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.