In Huay Pu Keng a big group of Dutch people via Fox Travel came to visit, including this man. He started talking to two Kayan women enthusiastically, after he had heard from us that some women in the village also speak English. This is an example about how rewarding it can be to have contact with the local people: even if you are only there for an hour, it gives your visit so much more value.
Photo by: Joney Habraken
The village Huay Pu Keng consists of a long street, scattered with shops and the owner’s houses behind them. A side street leads to a large field, where mainly Kayan kids and men play sports. Approximately 600 international tourists per month (there is no record of Thai tourists, since they don’t have to pay the entrance fee) visit Huay Pu Keng in high season (which lasts for three months) and 200 in low season. It can only be reached by boat, therefore it is less visited than Huay Sua Thao. The inhabitants were very hospitable and it was a great pleasure to notice that people started to recognize us, the longer we stayed in the village. We have spoken many Kayan women and men, tourists and even the village chief about how they would feel about community-based tourism. Almost everyone was enthusiastic about the idea and the village chief even said that originally the Kayan villages were supposed to be based on this principle.
Photo by: Joney Habraken
In this picture, one of the girls wears rings and the other does not. Parents decide whether their daughters wear the rings or not and if they decide to do so, girls usually wear them from the age of five onwards. The parents who choose to not let their daughters wear the rings, do this most of the times out of precaution; without the rings their daughters have more opportunities later in life, to study for example, because they will not have a notable appearance, with which they could be discriminated with.
Photo by: Joney Habraken
These children were genuinely happy with the toys we brought them from Holland. They played so enthusiastically and were surprised that they got to keep the toys even after playing with them! We gave it to them after we already had spend a night in Huay Pu Keng and by then the children already knew who we were. However, there were also several tourists who brought big bags with candy with them to give to the children and although it is understandable why they wanted to do this, namely to make the children happy and because the guide recommended it, it is still not the best idea to walk around the village like Santa Claus. The kids will only see you as someone who gives candy and will start to beg for it.
Photo by: Joney Habraken
This beautiful Kayan woman could not speak a word of English, but because she had her shop across the place where we stayed, we say how caring she was. She was always taking care of her grand children en on the day of our departure she gave us a bracelet: sometimes gestures say more than a thousand words.
Photo by: Joney Habraken
This picture shows the striking combination between traditional and modern customs. Modern appliances, like mobile phones, are also introduced in remote villages like Huay Sua Thao en Huay Pu Keng. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
Mudan is 29 years old en tells us that she wears her rings mostly out of tradition, but admits that she also wears them for tourists, because she can earn money by wearing them. Mudan explains that she would not want to go back to Burma, because she was only six years old when she left the country, and is currently taking Thai classes. If she could, she would want to go to Mae Hong Son (the nearest city in the district) to start a restaurant. Mudan has a Thai ID-card, but her husband and children do not have it yet and that is why they cannot leave the village. If there would be community-based tourism in Huay Pu Keng, Mudan would like to give tourists a weaving workshop. Photo by: Joney Habraken
This photo tells a striking story: these tourists are debating whether they will buy the statue of a Kayan woman, while they do not have attention for the ‘real’ Kayan woman, sitting in front of them. It also expresses how used the woman is to the tourists; she hardly notices the tourists anymore. On one of the statues is written in English that the ‘Longnecks are like aliens in Thailand’; this clearly indicates how the Thai authorities see the Kayan people. Photo by: Joney Habraken
This is Masha. Masha is an always-smiling lady, who can play guitar beautifully. Besides that this is a nice activity to do, there is however also a downside to it; one can not really do anything else besides hanging around your shop and, like Masha does, making music for tourists. There is a lot of boredom in the village, simply because there are hardly any tourists for the most part of the year, but one should stay at the shop, because it is the only way to earn money. There is, however, since a while a project by which honey is obtained from bees, which can be sold in the other villages and the city in the district. Photo by: Joney Habraken
Huay Sua Thao. Photo by: Joney Habraken
This is Maway with her son. Maway was very hospitable and welcoming by letting us stay in her house in Huay Sua Thao. She told us that she frequently invites tourists to stay at her house and also other women in the village do this. So there is a form of homestay, only there is no marketing for it. Maway’s husband works, next to other jobs in gardening and construction, in a rice field next to the village. So they have income all-year round. Her daughter also wears the rings, but only in holidays because the rings irritate while playing. Maway is a proud woman: she is proud of her culture and rings and likes to dress herself colorfully. Photo by: Joney Habraken
Madan is 28 years old en has two young kids. Madan is married to a man that wanders into the surrounding forests to shoot birds for own consumption and sale. Madan doesn’t like it that he is gone during daytime and she has to watch her shop. She dreams of a free life to travel, experience new things, to discover the world! She has a fire and passion for life. It was very rewarding to have talked with her for a few hours. I discovered more similarities than differences between us. We truly hope she will be able to live in freedom to follow her dreams! Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
