We are getting ready to welcome my younger sister and her daughter to Thailand for the first time. Needless to say we are excited. The planning of activities has taken me to consider my past 13 years in this beautiful, chaotic and richly diverse country. One of the things that is top of my list to show her is a real hill tribe village with real hill tribe people. Not the tourist trap make believe places that most visitors go to see with imported Chinese trinkets on sale. Not the villages showing old style life on the surface and hiding the more modern elements of their life from the tourists. A real village, one that is modernizing and still preserving their old cultural ways. A village that is learning to balance the old and the new.
There is a Hmong village high in the mountains here that grows and weaves organic hemp the old way while running an organic coffee plantation. It is located well past where most tourists venture and life there is much the same as it has been for the Hmong for decades. Yet they are running a coffee plantation and soon to open an Eco Lodge.
|Grinding corn the traditional way|
|Young Hmong boy with his crossbow|
|Putting the kettle on in the Hmong village|
|Growing indigo for natural dye|
|Young Hmong women with their embroidery|
We should definitely take her to see the proud Akha headwoman we know. Disheartened by the scattering of her people who have moved near the city to earn money, she is creating a new village just outside the city of Chiang Mai where they can once again come together. A place for the women to sit, sew and talk like in the old days. At the same time she is creating a gathering place for their beautiful textiles old and new. A museum of sorts as well as a place for new pieces to be distributed and sold creating income while preserving these age old skills. She is the one who taught us about the old Akha symbols in their appliqué and needlework.
|Vintage Akha headman embroidered and appliqued jacket|
|Old Akha bone necklace to ward off bad spirits|
|Akha tribal opium knife symbols on ivory cushions / pillows|
Already on the agenda are a couple days in the mountains with our Karen friends. About a three hour journey from modern Chiang Mai we will do a little bamboo rafting, a visit with the elephants and then on to their Karen village.
|Bamboo rafting in northern Thailand|
If you plan to visit elephants while you are in Thailand, please choose a responsible location that is kind to these beautiful creatures. May we suggest
We are excited to see and talk with the Karen sisters and aunties to show my sister their traditional weaving. Our latest batch of Karen shirts has us very excited so we will be more than happy to have the opportunity to acquire more of these colorful pieces.
So we will attempt to show her a small glimpse of the eclectic sights and genuine experiences we have had the unique opportunity to experience.