Visiting the Karen People

This morning we set out to visit the Opium Museum which sets out the history of the opium warlords in what is called the Golden Triangle. These tribes in this region regions formerly cultivated the poppy for opium production.

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Today through government programs these same tribes have begun to cultivate crops and tourism has proved an alternative to drug trafficking. According to the tour brochure there are more than 20 semi-nomadic tribes who live in northern Thailand and the borderlands of Burma and Laos.

With this new means of productivity to sustain life these tribes are more interested in preserving their ancient traditions.

For lunch we took the open songtaew trucks to a restaurant in the area occupied by the Akha tribe.

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This evening we had dinner with the “Longneck” Karen tribe. We visited their tribal village where their wooden dwellings, traditional clothing, and way of life have changed little over the centuries.

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At dinner with them received a brochure that refers to a Polish explorer Vitold De Golish who referred to them as the land of the giraffe woman because of the rings worn around their neck.

The woman make crafts and spend textiles and the men work on the farm. I asked the woman from whom I purchased a scarf what religion they practice. She said she is a Buddhist and her husband a Christian.

We had a opportunity to speak with members of the community through a translator. The rings around the neck provoked many questions and they answered with smiles. The women are very proud of the rings; in fact she said when they are removed they do not feel beautiful.

Their brochure said legend says the rings protected the women from tiger bites but wearing them helps maintain individual and tribal identity. The woman spoke with great pride about her rings.

Dinner was unbelievable. All the produce from the farm is organic. The barbequed pork was extraordinarily seasoned. We watched them prepare the food.

After dinner we had time for conversation with them through an interpreter. The evening concluded with music and dancing and we even danced with them.

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