During the course of our month in northern Thailand, we encountered many wonderful individuals. Our shared interactions with them made our trip even more rewarding. Experiencing the culture of a place is not complete without experiencing the people.
One of our favorite days involved having lunch at an Akha village with one of our Chiang Rai guides, Nan. Akha people are an indigenous hilltribe who live in small villages in the higher elevations of SE Asia. They originated in China and their language has Tibetan roots. Today, approximately 80,000 Akha people live in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, making them one of the largest ethnic minorities in the region. Sadly, Western influence makes it difficult for them to retain their traditional ways, but we were able to see a few older women in their characteristic colorful embroidery and silver. That day we also saw a fair amount of Karen and Lisu people, two other ethnic minorities that like the Akha, can be identified by their type of dress and style of home. All were sweet and welcoming, and of course, smitten with Merle and Mathilda. (As with all the blog’s pictures, you many click on them to enlarge.)
We also visited 2 different children’s shelters: Promise Home, run by a Colorado woman, Heather, and Joy’s by a Thai/ German couple. Both were extra special experiences, especially Joy’s, since we stayed for 2 nights at their gorgeous hillside farm where the kids live and go to school. Most of the 25 kids who live there are originally of the Akha and Karen tribes from Burma. Learning about kids who have less, even about those who have been dislocated and without parents, was valuable for the kids. They still ask for ice cream after breakfast, lunch and dinner, though!