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Mae Hong Son town & Lisu Kung Patueng village (04-06 Jan 2010)

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After coming back from a long hike in Putao (Phangran Razi hike) in northern Myanmar/Burma, and a three days slow boat ride down the Mekong river with Australian friends in northern Laos to Luang Prabang I was in Chiang Mai for a night. Tourist traffic was high and nearly all flights were full, train and bus stations being over crowded with mostly domestic tourists struggling to get home from the new year holiday. There were also many foreign tourist trying to figure out how to get in and out.

I had a different plan - to visit a place I had not return in 10 years. The images of a Lisu village at the top of a hill to the north of Mae Hong Son, which we had been supporting for self sufficiency was still clearly fresh in my memory.

Just before sunrise over the lake in Mae Hong Son town
Just before the sunrise over the hills, and the lake in Mae Hong Son

The guesthouses and nice restaurants surround the lake. These days, I guess during the tourist season from November to February, there is a night market selling handicrafts of tribal peoples, clothes, food and snacks, and so on extending from the south-western edge of the lake.

Wat Chong Klang
Wat Chong Klang at sunrise, on the lake bank in Mae Hong Son

The Temple or Wat Chong Klang was built in 1827 in Shan/Myanmar style architecture. It sits on the southern side of the lake and is one of the highlights of visiting this slowly developing and expanding town.

The sign showing the route to Lisu Kung Patueng village
The sign showing the route to Lisu Kung Patueng village

After the breakfast I went through the town to buy supplies for the school children. At 10am I had a basket full and left the town for the Lisu village some 20km in the north. It was exciting to revisit the place I used to stay overnight 10 years ago. At that time the village was on top of a hill surrounded by its farms producing rice and corn.

The village was later relocated to the lower land not far from a road. During these 10 years staff of the company made two visits to the village and delivered some supporting services and materials as well as made purchase of their handmade products.

Supplies for the village I bought
Books and writing materials I bought for the village children

A Lisu woman preparing food for the pigs
A Lisu woman preparing food for the pigs

Not like when they were in the mountains the current village (location) was not very attractive in terms of natural beauty. Only few tourists make a short visit to the village each month. Some of the villager still go back to do a limited amount farming in the old place. They do have water supply system now using an engine driven pump to fill up a storage from where piping sends water to several tap locations in the village. Education, health and hygiene were few of the things we must continue to provide some help to them to help themselves in long term. However at the moment income generating seems to receive most attention.

Walking up to the old Lisu village in the hills
Walking up to the old Lisu village in the hills

Old water supply system still in use in old Lisu village
Old water supply system still in use in old Lisu village

On the way to the old Lisu village location we passed a couple of Karen villages which are in relatively more developed considitons with schools, better economy, better houses with water supply, school, etc.

When closer to the village I felt like I was coming back home. There were still three peoples living there, the one who went with me told me. But no one else. Some from down the village would come to do farming only during the growing season.

Old kettle and old bamboo cup in the old house in the old village
Old kettle and old bamboo cup in the old house in the old village

Elderly Lisu people playing his old guitar for the returning guest
Elderly Lisu people playing his old traditional Lisu guitar for the returning guest

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