|Buddhist monks descend the staircase guarded by the Naga serpents.|
|The Crab Temple|
|One of the crabs supporting the staircase pillar|
|Golden Buddha in the temple.|
|The Golden Triangle|Rob prepares to board our transportation to lunch at a local farm. Rice Fields It was rice harvest season Our hostess prepares our lunch The placemats were drawn by the children of the family. Lunch at the farm
|0 Miles to Happiness!|
|The men's Happy Room|
|The women's Happy Room|
Later that afternoon, we set out again for another of the highlights of the trip…a visit to a village populated by several "hill tribes," who had moved to Thailand from their original homes in other countries, including Laos, Myanmar, and Tibet. We entered the village past the farms and livestock sheds of the residents.
We first visited the Akha people. This tribe originated in the Yunan section of China and from there, the Akha people spread to Myanmar. The civil wars there drove many of them to seek shelter in Thailand. These people are known for their elaborate headdresses and their intricate textiles. Our guide Yo introduced us to some of the women of the village and we were able to purchase some of the villagers' lovely handcrafted items.
|Members of an Ahka family|
|The distinctive Akha headress|
|An Akha woman shows us her crafts.|
|If there is a child or a puppy around, Rob will make friends.|
Nearby we visited the Yao tribe. Also from China originally, the Yao spread into Laos, but after supporting America in the Laotian War, they were persecuted there and some migrated to safety in Thailand.
|Our guide Yo introduces one of the women of the Yao tribe|
|Members of a Yao family|
We spent the most time in the Kayan (or Karen) tribe's section of the village, the home of the "Long Neck" women. You have probably seen photos of these women who decorate their bodies with long ropes of bronze looped around their neck multiple times. The Kayan people fled from Myanmar during the late 1980s and early 1990s because of the oppressive military regime. They found refuge in northern Thailand. I have mixed feelings about visiting "tourist villages," where the primary source of income seems to be creating crafts to sell to us. I feel uncomfortable about invading the lives of these people, while at the same time enjoying learning about them. The good news is that visits from tourists has allowed this village to become entirely self-sufficient.
The women were very sweet and gentle, and put up graciously with our snapping cameras. Many of them were stunningly beautiful, and their unusual neckware really did not seem as bizarre as I had expected. Several of them had small children who were absolutely adorable. I learned that the first rings are placed around the neck when a girl is about five years old. Gradually more are added. The rings do not actually stretch the neck. Instead, they push down on the clavicle and compress the rib cage. This may be done to enhance the femininity of the women, or perhaps to mimic the neck of a dragon, which is important in their folklore. The older women feel that it is an important part of their culture, although some of the younger women are now choosing to have their rings removed to ease their transition into modern society.
|Almost every household had a loom outside|
|Yo and one of the Karan children. I don't know the significance of the clay face decorations, but several of the women and children were wearing them.|
|The women were more visible, but I spotted some of the men doing wood craft behind the houses.|
At dusk, the women of the village prepared our dinner, with sticky rice and minced pork steamed in banana leaf pouches, then entertained us with traditional dances. For the finale, they came out, took us by the hands, and led us out to join them in a dance. What a special cultural encounter!