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Bamboo

Ban Thi Pho Gyi village
A morning scene in a Karen (Kayin) village

Karen (Kayin) hilltribe people have been living in this region on both sides of today Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) for many generations. They adapt their life to the natural surrounding and use natural resources on sustainable basic. They extract wood and bamboo in small scale just enough to build their basic houses and storage needs. They do farming producing rice, corn, and others. They raise chicken, pig, cow and buffalo. Some villages keep elephants to use in transport of goods.

With the modernization many Karen villages now have solar cells, schools provided by the government and other organizations. With these so-called civilization garbage are also becoming problems. Plastics used in packing come to the villages.

Many Karen villages still keep much of their tradition in the form of clothes, house style, way of conducting daily matters, etc. These traditions and customs are different from one place to another. Ethnic minority people of other tribal races also live there in small numbers. They include Pa-O, Lisu, Hmong, and Shan (or Tai Yai).

The tourists or visitors should pay attention to their living style and traditional rules, and try to follow them while they are there. Since Karen people travel on foot to the villages in the forest, it is customary that a Karen family should allow a Karen visitor for overnight stay in their house even if the visitor is a stranger. So when a tourist group come with a Karen guide it is usually allowed to overnight at the house of village head. The tourist group and the guide use the room provided to live, and the kitchen to cook food. The guide will pay the host family some amount of money in return for their hospitality.

However giving something "free" to the villagers should not be done. This will create a bad habit among the villagers to always expect something as gift or free item whenever tourists come. They are poor and do not have products or services that earn them good income. But you could always find something such as a handicraft to buy to support their work. After all they are the people who pollute our planet the least.

Visiting to Karen villages should be done accompanied by a local Karen people guide. That will make communication and understanding much easier and comfortable. Your Karen guide will also help you to have conversation with villagers and learn their daily life.

Hygiene (July 2006)
Most villages do not have proper toilet and bathing place. In many villages only few houses in the village have toilet. Even if they do have toilet which may not be fully covered one. All of them are said to be squat type, with water probably in a container which is filled by by hand or pipe. Therefore when planning a trip to a new village the guide should go there first and prepare to have a decent basic toilet, and a reasonably clean and comfortable place to live a night.

The guide and helper, if any, should aware of cleanliness requirement when planning a trip to the forest and villages.

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