Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Golden Triangle

Where Thai Buddha meets Burma and Laos. Tollway (deepest point of the river) marks the borders. Borders always shifting…

Big Buddha, marking Thailand's territory.

While Nels has joined the hipster movement in Brooklyn, USA, Eline enjoys a family holiday through Northern Thailand. Travel by Mitsubishi Pajero, MRC Mekong Nico at the wheel, Susan the guiding GPS.

In Chiang Saen, we visit the Hall of Opium. Poppy plant, a long time ago grown solely for medicinal purposes, now a means to buy weapons and feed wars.

Just south of the Golden Triangle, we visit a Union of Hilltribes. An impressive fortress-wall gate leads to a collection of five hilltribes: Yao, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Long-Neck Karen. Among a rich green jungle there is sadness, although the customs and traditional lifestyle is attempting survival, it is poisoned.

By the sound of foreign footsteps, hilltribe persons emerge from their huts, fixing their traditional dress, putting on their headdresses, and welcome with '50 baht', '100 baht' for handmade wares. Drum and dance is performed for those tourists wanting a show.

The Akha people believe that spirit and man once lived together until a spirit stole a tomato from man, and man a cucumber from a spirit. Since then, distinct differentiation is made between the spirit and human world. One enters an Akha village through a cleansing gate; when spirits one may have attracted during the jungle walk are sent back to the jungle. The Akha enjoy see-sawing and swinging on a four way parasol swing.

The Yao people enjoy a beautiful stature with their puffy red collars, like a European fur collar. They are from the Western Thailand. Here we met Leuh Kwauh, an older lady with a young spirit who specialised in embroidery patterns. To start interaction, I pull out my decade-long attempt to finishing a piece of embroidery. Yao women wear embroidered pants. With an opportunity to buy from the creator, I bought a piece and paid her well (say 'No' the Middle Man's gross profits). She presented a gift; a small photo of her AMONGST THE POPPY FIELDS. UNIQUE!

Leuh Kwauh in a poppy field, taken outside of her home village.

The Long-Neck Karen people seem to receive most of the attention. Their neckware is not light:

4 kg of neckware for an average Long Neck Karen woman