Thursday, January 30, 2014

A tribe called Karen

We are back in Chiang Mai after two nights and three days in the hills.  We walked on the outskirts of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand, passing from village to village.  Those were the hardest beds I think I have ever slept on.  But our hosts, the Karen people (pronounced Kaah-ren) don't seem to mind them too much.

They speak a language that sounds quite different from Thai.  Thanks for example is ta-bluh, and not korp kun as in Thai.  Our guide, Date, told us many of them fled from neighboring Myanmar and found refuge in the hills where they now grow rice for subsistence and gerber daisies, passion fruit, and strawberries for sale to the market. 

I guess there is something quintessential about village life everywhere; dogs that bark with the chickens at dawn, smoke and fires at evening, and nice stars at night.  It can almost feel like being at any other farming town, except here the women all wear bright pinks and purples in patterns I would call clashing.  The million uses of bamboo (silverware, cups, walls, firewood, string, bridges, rafts, beams, spits) all on display, and the food spicy and sour. 

As we walked through the jungle, all the plants initially looked the same.  Then, time after time, Date would rip a leaf off a vine or pull a root out of the ground and give it to us to taste, telling us about its medicinal and culinary uses.  He would tell us, "this is the spot where Communists used to hide; this tree was very small then he was young and now he is so big; here is the spirit house where people sacrifice a chicken for the river they have dammed."  Our porter, a 62 year old man, walked the entire time wearing a jacket and rubber boots, never once shedding a layer, while we in our synthetic tee shirts dripped at times with sweat.  I don't know how he did it.

Driving back to Chiang Mai, I felt time speeding up.  Land rushed past the window and I could no longer pay attention to each plant or each house.  Not going to lie; the soft beds feel really nice.  But I will miss the stars.

1 comment:

  1. "Patterns I would call clashing," haha... relativist fashion police ftw