Jeffintheworld

My travels, adventures, and mishaps

This Is A Karen Post

ImageMeet Mr. Sao and Mama, two farmers from the Karen tribe outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. They don’t consider themselves Thai. In fact, they are very proud of their Karen heritage. I found out later this tribe came down from China to Myanmar and then later to Thailand. They have their own language and clothes separate from Thai people. Also, to get to their village, you need to take a 4 hour minibus (modified truck) out of Chiang Mai to a place that is literally off the map.

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After a slightly bumpy ride seemingly climbing and winding around mountains forever, I arrived at a place called Mindful Farms. Note that I was supposed to go to Karen Farms. There was no more transportation out there. The bus didn’t go that far.

ImageThis is where I spent my first of three nights in the hills of Thailand. Mindful Farms was a place ran by Binan, a former monk. He ran a vegetarian farm and had yoga in the morning and meditation in the evening just after dusk. I skipped the yoga, tried the meditation, and was thinking about what it must be like to achieve inner peace, because I sure didn’t have it. I mostly fidgeted, changed positions, hunched my back, sat up straight, and counted slowly to 60 several times, assuring myself it was one minute less of this pain I would have to endure. Aside from meditating I did help resoil a tree stump, and I enjoyed an OK vegetarian meal of papaya salad, rice, and several other dishes I don’t know what to call. Below is the meditation hall/dining room.

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The next day Mr. Sao showed up at 7:30am with his truck to take a Belgian couple and myself to Karen Farms. This was our little camp site/Sao’s home.

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Right away you knew Mr. Sao was either crazy or the nicest guy you’ve ever met in your life. Turns out it was the latter option. He always found a reason to laugh, usually through his pride of anything and everything Karen, which became a big running joke. For instance, while in the village, water started pouring down around us and we looked up to see Sao holding a hose spraying us and he yelled “Karen Waterfall!” followed by his infectious laughter.

Some of the other real Karen things include Karen clothes, Karen guitar, Karen drum, Karen songs, Karen tree (the bark smells like cinnamon), Karen spices (really hot!), and Karen food. Some of the sillier “Karen” things include Karen air, Karen sunset, and basically everything else we saw or did became Karen.

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Did I mention we peeled, roasted, and ground our own coffee beans?


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So this litte place cost me 150baht per day or roughly $5. We worked tilling fields, clearing trails, and fishing (then eating that fish for dinner, yum). There was about 3-4 hours of work a day, but it went by quickly and I felt damn proud after preparing a field for planting and clearing the trail around the farm. There is something to be said for the benefits of manual labor.

This was an incredible experience and I wish I could have stayed longer. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an itch for travel and simple living. I slept surprisingly well except on the one night it got too cold (who knew it got cold in Thailand?). With electricity only on the last of my three nights, I was disconnected from the world and it felt wonderful (no offense guys). I made new friends, I learned about a different way of living, and had my eyes opened to the Karen way of life.

I’ll finish up with some random pictures from Karen Farms.

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Eating a chicken foot at one of the stops on the way to the farm.

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A real Karen cascade

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Sao’s pigdog, Mollek (but all the farang called her Molly)

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Shaking tamarind from a tree with a long stick of bamboo and a hook.ImageHell yeah silhouettes!

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2 comments on “This Is A Karen Post

  1. Kendra
    June 12, 2013

    hello! thank you for this post! i was considering this same exact trip to meet Mr. Sao. Would you recommend it? How did you contact him? I have seen his website, as well as his contact information on WWOOF-independents and workaway.com. Just wondering how you got ahold of him 🙂 I am leaving for Thailand in about 5 days, although I wouldn’t make it up north for a few weeks still.

    • jeffintheworld
      June 12, 2013

      I would definitely recommend it, but I would stay at least a week. 3 days wasn’t enough! I contacted him through couchsurfing. There’s a Korean couple who advertise and kind of run his websites for him. I would highly recommend getting an unlocked phone and buying a sim card in thailand. I was able to get to the train stop, and take a taxi to the market, but I got very lucky running into a nice german girl who had already been on the exact bus I needed to take to get to Mr. Sao’s farm. She helped me find the correct minibus down a certain alley, but without her I’m not sure I could’ve done it. That’s where the phone would come in handy to call him and be able to check with him. My situation was a bit unique as I was dropped off at another farm for one night. They said the bus wouldn’t go out to Sao’s farm. But Sao came the next morning on his motorbike for me, laughing and being his usual energetic self.

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This entry was posted on March 25, 2013 by and tagged , , .
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