Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chiang Mai: Nearby Baan Tong Luang Village

Mr. Horse the tuk-tuk driver proved indispensible to us: for a great price he transported us about Chiang Mai to a variety of handicraft outlets and galleries. With the breeze keeping midday heat at bay, he safely negotiated the sea of motorcycles, cars, other tuk-tuks, bhat buses – and pedestrians leaving us time to look about and appreciate the heartbeat of the city.

He soon understood what we were interested in: culture, nature and handicrafts. Soon he was making recommendations and, after a nanosecond of deliberation, we placed ourselves in Mr. Horse’s capable hands.

IMG_1409Off we scooted to Baan Tong Luang village. Think of Upper Canada Village – but where the traditionally costumed “animators” are authentic hill tribe peoples who live and work on the farm. This put what at first appeared to be a disappointingly over-the-top tourist venue into perspective. Politically, the hill tribe peoples have suffered from the hands of various oppressive regimes. In fact, they still do. Members of four tribes: Karen, Lahu Shi Bala, Palong and Hmong live here, marry, have children, work the fields, look after and work with their elephants, and make and sell traditional clothing and crafts.

IMG_1391Touristy? We spent 2 1/2 hours here photographing the tribal people, watching the women weave, playing with the children – and learning how to shoot coconuts with a traditional bow and arrow. (I thoroughly impressed the old gentleman who asked me to try to hit a small green coconut on a stump: I got two direct hits and got very close to it three times. Neither he nor Eric knew my parents used to call me “Annie Oakley” when I was young…)

P1310052I ended up purchasing several scarves from the Lanna long-necked (aka “giraffe”) women. In fact, it was a thrill to buy a brightly coloured one which was being woven before our eyes!

We later learned that had we taken a bus tour, we would only have had 45 minutes to experience this worthwhile village project.