Thai Bird Eye Chili - Why I Love Them So Much And Use It In All Our Chili Oils - The Soothing Tastes of A Broken Childhood

Our Story PART 1.


I was born in Thailand, my parents were from China. Although we've only spent short years in Thailand, it always has a soft and sweet spot in my heart! And even though I was born as a refugee I felt so lucky to be born in this beautiful land - where its culture is so rich, kindest people I've ever known, and the foods are delicious and full of flavors. No Place on earth is like Thailand! I'm forever bonded with my Motherland through our shared umbilical cord!


Thailand gave us - the Chinese refugees a hopeful life and a bright future! We are forever grateful! When I was a little girl I had crushed on The King, my King, he's the most handsome King!


Traveling Back In Time...

My father was buried in the mountains of Chiang Rai. Joe and I visited his grave in the spring of 2015. My father's student David Zhang and Wang Sha Zing took us there. I couldn't believe after so many years I was finally back to this part of the world, where so many things had happened - the Chinese villages, a notorious drug warlord, the war that the Thai government trying to catch drug warlord Khun Sa, my father's death, my mother's books won Taiwan national awards, we moved to Taiwan, it’s all between my age of 4 to 7 years old… now it's like fast-forwarding movie scenes.


Drug Warlord Khun Sa.

My Husband Joe Learning The Local Traditions


On the way up in the car, David and Wang joking in Chinese, asking a local friend to bring along a sickle knife for "the son in law" - my husband Joe, to let him cut the tall grass around his father in law's grave - my father. David and Wang are like big brothers to me, David was always around to help when we were first moved to Taiwan. They are only a few years older than Joe. In the men's world, they challenge the newbies, Joe is from a different culture, he's faced this type of friendly gestures from my childhood male friends again and again and always takes them gracefully. He picked up the knife and cuts away in silence. It is probably as odd for Joe as it is for me. I have not been back since my father's death, but I remember everything. We cleaned the grave area, displayed the fruits and light the incense, then we all kneeled down and bow, this is how Chinese remember our passed loved ones. We are supposed to do this every year, it took me more than 30 years…


Joe is fascinated with the Story of Khun Sa and his military style of leadership. 

We continued to drive upward toward the Ban Hin Taek, the village where we lived for a short two or three years, and where my parents were teaching. The mountain roads are beaming under the brilliant sunlight, the air is warm and fresh, we passed many bamboo huts and small roadside temples, and into the notorious Golden Triangle. The endless greenery, tea farms, the distance fogs floating above, it’s like a heaven of a dream, how could anything bad have happened here? My heart is trembling, we are going back to my “home”. Most of the tourists come to Ban Hin Taek have one reason that is to visit the Museum of the drug warlord Khun Sa, who I once called uncle Zhang. I don't have much memory of him. Except he has everything to do with the altered fate of my family.


My Childhood Village Frozen In Time


Slowly we entered the village, it’s like going back to 1981, everything seems to be frozen in time. It’s all so familiar and so strange! I remember the market, the school and its basketball court, and the podium. Behind the podium, there’re dorm rooms where we stayed while we were waiting for our home to be finished building.



Our Little Community Nestled Deep In The Mountains


Khun Sa built the school, student dorms, and homes for teachers. He was the biggest heroin “supplier” of the 80s. Even though our new home was just a small, dark concrete space with a living room, one tiny bedroom, a kitchen, a well, without electricity or tap water. We still used oil light at night, wood fire for cooking, but it was an upgrade compared to our first house in another Chinese refuge village! That house had a thatch roof. One storming night it got blown away by the strong wind! My parents taught in both villages, because of the scarce funds and poor refugee village conditions, they basically teach everything from elementary and middle school. They were both outstanding students when back in China.


My father with a bad leg from pediatric paralysis but it didn't stop him play basketball. His basketball skill was number one in his school years, but the team didn't accept him because he's disabled. Ha taught physics, math, sports, music, he's a natural born musician with a great voice and his extraordinary skills of playing the Chinese flute so beautifully that moving people so deeply and often made exiled refugees tears in silent. As good as a flute player, my father never perform, he refused all the invitations, later in my life, I understand that a true artist needs no applause because his art is his soul, there's too much pain to showcase it. David and Wong still describe my father - he's a genius! A rare talent! They both graduated from prestigious universities of Taiwan, the competitions were severe, and they swore it's because of my father that they had a solid educational foundation.


My Mom Loved to Write 

My mother taught Chinese literature, history, math, science, vocal, dance… she's a bookworm, she eventuality started writing books, after a long day teaching and caring for us, night after night, tirelessly she writes away, by a small oil lit light.


