Peking; Hanoi; the Communist "Voice of the People of Thailand," spouting propa ganda from Red China. "Warmonger Lyndon Johnson." "Traitor Prapas." "War criminal Dean Rusk." It was a disconcerting night, but with a happy end. The buffaloes returned at dawn. Our helicopter had scared them away. I traveled on through the Northeast, along the high banks of the Mother River Mekong. I visited many wats and I saw many armed men in brown berets and red berets. Some wore black berets and were advised by Americans in green berets. At last I came to the booming town of Ubon Ratchathani, near the troublesome frontier with Cambodia. A border dispute had been formally settled, but infiltrators, I was told, were still seeping through. I drove past the big airbase to the rail terminal and boarded the evening train to Bangkok. At midnight the train pulled into Khorat. Here the paved Friendship Highway bridged the tracks, stretching north all the way to Laos. Nearby bustled a big airbase, and the U. S. Army's 9th Logistical Command had stockpiled equipment for an entire infantry division, just in case. As the train jogged into dawn, my memories kept me awake. Memories of the island of Phuket, down south, where Mr. Ralph McNair from Ashta bula, Ohio, was in charge of the new tin smelter. He had said: "Two cast iron kettles were shipped in, ten tons apiece. At home, we'd use a 50-ton crane to unload them. Here, no crane. They told me, don't worry, we'll get them to the smelter sooner or later. A week later they did. I'll never know how they got them on those two Chestful of medals adorns Deputy Prime Minister Prapas Charusathira on the King's birthday. He also serves as Minister of the Interior and Commander in Chief of the Army. Squatting for a smoke, a Chinese near Fang uses a stick of incense to light his water pipe. Lahu tribesman of the northern hills hunts with muzzle-loader and teak-sheathed sword. Bib of silver reflects the wealth of a Lisu, whose tribespeople dwell in ridgetop villages. Bubble gum replaces betel for a Moslem maid of the monsoon-soaked Malay Peninsula. Roses in the hair tell that this girl comes from Chiang Mai, renowned for beautiful women.