March 01, 2012

27-290112 Ban Maejantai - 02

Random pics from around the village...

Water filtration system by Engineers Without Borders USA's California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo student chapter:


Small world - the cat has passed through San Luis Obispo before. A source of clean water makes a huge difference. Especially for women & girls, who bear the responsibility of fetching water & collecting & carrying firewood down from the mountains for boiling water to make it potable. The Coffee Journey participants drank from this system with no problems.

Many hilltribe villages in the upper north of Thailand have at least one signboard bearing the name of some foreign aid organisation or missionary group. Ban Maejantai was no exception:


Roughly translates as...
"Akha youth Powerful mind
Strong body Free from pollution
Done by TEAR Australia (a Christian organisation) & the Akha Kinship & Holistic Alternatives Foundation (or AKHA Foundation, a Thai NGO)"

Leaving the cat none the wiser as to what it is about...

Not that there were many youths around. Like in rural villages across north & northeast Thailand, most have left to study or work elsewhere in Thailand or overseas. Like the Akha in Mae Salong, proximity to a Chinese village means that some in Ban Maejantai have picked up spoken Mandarin, leading to better-paying job opportunities in Taiwan. Left behind in the villages are the very young & the very old. Likewise for villages in the areas of Laos bordering Thailand - more than 90% of those aged 15-35 in a friend's village in rural Savannakhet are working (mostly illegally) in Thailand.

Next to Mimi's house - we thought it was a kindergarten:


Mimi mentioned about a teacher from elsewhere who stays here on weekdays, & that only 4-5 kids from the village come here. The signs around this building say something about a Mae Fah Luang study centre (for) community (of) upland Thai people, & ชมรมศึกษาพัฒนาชาวไทยภูเขา มหาวิทยาลัยรามคำแหง Ramkhamhaeng University's society for education & development (of) upland Thai people:


The cat usually hears hilltribe people referred to as ชาวเขา chao khao (hill people) or ชาวดอย chao doi (mountain people). On these signboards the term ชาวไทยภูเขา chao thai phu khao (Thai people (of the) hills/mountains) was used instead. Has been 26+ years since the cat first met hilltribe people in Thailand, perhaps the perception of them as outsiders (i.e. non-Thai) in the eyes of the lowlanders really is starting to change?

The temple at the top of the village:


Only sign of a monk ever having been here was an old forgotten angsa (vest that covers only the left shoulder) hanging near some bushes.

Doing the dishes on the balcony:


The black netting in front of her house provides shade for the coffee seedlings beneath:


The chicks that jumped into the feed container:


Hanging outside Api's house:


Mimi's house had an identical pair of wings hanging near the stairs to the kitchen.

Saddest looking puppy:


Didn't ask if anyone in this village eats dog.

27-290112 Ban Maejantai - 01

Ban Maejantai - Moobaan 25, Tambon Tha Kor, Amphoe Mae Suay, Chiangrai province:


25 might be the largest หมู่บ้าน moobaan (administrative village) number the cat has come across to date - it usually sees numbers smaller than 15. At 30+ households, Ban Maejantai is slightly smaller than Ban Apa (40+ households). With a population smaller than the minimum required (500 people?) for moobaan status, it is lumped together with a neighbouring village to form Mooban 25.

No lack of slopes in an Akha village:


Ban Maejantai from the porch of Mimi's house near the bottom of the village:


View from the top of the village just below the temple:


Ming Lang village in the distance (centre) - a steep climb to & from school for the kids:


Contour ploughing at bottom right - there are small tea farms around Ming Lang village:


Most households have switched from the traditional imperata grass roof to corrugated zinc:


Something not seen in the Akha villages in non-coffee growing regions like Mae Salong, Mae Yao & northern Laos - large bamboo platforms for drying coffee beans:


One of the two houses that hosted some of the guys on this Journey:


It was also one of the two houses where the cat spotted beehives fashioned from sections of large tree trunks. Wonder if the villagers carry the hives to their fields?


Mattress delivery?


