June in Thailand: Farm Animals at a Karen Village

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There was the usual assortment of cute farm animals at the village: goats complete with nursing kids…

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… lively little piglets running all over the place…

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… in complete contrast with their lazy parents conserving energy in a heap.

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The hens teaching their chicks to scratch around for food in the dirt were really cute too.

Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be any animals doing work in the village. The only mechanical work being done was by some children threshing the rice. How strange!

June in Thailand: The Karen

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The first village we visited was but a short walk from where we got off the boat. We’d hardly broken a sweat before Jare called a halt and a village appeared in a clearing in the shrubbery. It consisted of several nondescript huts on stilts. We first paid our respects to the village headman lounging around on a hammock with a half-tame monkey scampering about on his lap. He looked so content and happy smoking his pipe. We ate our fried rice, packed earlier at Mae Sam Laeb, at his place. When we were done, we flicked the crumbs through the slats of the floor down onto the dirt below, letting the chickens have fun pecking at our leftovers.

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The villagers were happy to let us take photos. Jare told us that it was perfectly OK. Seemed like groups like ours only passed through once every few months, so I was comforted somewhat that they weren’t overexposed to tourism and its ill-effects. The kids were as always intrigued by the camera and very tickled to see their images on the little LED screen.

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The Karens’ colourful costumes photographed beautifully. It was amazing that their clothes were still so wonderfully colourful even though slightly worn from daily wear.

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This lady had so much character I had difficulty choosing which of her photos to feature. I like how this photo shows how her stern demeanour lightened after seeing me lurking about sheepishly, not knowing how to ask if I could take a photo. She signalled to me that it was okay and continued smoking her newly lit pipe.

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Then there was this young mother and her toddler son who shyly looked at her son and ignored the camera.

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It was such a pity we stayed for such a short couple of hours, giving us little time to interact with the villagers. We had to press on.

June in Thailand: Near the Burmese Border

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Mae Sam Laeb was an odd little border town consisting of only one dusty street containing a few little shops. These shops sold all sorts of odds and ends from army supplies to live fish from an aquarium! An equal oddment of people were on the street, from hardy looking men to saffron-clothed monks and little children just come home from school (wherever that was).

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Even odder was a huge carp breathing its last, seemingly abandoned after being weighed.

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The poor bug-eyed fella was simply left on the concrete to gasp its way to death. I felt so sorry for it.

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The real purpose of stopping here was to sign in with the Thai border guard as it was hard to monitor the border, especially at night. I wondered what they’d do with our details and how they’d find out about any mischief we’d get up to anyway.  I unashamedly asked the very obliging men in uniform for a picture.  They seemed fairly pleased to have their pictures taken, though I didn’t get their address to send them a copy!

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After Jare and Kiat took away fried rice in styrofoam boxes for lunch (a yet odder start to our back to basics nature trek),  we waited at the pier for a public boat to go down the Salawin River.

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This time there weren’t chickens but motorbike and children instead.

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The views were very beautiful as the river wound past lots of forested slopes, much more rugged and impressive than any other Southeast Asian river I’ve been on.

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It was also strange to look on the other side of the river: the Burmese side controlled by Karen rebels. It was dotted with little huts — outposts of the Karen army.

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