06-04-04

THE VALLEY BELOW

sunset

in the purple haze of the smokey valley 

hints at mountains unexplored

 

 


 

"The densely forested mountainous province of Mae Hong Son in Northwestern Thailand is a cross roads for ethnic minorities - mostly Karen, Mong, Lisu and Lahu hill tribes - as well as Birmese refugees ( Padaung ) and Shan, believed to be the original population.
The ethnic minorities are often called 'hill tribes', or 'chao khao' ( mountain people ). Each hill tribe has its own language, customs, dress and spiritual beliefs. Most are of semi-nomadic origin, having migrated from Tibet, Myanmar, China or Laos during the past 200 years or so. They are 'fourth world' people, in that they belong neither to the main aligned powers nor to the developing nations. Rather, they have crossed and continue to cross national borders, often fleeing oppression by other cultures, without regard for recent nationhood. Language and culture constitute the borders of their world. Some groups are caught between the 6th and 21st century, while others are gradually being assimilated into modern life."
( based on Lonely Planet )

A visit to these hill tribes then is at the core of trekking in the area. The Padaung villages, with the famous long-necked women are one of the major tourist attractions. I opt for the Karen villages and the trail less trodden.

Namrin tours: "good guide, good food, corny jokes" says the book.
Early Monday morning our party takes off. Dam, our guide, Yosa, our porter, Adina, my trekking companion from Wahington DC and 'the dog' returning to his village. When Dam asks if we have brought a good torch ( flashlight ) in case we meet any tigers in the jungle at night, I am not sure if this is just another one of his jokes.

The trek starts at 'Microwave', a Hmong village named after the tall antennas erected by the army in the vicinity. For Adina it is an inauspicious start: the initial 45 minutes rollercoaster ride in the truck makes her carsick and she loses her breakfast promptly upon arrival.

We proceed at a good pace through the valleys and mountains, following the narrow trails trodden by the tribes themselves on their intervillage visits. In the afternoon the trail opens up to the Karen village where we are guests for the night. No roads here, no electricity. Running water diverted by way of bamboo pipes from a nearby stream. We are welcomed by a zoo of barking dogs, hens, chicks and roosters, pigs and piglets and the buffaloes all roaming throughout the small village.

"Why does the buffalo wear the bell? Because the horn does not work!"

We are exhausted from climbing in the heat. Dam whips up a surprisingly delicious buffet of Thai foods, shared with the eager villagers. For them it is a nice change from their daily rice and chilies according to Dam.

"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to and end, but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges; this rock looks loose [...] These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here is where things grow. But of course without the top, you can't have any sides. It's the top that defines the sides. So on we go ... we have a long way to go ... no hurry ... just one step after the next ... " ( Robert Pirsig ' Zen ...' )

06:25 Gepost door pieter | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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