House (with a little shop) that hosted some of the ladies on this Journey:


Compare this with the same view in December 2007/January 2008:


February 29, 2012

270112 Mae Tam to Huay Nam Khun

Waiting in front of the temple:


Last view of flat land from the bed of a twincab:


The nice paved bits:


The unpaved sections weren't as dusty as expected (no place can beat Sayabouly in Laos when it comes to dust anyway), but it was clear that Coffee Journeys wouldn't be possible during the rainy season.

Lookout point:


Familiar landscape - very little primary forest left, most of the existing forest is secondary growth:


Chiangrai city somewhere down there:


The annual haze kicked in 2 days later - on our return journey Chiangrai would no longer be visible.

明朗村 Ming Lang village, Huay Nam Khun - the Chinese village ~4 rather steep KM below Ban Maejantai:


Kids from Ban Maejantai & other neighbouring villages attend the primary & secondary school here. A few years ago, Lee returned with Child's Dream to build a boarding house & renovate the classrooms of his alma mater (photos from the opening ceremony here). Quite a few in the group asked Lee how he made the daily trek to/from school in the days before motorbikes & twincabs, especially during the rainy season.

5th day of Chinese New Year - the couplets are identical to those in Singapore, & this wooden house is similar to the one built by the cat's maternal grandfather:


Like how the bottom part of the door is painted to match the concrete foundations :)

Gong Xi Fa Cai - $$$ is never far from the minds of Chinese people:


At least half of Ming Lang village's population seemed to be crowded around the gambling tables at the village fair...just like how gambling is very much a part of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore.

Someone asked the cat about these white paper decorations:


The cut portions are supposed to resemble copper coins tied together with string. In the old days coins had holes through the centre & they could be tied together with string to form larger denominations of (1 string of 1000 copper coins). 1 tael of gold = 10 taels of silver = 10 'strings' of copper coins = 10000 copper coins.

Stopped by a shop to buy a big fat load of 'alu' (potato) for making the well-loved Akha mashed potato dish & boiled potato soup, & for people to stock up on 'city food'. No idea what these white roots sitting on top of the garlic are:


270112 Wat Mae Tam

Where the road to Ban Huay Nam Khun & Ban Maejantai branches off from HWY 118...


'Indian-style' temple murals in the Chiangrai countryside:


The paintings in many temples in Thailand & Laos tend to show the same characters in the same scenes from the Buddha's life story with local (Thai or Lao) facial features, hairstyles & dress...when all those events took place in India.

Rather unique ยอดช่อฟ้า yot chor faa on the ridge of the viharn roof - hongsa with a little naga:


Elegant chedi:




The woodcarvings are not perfectly symmetrical but it adds to the charm:


270112 Chiangmai to Wiang Pa Pao

Break from normal late January 2012 the cat went on a 3D2N trip with 20+ other people to an Akha friend's village & coffee farm in Chiangrai province.

Coffee Journey with Akha Ama to learn how this happens - the entire process from seed to cup:


A stranger busy filming the cat as it walked down Hussadhisawee Soi 3 towards Akha Ama Cafe...?? Turned out that a production crew was coming along to film a documentary for Thai PBS channel...a fortnight later another crew from Switzerland would be here for a similar purpose...

Ban Maejantai is somewhere up in the mountains of Chiangrai province, northeast of Phrao. Chartered songthaew would take the 20+ of us along the highway to Mae Tam, just north of Wiang Pa Pao. There we would switch to 3 twincabs for the 1.5+h climb on 30+KM of mostly unpaved dirt road up to the village.

The Chiangmai-Mae Khajan-Wiang Pa Pao songthaew:


Never knew songthaew came with any sort of load or passenger limit but the capacity is painted there just left of the tail light - 1800 KG, seat 12 pax, stand " - " pax...when we all know it is minimum 4 pax standing/clinging on in reality ;)


Familiar Mae Khajan landmark - midpoint marker for all the Chiangmai-Chiangrai journeys:


New rice yet to be transplanted:


Lunch stop at a place in Wiang Pa Pao known for its fish kuaytiao:


Kao Lao Leuat Muu? What has pig's blood got to do with fish kuaytiao...?