Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ban Lorcha - tribal village

So, after the disappointment that was the so-called tribal villages on the day tour we did here in Chiang Rai, we decided to check out a more genuine tribal village.
We had already visited the Hill Tribes Museum in Chiang Rai:

So we knew about their village project, where visitors can see real tribes people, and learn a little about them and their traditional way of life, rather than just being shown a lady in costume selling handicrafts (that are probably factory-made).

We had just rented a motorbike (scooter), so we were independently mobile, and while it was a fair distance to ride, we felt it'd be worth it. Also, we decided we can take it slow, stop if and when we felt like it, and not rush.

So, after breakfast, we gathered some supplies, put on sunscreen and set off.
The village location wasn't marked on Google Maps, and there was only a fairly crude map on the project's web page, but we felt we could follow the directions, and ask if we got lost.

For others' reference, here's a map of the location (I took a GPS reading at the site):

View Ban Lorcha Village in a larger map

We rode for a while, but stopped for a break at the Cat Cafe, before continuing on.

Part of the road was mud-covered. Thankfully, mostly dry and driveable, but we were worried that the road would be dirt from there on, which would have been very unpleasant.
Thankfully, the mud section was only about 2 km or so, then it became normal road again.

Eventually, we saw some signs indicating the village was near, and soon enough, we arrived.

We bought the entry tickets (50 Baht per person, all proceeds directly help the villagers)

A village lady was our guide, though she didn't speak much - shy? or not comfortable with English?
Still, she was friendly enough, and there are signs in English (and Thai) explaining what she was showing us.
Our guide, showing an animal trap

Leading us around the village
They danced a welcome dance for us
Shakin' their booties..
Posing with the tourists

Then, the tour continued.
We saw:

  • the village gate - with guardians to keep the jungle spirits from entering the village
  • the village swing - once a year, they swing on it during a ceremony
  • the blacksmith (a largely ceremonial title these days, as they usually just buy their tools like everyone else)
Overview of the village as seen from the road.
The village gate and swing are on the hill top.
The traditional satellite dish is seen in the bottom-left.

  • a lady weaving on their traditional loom. She also spun cotton into thread, like magic!
  • a traditional house, where there are male and female sleeping areas. Even married couples sleep separately. This is because an old story has a guy finding a naked woman in the jungle (which probably happens a lot, right?), taking her home, but being unsure if she's a spirit, has her sleep in a separate room. Even after they later got married, this practise continued, and caught on with the rest of the tribe.
In the kitchen of the traditional house.
The fridge is outside this photo.

The male sleeping area is behind that colourful blanket.
  • the sacred well, which provides water for the village rituals. Speaking insults in the vicinity of the well is prohibited, leading one to wonder how many insults normally fly elsewhere in the village..
  • a Christian church. Apparently, missionaries have had some success with these tribes, so their traditional superstitions are being replaced with Christian ones. Makes one wish there were Secular Humanist missionaries, really..
We wrapped up the tour, and were given some tea in bamboo cups

Then it was time to hit the road again

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