Village Life

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Lisu Village

Flag of Thailand  , Mae Hong Son,
Friday, November 5, 2010

We'd read about a Lisu Village doing a homestay programme with an American (Albert) and his Lisu wife (Susanan), so after a few emails and phonecalls we arranged to go there and stay for 2 nights from Friday to Sunday. We took a local bus heading for Pai with Steve and Lou who were going there next, but we got off at Soppong which is the nearest 'town' to the Lisu Village. It was even tinier than Pai!

On arrival I phoned Susanan and she said she would send a taxi down to get us. My face was an absolute picture when two moto taxi's arrived - we had yet to experience a moto ride so doing the first one with rucksack on our backs was always going to be a bit daunting. Add to that the fact that the Lisu Village was, strangely enough for a hilltribe, up a long and quite steep hill, and my heart rate was through the roof by the time we arrived!!

It was actually only a short 5-min journey by moto from Pai, but the village felt like a different world entirely. Susanan's house was on a small plot of land with her son's house also on the same plot, where her son and his wife and their children live. The smallest, Susanan's grandaughter, kept referring to Keiron as ''Apa'' - that means Grandpa!! It turned out that Albert has been in America for the last two months, and being a white male the little 'un thought Keiron could be him. I found this hilarious, but seeing as Albert is 65 Keiron wasn't so pleased!!

The chickens also share the same plot, and there are papaya and banana trees for food as well. Oh, and some pigs in a nearby pen. Altogether the animals made quite a racket!

Otherwise, village life is very quiet and quite simple, so we spent a lot of time just doing nothing, reading on the balcony, wandering around the village, playing cards in the evenings, and chatting to Susanan. She had sprained her ankle quite badly a few days before we arrived, so it was difficult for her to show us around, but she showed us her handcrafted bags, which were of the typically colourful Lisu style. She also told us a fair bit about Lisu ways, including medicine (''You drink a little, go walking walking walking and don't stop. You drink little bit more, you dead'' - scary stuff! She was using it to massage her ankle, thankfully), food, and ceremonies. We watched a DVD about the Lisu tribe, New Year celebrations and dances, featuring both Susanan and Albert, which helped us understand a bit more about the village we were in.

Susanan also pointed us in the direction of the walk she usually takes guests on up to her Uncle's village. It really was up, up a very steep hill! The main thing we noticed was that, on the way back down, the village we were staying in was a lot noisier - thanks to the chickens and pigs, that is.

We did the walk on Saturday morning before our ''cooking class'', which involved Susanan showing us how to cook Lisu food for lunch. We got all of our meals included during the stay, and I really appreciated the non-spicy Lisu soup with familiar vegetables such as squash (looks like a pumpkin, tastes like a swede) and spinach and cabbage. I have now added Lisu soup, Lisu 'pork and eggplant suprise', and Lisu chilli paste to my repetoire...

Unfortunately, we could not completely convert to the simple food and both of us ate a little bit of the snacks left over from recent bus trips over the two days - crisps and a few oreos!! I also practically ran out of the house when Susanan told us there was a store in the village that sold coke. We'd obviously missed it during our walks, and it did turn out to be a bit hard to find. Susanan kept this peace of information until the last evening when we confirmed we were leaving the next day - I suspect this is a sneaky trick as lots of people do the homestay as a detox...anyway, I shamelessly admit to being addicted to processed food and sugar!

As a whole, the time we spent there made a complete change from anything we've done so far. I should also say we slept like logs for both nights, even though we went to bed early - it got dark around 6pm and with not much to do we could only play cards and read by torchlight for so long! The climate was also notably different to most of Thailand, with cool cloudy mornings, hot days, but cooling down again early in the evening before dark. Perhaps if Albert had been there we may have done a bit more, as the homestay programme claims to include a craft school and other activities, but with Susanan and her ankle we appreciated the time she gave us and for having a chance to stay in such a different place.

After that, it was back to Chiang Mai and civilisation!

Sophie xxx

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