When some people heard about my mother was writing a book, they made fun and even mocking her saying many mean things, but she just pretended she heard nothing. Then they said she's a snob. My mother was often the gossip target, she's young, beautiful, quiet, and married to a disabled man.


Some people can be ignorant they called my father all kinds mean names - crooked leg, freak. etc. My mother naturally wouldn't want to engage with that, whenever she walked by these nothing-better-to-do gossip group, they immediate talking about her, even raised their voice so my mom can hear them. The meanest thing they yelled at her was “she should go pick stools that would make her more money and famous! Writing a book, what a waste of time. Who she think she is? Some great novelist? In her dream!”

My mother's first book published by Central Daily News.


One thing they were right - she is a great novelist! Hahaha! Her first book instantly became an overnight sensation. It's published on Central Daily News every day for two years, one of the biggest Chinese newspaper of the time, all around the world readers are falling in love with this young, new writer and curious about us! Then it won the Taiwan literature award, and that brought journalists around the globe and a few well-respected writers from Taiwan and other countries to this little, forgotten Chinese refuge village to interview her!




The Little Local Noodle Shop Is Still There


We stopped at a restaurant for lunch. David spoke to the lady who owns the noodle shop. She quickly turned to look at me. I knew her in my past life. She nods at me, I nod in return. Vaguely I remember a noodle stall by the dirt road, a few tables, and benches on the uneven-cement floor, and I played around with neighborhood kids. It’s as if a past life experience… The noodle shop now is a three-floor building on an asphalt road, brightly lighted, shining tile floor, with a modern designed glass door and windows, apparently, it’s doing well.


A Delicious Local Flavor You Can't Get Anywhere Else

David had the famous pea gravy and noodles. Joe had cold noodles and I had noodle soup. Joe swore it’s the best noodles he ever ate! I really wanted to have the pea gray and noodles, it’s a very delicious and a commend Yunnan Tengchong cuisine, but it’s all sold out. I didn’t know David had called to reserve one. The gravy is made by dried peas and was soaked in water overnight, then grind into a fine powder, shimmering with water, slow cook and stir constantly until it becomes thick like gravy, then pour over the cooked and homemade hot noodles, and serve with authentic sauces that only mother nature could afford! The sauces are everything that made this dish so delicious - chili powder, ginger water, peppercorn oil, garlic juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, beancurd, top with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds, a sprinkle of chopped scallions, and most of all - homemade spicy Chili Oil, yum! Everybody eats spicy in Yunnan! This mouthwatering dish actually is the traditional breakfast of Yunnan Tengchong. I’d love to start my day eating like this. The restaurant was packed with lunch goers. Everyone is speaking Yunnan dialogue. It’s sort of strange, we are in Thailand…


Off To Visit The Khun Sa Museum

After lunch, we headed to Khun Sa’s old compound, now called Khun Sa Museum.


In 2002 my sister and I were at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, searching for travel books about Thailand. We were planning a fun trip to the beautiful Thai islands. She flipped through pages then she stopped. It's about Khun Sa! She reads - the most ruthless drug lord...In the 1980s, the notorious Khun Sa was believed to have controlled at least 75% of the heroin trade in the Golden Triangle and an estimated 40–45% of the heroin entering the U.S., which resulted in the U.S. government’s offering a $2 million bounty for his head. In 1996 he surrendered to authorities and retired quietly to Yangon.


Being Children At The Time We Were Completely Oblivious To Khun Sa's Dealings



My sister and my nephew Maddox! 2018


My Mom Refuses To Accept Money From Khun Sa


When My sister turned 5, Khun Sa came to our home and brought 4 or 5 thousand Thai Baht, Thai money, it's equal 3 to 4-month pay of a village teacher. It was my sister's birthday gift! After he left, my parents gazed at the pile of money speechless. Finally, my mom said to my dad “you ought to return it. Its drug money. We can't take the blood money.” My father frowned and said, “you want me to refuse a drug lord's gift, who owns this town and with a military…?”




Sorry But This Rice Is Too Hard


When I was about 3 years old, one night, we were at Khun Sa’s dinner party in his house, after dinner, he asked me how was the dinner? I said, “not so good. The rice is too hard!” My mother was literally going to faint! You don’t tell the biggest drug lord of the world, the King of Golden Triangle that his rice is not good enough! Khun Sa took a moment to absorb it, then he laughed cheerfully!

Come back for more the real story about Chi Chi Pepper, the drug lord Khun Sa, and the village!
Part 2 is coming up next week. By 4/13/19

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