Maja is 31 years old, married and has two young daughters. Like Maway and Madan, her English is good. They learned it form the tourists. Maja doesn’t like it when tourists make pictures of her, without asking permission. She desires freedom to make her own choices. She wishes for a normal life for her children, that they can live in freedom. Maja thinks that Kayan people in Huay Pu Keng have more freedom, because they receive free Thai lessons for two days a week. In Huay Sua Thao, where Maja lives, the village chief does not allow Kayan women to leave their shop unattended to go to school. Maja strongly hopes for a more respectful way of tourism in her village. For women like Maja we want to strive for the development of community-based tourism in the Kayan villages. Don’t you? Photo by: Anne van der Meijden
Monks who come to Huay Sua Thao as tourists, that is a scene, which the average Western person might not expect. Maya helps these monks to find something at her shop. Maya made the scarves in the background herself, the souvenirs on the table come from Chiang Mai, the big city of the North. The women have to sell these souvenirs with profit, which is often relatively little. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
A tourist, walking through Huay Sua Thao. We have heard different opinions, from the tourists that we have spoken, about their visit to one of the villages. While one claims that he/she appreciates it that the Thai government made their visit possible, the other states that he/she feels like an intruder. The latter opinion might not even be that strange: one comes to the Kayan villages to look at people. By developing community-based tourism, tourists will discover that the Kayan people are also just human beings, like you and me. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
The majority of the tourists that visit Huay Sua Thao, is from Thai origin. Furthermore, the domestic market is the biggest market for community-based tourism in Thailand. That is favorable if community-based tourism is indeed developed in the Kayan villages. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
This sign was placed at the beginning of the village Mae Se in Chiang Mai. It clearly shows how people see the Kayan: as a touristic attraction. Can you imagine that tourists walk in your street every day and that they would take pictures of you and your family; would you appreciate this? That people pay an entrance fee to come see you, that is the every day life of the Kayan people in Thailand. Photo by: Joney Habraken
At almost every shop there are fake rings available for tourists to try on, like the madam on this picture does. Even though the fake rings are half the weight of the rings which the Kayan women wear, because it are just halve circles, it is still very heavy to wear on your neck. Also notice the clothing of the female tourist, it is respectful to cover the shoulders and the knees, but often tourists do not know about this or are ignorant to this fact. Maway, our host in Huay Sua Thao, told us that in the beginning, she was completely in shock when tourists entered the village scantly dressed. Now she is used to it. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
This scene reflects upon a common phenomenon: a tourist takes a picture of Kayan girls, without having asked permission for taking the picture or making any communication at all. Often tourists do not know how to make contact and that they can communicate fairly easy with the Kayan people, because some of the men and women do speak English. Tourists, who have talked with the Kayan, told us how much they enjoyed having a conversation with them. Photo by: Joney Habraken
Human zoo scene
Photo by: Joney Habraken
This picture shows what community-based tourism can accomplish: interest and involvement of tourists in the daily activities of the Kayan people. By staying longer in a Kayan village, whether it is one day or a few nights, you will experience the real way of life of the Kayan. These are often the most memorable holiday experiences! Furthermore, you contribute to the empowerment and a higher standard of living for the Kayan people. A win-win situation. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels
Tourists who take a closer look into the customs and traditions of the Kayan, which will lead to understanding and respect; that is the goal of community-based tourism. This scene reflects this goal: tourists can also try their hand at weaving, a custom that the Kayan women perform daily. A Kayan woman is able to make 1 to 2 scarves a day, an inexperienced tourist will need more time. Photo by: Maway
These wood carvings are made by Matio, a Kayan man who lives in Huay Sua Thao. It takes a lot of time, patience and experience to make figures like these ones. Matio uses teakwood from the surrounding forests. He doesn’t cut trees, but picks wood from the ground, leftover from previous logging. The artist is willing to work together with tourists and try to make something out of wood. However, those interested must be willing to work on it for at least a few hours. Photo by: Joney Habraken
This is Muko, 16 years old and at this picture she learns some Dutch from Renske. Muko says that she does not go to school and that she learned English from tourists. She enjoys communicating with them and to learn some words and small phrases in their language. Even though it is a lot of fun to talk to the Kayan, it might not always be that easy to make that contact as a tourist. You can say at lot though by gesturing and in the end your attempts will always be appreciated! Photo by: Joney Habraken
This picture has been taken in a village where a CBT initiative has been set up. This was in the garden of one of the city council members, who owns a large organic, self-providing garden. This village had several activities available for tourists, such as homestay, cooking lessons and music classes. We have visited this village with a guide from the Community Based tourism-Initiative (CBT-I), an organization that is very successful in setting up and coordinating CBT initiatives. Photo by: Joney Habraken
Community-based tourism is THE way for local communities to be involved in tourism in their area. In Thailand there are many succesful examples of community-based tourism. When Charlotte traveled to these places as a tour leader, together with her travel group, the kids in the group loved to participate in dancing with the local people. When Charlotte asked them about the highlight of their trip, this was exactly their answer. Photo by: Charlotte Louwman-Vogels