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Home Stay Village to study the Karen culture, traditions and way of life

Home Stay Village to study the Karen culture, traditions and way of life

Saksit Meesubkwang
Baan Mae Klang on the slopes of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain of Thailand, is situated about 1,500 meters above sea level, in Tambon Baan Luang, Chom Thong district, about 90 km from Chiang Mai city. The village contains over 250 residences and all residents are Karen. Most people are engaged in agriculture, but some go looking for forest plants to earn their living. The twisting mountainous route is surrounded by forest, and on both sides, there are many small waterfalls.

Karen woman.
The village is situated in the forest and the river passing through the village makes the soil here very rich and fertile. By merely dropping seeds of rice on the prepared ground, the local farmers produce a rice-crop called “Khao Rai” (a rice plant growing on the rice field) which can be harvested and provides food for all the villagers, who don’t have to use money bringing it to a rice mill. Just by using a mortar and pestle the residents create “Khao Sorm Mue” (rice full of nutrients) to eat with favorite foods such as bergamot, which is very easy to find in the village. The villagers’ way of life is simple, and they make their living in their tribe’s traditional way. The Karen people have preserved their traditions and culture and follow strict regulations to conserve land and aquatic creatures.
One 70-year old man said that, in the village, they observe Karen culture ranging from following traditional methods of making their living, respecting their tribal leader or village leader, performing traditional shows, and observing the tribe’s important days. These attract many visitors to experience the tribal way of life.

50 meters to Home Stay Village’s entrance.
The home stay project in the village happened after a discussion among villagers, and they built shelters for visitors who wanted to visit and stay in the village. Many tourists fell in love with the idea and frequently visited the village; and before long, there were not enough houses to accommodate them. The villagers discussed the matter further and decided to start a project they called “Home Stay” by adapting 10 rai of common area in the middle of the village, on which they built 10 shelters in Karen style and two communal buildings. There is also a courtyard where groups of young students can stay around a campfire.

Welcoming officers and shelter officers.
Villagers have used wooden posts to raise the shelters above the ground and bamboo, called “Phae Da” in Karen to make the floors and walls, utilizing cogon grass for the roof.
Tourists who visit the village in groups will have the chance to watch a traditional Karen show; such as playing musical instruments, ancestral story telling, rituals and beliefs and examples of ways of life that are dependant on the forest. For anyone wishing to learn more, there is a translation into the Thai language to make it easier to understand the songs that the villagers sing, with most of the lyrics taken from real life, containing anecdotes about wildlife and birds.

Shelters in home stay style.
After the excitement and gaiety of the show, the environment returns to its normal peaceful quiet and calm. Tourists will hear the sounds of cicadas and small insects from the surrounding forest, giving the feeling of being one with nature. During the night, there are security guards from the forest protection volunteer group on duty. In the morning visitors will waken to the crowing of red jungle fowls that will rouse them in time to glimpse the beauty of a translucent veil of mist covering the village.
In the dawn, those who want to experience the richness of the forest in the Karen’s way, prepare themselves to walk in the forest of Doi Inthanon, one of the last unspoiled forests in Thailand. The simple preparations for this trek entail wearing suitable long-sleeved clothes and stout trekking shoes. Wearing a hat or a cap is also recommended to guard against the possibility of insects that may fall off the overhanging trees. A small haversack containing an ointment or mosquito repellant including anything else such as drinking water is also advised. But, many villagers said that there was no need to carry any medicine because there are many herbs in the forest which are better and more useful than modern medicine.

The road without any sounds of cars, but full of the sounds of birds and wildlife.

The sky at dawn over Baan Mae Klang in Doi Inthanon.

Trees and the water running below.

Mae Klang River with numerous fish conserved by the villagers.

Trees which are unique to Doi Inthanon.

The atmosphere at Doi Inthanon and Baan Mae Klang.