I’m writing this as we travel high in the mountains, the road twists like a grey ribbon through lush green tropical forest.
Every now and then you catch sight of terraced rice paddy guarded by small brown teak houses.
The mountains are steep and the ridges across the valley are dark, blue mysterious and often shrouded in mist.
The outline of the forest is different to home, The silhouettes of individual trees are ferns or palm trees, a rich dark green in-dispersed with bright lime banana palm leaves.Yesterday we visited a Karen village. So different to the tourist village we visited a few days ago. There is a church at the edge of the village and just as we arrived the villagers were streaming out the door, It might have been interesting to observe the service.
There was a central dirt road winding up the hill and small wooden dwellings were located on either side. Families were sitting in small groups, some ladies were sewing, some just chatting and one family we visited were stripping a pure form of shellack from sticks.
So different to the Tourist village we visited a few days ago. It was wonderful to capture the images below in the tourist village, but I know the story behind the faces… so I felt a little uncomfortable.
Keith and I try not to do the wrong thing by the local people in countries like Thailand and India etc. I’m sure we make mistakes but the Hill tribe village on the tourist routes in Chiang Mai are just that exploitative. They are built as tourist villages constructed by someone who offers a hill tribe person refuge and an income by selling their culture in a village. Most of the Long Neck people and the Akka are refugees from Burma. They have no country, no status. In fact they are in Thailand as Illegals, their presence in the villages are overlooked by the Govt.
Our driver pointed out the the long neck people are indeed stateless and therefore it works to their advantage to work in that manner where they do have some control over their lives.
In essence, here in Thailand, you take the good with the bad without judgement. I feel a sense of sadness for them.
That said…. we had a wonderful visit in a non tourist environment in the village yesterday.
We spent time with a delightful young lady who wants to keep the traditions alive.
Things are changing in Thailand.
“No one in the village wants to dye the indigo” said a young woman showing us some of the embroideries in her house. “My Grandmother is the only one still doing it.
She showed us the hemp plants, and how the stems were dried and woven into thread. Weaving the panels is done on a back strap loom and then wax is laid out in a pattern and the entire piece is dyed with Indigo.
Each skirt takes 7 yards of fabric and there are 5 to 6 panels. Our friend said the people mainly like to do the embroidery these days… so I wonder if the art is going to die out.
She demonstrated each of the layers, the embroideries on the collar and front panel of the garment.
It was a great experience. I photographed and filmed so I will make a video for the Quilt Show.
It was a wonderful day… and certainly not all that we fitted into our waking hours… but it was most significant.