Retire at Chiang Mai on 550 USD per month only

Any tourist visiting Chiang Mai will see the Hilltribe people dressed in their traditional clothing which is normally dark red and wearing their head dress for the ladies and small round caps adorned with silver designs for the children. Seeing them and buying a few articles made by the Hilltribe people is far different from living with them and understanding them. 

Part 2 of 2 of an article written about visiting a hilltribe village in the Chiang Dao area of Thailand, approximately 70 miles north-east of Chiang Mai. 

The children in the photo directly below are happy, healthy and enjoy their lives. They are fortunate to know how to speak Chinese, Thai and some English. 

It was now 6 o'clock and the women started preparing the evening meal. A soup with pork, and vegetables, and of course white rice which is included in every meal, sliced up tomatoes and cucumber, two different types of fish one like a bass fried in oil, and the other two smaller fish and again cooked in oil. 

We purchased about 3 kilos of potatoes and I cut them up and made french fries which was served before the main course. The kids gave the fries a thumbs up. 

So a filling meal during which we had Chinese tea, and also Sang Som which is a rum made by Seagram's in Thailand and a 26 er cost 220 baht or equivelent to $6.60 U.S. By the time the meal was finished and drinks offered to father and brothers we had one quarter of a bottle left for the following day. 

I wondered what they did for food when we were not there. The nearest market was 30 minute drive by motorbike and no one there had a motor bike or car. 

After dinner the dishes were washed, and we had some more tea which seemed to be a favorite drink of the father of the household. At 8 p.m. we went indoors to the main house and the house was basically two rooms. In one room slept the 4 women which included mother and three daughters as well as two daughters and one young son so 9 in total and on the other side of the room divided by a partial wall slept the father and me on. The father slept on a thin foam mattress and I was given the thickest mattress available. During the day the temperature was pleasant and during the night it was a bit cool or chilly and you needed a blanket. 

There is something that I will share with you and that is that I normally go to the washroom once a night and if I drink coke or beer then the number of visits can increase to between 2-4. A minor inconvenience if you have a washroom 5-10 paces away and a small adventure in the middle of the night without a lighted way to the toilets 40 yards away with roosters, chickens, baby chics and dogs between the main house and the toilet. 

The first time I ventured to the toilet at night it was slowly and there was some background lighting from neighbor's houses. The second and third trip that night I used a candle. 

I woke at 7 a.m. to find that everyone had risen and I was the only one still sleeping. Chinese tea in the morning and I was started to wonder if the tea had something to do with my more frequent toilet visits as the tea was offered frequently and since it was warm I drank every glass that was offered. By the way I slept in the same clothes that I arrived in as did everyone else. Some of the women showered in the evening before they went to bed but they wore their traditional dresses to bed and the following day as well. 

So this is a true life experience of living with a hilltribe family for 2 days. Nothing overly exciting and no made up stories but rather the truth so that you will know how these people live. The women all help each other cook and wash and the children help out whenever asked and sometimes without having to be asked. The 7-8 year old niece of my girlfriend that we brought with us was an absolute treasure. She helped out whenever asked and without asking twice. She brought water, cleaned dishes and acted like someone twice her age. Everyone got along and enjoyed each others company. 

Early in the morning after breakfast I discovered how this family was able to survive without a motor vehicle and a nearby grocery store. 

A young man drove into their housing area or compound on a motor bike with two large baskets, one of each side of the bike. The baskets held fresh vegetables and also a pig that was recently cut up. The women went through the meat which was in clear plastic bags and selected the portions that they preferred.

Young lady from Chinese hilltribe village dresssed in appropriate attire for that village together with children and several other ladies of that area.

When the shopping concluded my girfriend paid 1,370 baht or about $38 U.S. for what felt like 60 lb. of meat when we carried it off. The price of the vegetables was included in the above amount. 

The meat was taken to a covered area that housed the cooking dishes, cutlery and pots and pans and ingridients and was situated just outside of the main house. The first thing that the women did was to cut up the meat into small portions. Then the meat was taken to the nearest water outlet which was from the city via the underground pipes and cleaned with water and then brought back that covered kitchen if we can call it that. 

The meat sat there in water for a couple of hours and then it was cut up into smaller pieces and then tenderized. This was cut done by a large knife which was brought down onto the meat repeatedly over the next hour to hour and a half. By then the meat was in very fine pieces and much of what was purchased was tenderized and some blood added and was as some fat portions which were cut up and then added. The final product looked like something you would buy at your at your grocery store's meat department except it did not sit on sytrofoam wrapped by plastic. 

When I watched the women prepare the meat I thought that they would put the final product into small plastic bags or containers and then place them in the fridge so they can be cooked on future days. To my surprise most of the meat purchased was consumed that day. 

For lunch we had a chicken soup with vegetables. The chicken was one of the ones they had on the property and when it got close it was grabbed and the throat was cut and it was put into a basket while it bled to death. Later it was prepared for the cooking pot. So that chicken was part of the meal as well as the meat that was earlier prepared. One type of meat was rolled up into balls and looked like hamburger balls instead of patties. Later when I tasted it I found it to be a tiny bit spicy and very tasty. A fresh lunch followed by washing of dishes by the ladies and consumption of alcoholic beverages by the men. 

The bottle of Sang Som rum from yesterday only had enough for a few shots and a bottle of Thai whiskey was brought out for the men to drink. The bottle of whiskey was about the size of a 26 er and cost 40 baht or $1.30 U.S. 

