The Mountain Tribes

January 31, 2018

Thailand serves as a mini-refuge for a variety minorities that are no longer welcome in their homelands. Today we visited three of these tribes. But first we enjoyed our unique tree house room and a good breakfast before boarding the bus. We transferred from the tour bus and hop in the back of a small pickup for the ride into the mountains. The ride was a mini-adventure in itself although nothing compared to Fiji. We finally found our first tribe.

The Akha immigrated recently from Tibet to escape Chinese rules. For some reason they formed a friendship with the Karen tribe that left Burma. We visited a village that contained both groups. The Tibetans dress way to warmly for this climate but remained very friendly towards us gawking tourists. Evidently, tourists provide a significant portion of their family income along with farming. It is always embarrassing to realize that you are observing the unusual instead of the ordinary. Maybe it is like Hippies in the Haight Ashbury district in the 60’s. I just have to believe that our visit was a plus for them.

The Karen tribe is more generally known as the Long Necked Women. I remember them from boyhood perusal of National Geographic magazines. The distinctive brass neck rings are for real. In many ways the rings are disturbing but then I find many modern attempts at beautification just as bad. A large portion of their income comes from the weaving of scarves. We now own quite a number. The little girls with a few rings were precious. The elderly with their 25 neck rings plus shoulder rings and leg rings were less cute. The visit of the village Kindergarten was a delight. They sang the English ABC song as well as the Thai one with the 44 letters. Needless to say, the classroom was very simple and spare like their bamboo homes. It was a great visit.

Our last hill tribe visit was to the Yao people from southern Chinese province of Yunnan. They are transitioning to more permanent housing than the woven mats that shield them from the rain. Still their homes are very simple. They do enjoy their smokes of tobacco and other products. Their craft specialty is embroidery. We now have a small collection.

Our last stop of the day was to tea plantation. These same hills,used to be covered with opium poppies before the government encouraged the planting of more socially useful crops. The tea plantation felt like a California winery with folks sampling and eating tea bested snacks. The green tea ice cream was good but Gelato is better.

We are back at the hotel and resting up before going into town this evening. I have a private veranda and the heat is not bad or maybe I am getting used to it.

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