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November 29, 2005
The village headman, Asapa, and his son, who spoke English, greeted us, and we were taken to his home to meet their family. We took our shoes off and entered his home. We were given a cup of green tea, which we sipped, and started asking questions. One question I had was why the houses were built like those of the Karen or Lahu hill tribes up on stilts instead of with dirt floor on the ground like most Lisu homes. He told me that although they stick to Lisu customs and culture, the homes more reflected a combination of hill tribe and Thai houses, which were more comfortable and sturdy. I had to agree that the house was very cool and one of the cleanest hill tribe homes I have ever been in.
We went back outside and enjoyed playing with the children, spinning large tops and shooting crossbows at targets. We spent the rest of the day walking around the village, watching women sewing and making beaded bracelets and necklaces. No one ever asked us to buy anything, but when we saw something we liked and asked how much it was, they were glad to make a sale. We were allowed to take pictures, but we had to ask, as some do not want their picture taken.
This village was great, and we learned about their farming methods, how the children got to school, who lived in which house, and how many there were in the families. I am sure they got tired of answering all our questions.
We were all starting to get a little hungry when Alipa, the headman’s son, brought two plates of sliced ripe mangos. My wife asked what was for dinner and she was taken into the house and shown fresh meat and vegetables that our driver had brought along when he dropped us off here. My lovely Thai wife and Alipa’s wife, Weepha, started making the dinner.
While the dinner was being prepared, 20 or so Lisu men and women, boys, and girls formed two circles in front of us. The boys and men formed an inside circle and the women and girls were on the outside circle. They had all showered and changed from their colorful work clothes into there even more colorful evening costumes. The men usually wear T-shirts and Lisu baggy pants, and the girls wear traditional dresses, which are easy to work in during the day. The children had changed from their school uniforms into their traditional costumes.
Asapa came out of his home in his black Lisu clothes and hat carrying a long musical instrument made of five bamboo pipes fastened to a gourd at the bottom end. Five holes were drilled in the gourd, where he put his fingers. He got into the center of the circle and began playing. It kind of sounded like a flute but also had a bass note that added a beat. As he was playing and marching in the center, the girls and boys joined hands and began dancing around the outside in their respective circles. It didn’t take long before we all joined in. Just when some of us were getting the hang of it, "Dinner’s ready," my wife announced.
We went back into the house and sat on the floor. Dinner was mountain rice; a lemongrass soup; a Lisu pork dish mixed with vegetables, which was not spicy; a very spicy chicken red curry; and fresh stir-fried vegetables. It was more than we could eat.
We went back outside and sat under the tree, and the children came around to talk with us. I asked where the pigs were kept, as I knew that Lisu people like to eat black pig, which is much sweeter than the store-bought commercial white pigs. In true Lisu tradition, they are being kept in pens far away from the house and streams.
It was getting dark and a little chilly, so we put on our jackets and sat around a campfire that was made for us. In the house, the beds were being made up for us on the living room floor. Everyone took turns going to the bathroom and taking showers. Weepha even heated water for us to bathe with.
The mattresses were comfortable, sleeping two persons on each mattress. We were given clean blankets and pillows and got ready to go to sleep. I reminded everyone to put on their ear plugs, or at least keep them handy, as at 3am, the roosters would start crowing.Soon, we all fell asleep while listening to the village sounds, people talking softly, children laughing, pigs snorting at times, and chickens flapping their wings as they go into the trees to roost.
My wife was the first one to wake up saying, "It’s cold. I’m going outside to stand by the fire." It was just getting light outside as I lay there listening to the sound of women talking softly and the wonderful sound of a dull ka-chunk, ka-chunk, which was the rice pounder taking the husks off the grains of rice. This is a morning ritual in a hill tribe village. The rice pounder (as I call it) is a long beam with a fulcrum near one end. On the other end is a round piece of wood attached to the beam pointing down into a wooden hollowed-out log set into the ground vertically. Two women put their feet on the beam at end opposite of hollowed log and press down. They then release their feet from the beam and the opposite end crashes into the hollowed log filled with un-husked rice.Click on the photo (right) to see the part 2 video as we visited Chiang Dao Cave Shrine and Wat Thaton Temple and overnight in Thaton. We then traveled on to Chiang Rai stopping at many hill tribe villages along the way.When I got up and put my clothes on, everyone was already awake and drinking coffee or tea. The girls were now taking the rice and placing it in large, round bamboo plates and tossing it into the air. The gently breeze blew the husks away to leave nice white rice kernels in the bottom. The sun was just coming up but yet to peek over the mountains, and a foggy mist was lingering from the ground up at about 2 feet or so. Smoke was coming from the homes of people cooking rice and their breakfast, which my wife and Weepha were doing.
Since it was a weekday, the children of school age were dressed in their school uniforms carrying their little backpacks. We waited with them for the school bus to arrive, which was a large truck with benches and steel cage with a door in the back. We waved them a goodbye while they were all screaming, "Bye Bye." The village seamed deserted, as most were already leaving for work in town or to work in the gardens. The women who worked in the gardens put on their traditional colorful work clothes, and the men were back in their baggy bright blue or green Lisu pants and T-shirts. The only ones left in the village were children too young to start school and the grandparents that took care of them, all in traditional dress.
We ate our breakfast, which was rice porridge with minced pork, green onions, roasted garlic ginger, and parsley. We then got our things together as the truck from the elephant camp came to pick us up. We said good bye to Asapha, Alipa, Weepha, and Asapha’s wife, who we never found out what her name was. We got into the truck and went back to the elephant camp, loaded everything into our vehicle, and headed back to Chiang Mai.
We got to my house, where everyone took a shower. We then headed to the handicraft factories in Sangkhampaeng and had a great lunch then on to Doi Inthanon National Park. That is a whole different story that I will share with you in another journal.
From journal Bird-Watching at Doi Inthanon National Park
WHEN TO WATCH BIRDS ON DOI INTHANON
Doi Inthanon is good for birdwatching throughout the year though perhaps the best time is from February through to April when most resident species are breeding and, in addition, a full complement of winter visitors is usually present. Also, during the early part of the breeding season many of the resident species are more inclined to be singing or calling and are therefore more easily located.