Raderstorf World Wide Adventure

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Life in Northern Thailand

Sending my love from a little wood bamboo hut along a sleepy little river in N. Thailand. I can hear the sound of the water buffalo bells, clang, clang, clang, down by the river. It is a paradise where tourists visit, and yet local life does not feel altered by tourism.

Our first night here, we went through this enormous cave. We were guided through for nearly two hours by a sweet young woman for 100 baht ($2.50). I think she has three children (even though she looked about 18). I know she has a baby. She has a good sense of humor and we shared about 10 words of the same language. This is always my frustration, the inability to communicate with another because we do not speak the same language. I would have asked her about her child (or children), her life and so much more. Inside the cave, we road for awhile on a bamboo raft for another 100 baht. As we came out of the cave, the sun was setting and hundreds of thousands of fork-tailed swifts where flying in for the night while quite so many bats where departing. A crowd of maybe 20 tourists were treated to a remarkable cacophony accompanied by the strong smell of guano. On the first night, someone asked if the birds and bats ever collide? On the second night, as Ben and I read about echolocation (nature’s version of a radar system), a small swift fell from the sky just a few feet in front of us, stunned with it’s wings spread wide and yet still breathing. We watched for awhile and then walked home along a trail, that connected to a road that led through a little village. We passed a woman sitting outside a little general store, “sawadee ka”, and a water buffalo tied into the back of a barely bigger pick-up truck rocking it back and forth. We watched people gathered in a house turned temple for a prayer service led by 2 or 3 monks.

Yesterday we embarked on a wonderful all day journey. We started hiking along the river and with the day rapidly heating up, we ended up in the river hiking up stream to the road that would take us to the nearby (7km) Karen tribe village. After we parted from the river to the road the whining reemerged and only subsided when we launched into 20 questions. After two hours of steep up and down hills, we arrived at a sleepy village of about 100 homes. In no time woman appeared from all directions descended upon me with their scarves while all my guys made a quick exit in search of coca colas. I bought a scarf from each woman and we cordially parted ways. The boys found the general store and a young woman who spoke a tiny bit of English. Another young girl sat on the bench across from the small shop holding a brand new babe while a barely walking toddler played beside her. She couldn’t have been much older than 16. We made our way to the school where we found two young men (temporary teachers) who spoke a small bit of English. Neither of the teachers spoke the tribal language that the children mostly spoke but all the kids were full of joy and so beautiful. One young, village mother of a four-year-old described herself as a “baby” teacher and seemed to hold the whole place together. She found the elephant people for us, she brought us green tea and she shared her lunch of noodles with us. She refused to take anything in return, even a gift of money for the school.

We left the village in peak tourist form atop two elephants, me with a grimaced look on my face trying to stay on the seat each time the elephant lumbered downhill. It was so amazing, something right out of a Heifer catalog: A village with dirt roads, wooden huts on stilts, with cattle, buffalo, pigs and chicks grazing the ground beneath the family home. Each home had a solar panel compliments a new government rural village program and soon they will all have computers. It will be interesting to see how this changes the village. Personally, I was attracted to the uncluttered nature of a life with no excess and seemingly more connected to the land. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and the air is intoxicating. The mahout (elephant caregivers) ride so gently atop the elephant singing sweet sounding serenades to the elephants as we pass by villagers returning from the streams with a net and a basket. We road for nearly two hours through beautiful jungle landscape along a creek back to the river where a father-son team guided us back to Cave Lodge upon a bamboo raft. We floated past a teenage girl shampooing her hair in the river with a bottle of Prell shampoo alongside and I our eyes met, I wondered what is she was thinking. Does she envy me while I’m envying her?

The evenings have been sweet, sharing with the other guests while dining and then all coming together for impromptu fireside chats in the center of the dining area (yes, an open fire in the middle of a wooden structure). As people of Ireland, Australia, Denmark, US) sit listening to U2, watching people play ping pong on a WINNER brand table, drinking Singha beer, it is pretty clear that we live in a global village. Peter Mayer has a really great song called “Earth Town Square” that speaks to this very thing. I hope that the lifestyle of the people living along these back roads and streams can be preserved. But then again, perhaps they would rather welcome progress.

4 Comments:

  • At January 21, 2005 at 3:34 PM, Blogger Michael said…

    G'day All,
    Glad to see you are back on track again enjoying all this psrt of the world has to offer. It is true that the more you look for the difference in mankind (err personkind?)the more you find the similarities. It is also true that at the end of the day in all these places the people are the real siteseeing you do (especially the kids). Enjoy.

     
  • At January 24, 2005 at 3:01 PM, Blogger gary jones said…

    scott and family,

    i can not begin to understand what you and your family have gone through in the last month. i'm embarrassed in waiting so long to reply.

    i have shared your story with others and have had many people praying for the people in your region as well as yourselves.

    in sharing with mike hargrove who is a soccer friend and has visited thailand in the past he verified the beauty of this country. he also knows elliot higgins who was mentioned in your story. he and his wife joanne are friends with a bryan and judy from boulder and have met the higgins family. small world.

    the jones's pray that the remainder of your world tour is safe and godspeed on your return..

    gary jones

     
  • At January 24, 2005 at 3:01 PM, Blogger gary jones said…

    scott and family,

    i can not begin to understand what you and your family have gone through in the last month. i'm embarrassed in waiting so long to reply.

    i have shared your story with others and have had many people praying for the people in your region as well as yourselves.

    in sharing with mike hargrove who is a soccer friend and has visited thailand in the past he verified the beauty of this country. he also knows elliot higgins who was mentioned in your story. he and his wife joanne are friends with a bryan and judy from boulder and have met the higgins family. small world.

    the jones's pray that the remainder of your world tour is safe and godspeed on your return..

    gary jones

     
  • At November 7, 2005 at 1:16 AM, Blogger Living in Thailand said…

    Nice blog about Thailand !Maybe we can money together by you selling flowers for us! I have a website Flowers To Thailand

     

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