When Heng falls ill he turns to the local shaman, whose diagnosis is that he has no
blood. Their solution is radical but effective. Read:
'The Disallowed'

Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai Province, North Thailand

Chiang Rai

Chiang Khong, where the Lees have their home

Chiang Khong
Chiang Rai Province
North Thailand

Last week I finished writing my latest book, 'The Disallowed'. I had originally planned to locate it in Laos, but a few Thai friends persuaded me to place it in north Thailand, so I made a compromise and put the family in the top eastern corner of north Thailand near the Mekong River on the Laos border. I knew nothing about the place except what I could glean from the map and Wikipedia.

Then on Saturday, out of the blue, a friend invited us to go on a short holiday to north Thailand and it was to include exactly the same region I had chosen to put the family in. I couldn't wait to get there.

The book is about the Lee family, who are goatherds in the area north-east of Chiang Rai, in the mountains around Chiang Khong, which overlooks the Mekong into Laos.

We drove to Chiang Rai and looked around a beautiful all snow-white temple by the name of Wat Rong Khun. I had never seen anything like it. It is amazingly intricate and looks as if it was carved out of ice rather than built.

From there we even further north to the 'Golden Triangle' where the confluence of the Mekong (Mae Naam Kong) and the Ruak rivers separates Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Thailand, both of which can be clearly seen across the river. China is less than a hundred miles north across Laos too.

From here, we journeyed west, staying close to the river to Mae Sai, where we spent the night. The next morning we looked around the huge market area in the city and then headed back west hugging the river until we got to exactly where the action of my book takes place.

It was amazing for me to actually be where the characters in my novel live, in the east of the province of Chiang Rai in north Thailand somewhere before you get to Chiang Khong, where they have just built a new bridge over the Mekong into Laos.

The area is somewhere between hilly and mountainous and very sparcely populated. I saw several farms as we travelled through the mountains on narrow roads that could have been the Lees' farm and so the book came alive for me.

I would have liked to have stayed there at least one night to soak up the atmosphere, but my friends had to work, so we continued south to Phrae, which is still very much considered to be in north Thailand.

We stayed there a night too, and took our time driving back home the followeing day, which happened to be Chinese New Year's Eve. The markets were full of people stocking up with food the the celbrations thenext day.

I thoroughly enjoyed our holiday break in north Thailand, but seeing the exact spot where the action of this book takes place really made it for me. I would dearly like to go back to the land where the Lees have their farm again one day soon.

by +Owen Jones