Tbe whiskey tasted like Spuratus (spelling ?? ) which is a clear Russian alcohol of about 120 proof and requires a drink of water immediately following drinking it. This Thai whisky was about the same. But to my amazement the men drank it straight and with a bit of tea or pop on the side. 

As evening approached I was asked if I wanted to join them in something they had planned and I did not know what. It turned out that we drove by motorbike (several trips required to get everyone) about 2-3 minutes outside of that housing area to a hilly area nearby.

See the lady dressed in hilltribe attire at the right of the top photo? Well, this is the same lady on a trip to Singapore.

We parked the motorbikes by the side of the road and walked up a wooded area about 3-4 minutes to an area that was prepared for some type of ceremony. It turned out that this was similar to a witchdoctor performing their magic.

Bamboo and other wood had been cut up and several small platforms created that could hold small offerings which surrounded one large platform which held fruits, bottled drinks, food and of course money. I did not see what happened to the offerings after the ceremony but my guess is that the 5 witchdoctor huckstes who performed this ritual healing by singing a song and setting off some firecrackers and then lighting some incense pocketed it all. These were the same chaps there were in the main house drinking before this ceremony which was to cure my girlfriend's ill mother.

If it was up to me I would not have fed them and given them money and then more booze after the ceremony with a full course meal but rather a swift kick in the ass to each of them as my token of appreciation for their healing powers. 

Well as I said more booze so when we returned we had a large meal, Thai whiskey was offered to the hucksters as well as large bottle of Chang beer which they consummed like regulars at a bar knowing how to open the bottle without bottle openers. At this point in time there were about 40 people in attendence. I do not know how many people are in this village but my guess is that all their friends from the village were in attendence. 

Why so many people?? Where they there to inquire about the health of the mother of the witch doctors treatment?? 

No, of course not. They were there to eat and get drunk. Calling a spade a spade. This the first time I saw the women drink and they drank the Chang beer and also the Thai whisky sometimes straight and sometimes mixed with what else but Orange pop or Cream Soda pop. 

Two women had a bit more to drink than they could handly and become a bit loud. The one lady only appeared to have two drinks and that was it for her. She passed out and had to be carried off. The women who aided and abetted the drinking that led to her friend passing out was not there when it came to helping her carry her friend back to her home. Two men carried off the lady (lady?) and they were not pleased with the task but amused by it. 

The large bottles of Chang beer were consumed almost as quickly as they were brought in and the case first opened. Bottles of Thai whisky were consumed like there was no to-morrow. One man fell alseep sitting in his chair out in front of the house and looking at the eyes of the other drinking buddies one could tell that the booze had caught up with them as their eyes were red and they had trouble pouring the new drinks into glasses without spilling some whisky outside of the glass container. And it appeared that most people were drinking the Thai whisky straight. 

I enjoy seeing people having a good time but I think that enough is enough and when people pass out, or drink to excess then to me it is no longer fun to watch or to be part of. Perhaps this was due to the fact that they did not drink often. I would soon find out. 

The party ended at 9 p.m. and I had one glass of beer 3 shots of Thai whiskey of which 2 were with coke and one straight to check the taste and strength of the whisky. 

The women from this household drank less than their guests and ended the night peacefully. Sleeping arrangements were the same as the day before. The only difference this time being is that rather than make 3 trips to the outhouse or toilet that this day it would be 4 trips. I think I spent more time in deciding when to go to the washroom and walking back and forth. During the morning rains started continued right through the day. These were moonsonal rains that were predicted a week ago and weather warnings issued. 

Rain or no rain it was time to return to Chiang Mai. I showered in the mornings. Showered is not really the proper term. What would call throwing cool water on your body from a small plastic container after you applied soap. I shaved and it was ok folks. 

My girlfriend washed my motorbike and here motorbike would be used by her brother who lived nearby who would take the mother to see the doctor in the nearest town in a day or two when the weather was appropriate. 

So we set off after thanking everyone and my girlfriend wore a rain suit and jeans and I wore a thin shirt and shorts. The rain was light and steady. For the return trip we took it a bit easier as we didn't want to take any chances. If the brakes failed we would be over a large cliff. The return trip which took us 30 minutes the day before took 40 minutes this time around and it did not take long until I soaked from pants to shirt. Driving the motorbike at an average speed of 60 km. an hour would allow my clothes to dry by the time we arrived back to Chiang Mai or close to Chiang Mai if the rains subsided. The rain continued and after an hour and a half from when we left the hill tribe village I was cold and soaked and looking forward to a hot shower and meal. 

Light traffic on the road back. I wore my helmet and visor which protected my eyes from bugs and the rain. We made it back to Chiang Mai two and one half hours after the time we departed. We stopped at a local market and purchased fruits, several meals which were placed in plastic bags with elastic at top and when we arrived back to our residence we took refreshing showers and then sat down to a nice meal. 

It was good to be back home. After several days of no computer, TV, hot water the items we all take for granted were appreciated that much more. 

Would I want to return?? 

I am someone who has been spoiled and someone who in the past would have complained and rushed back home when I was inconvenienced to the slightest degree but I have changed in the regards. I now look at these types of outings as interesting, informative and try to make the best of it. I eat what is offered, I watch the people work and play and I take in and observe how others live. 

The kids that I have seen raised in Canada are often spoiled rotten as I was and they do little to help with household chores. Where they help out they do so grudgingly. 

Here I saw first hand young children playing and not fighting, and helping their friends and parents when asked and willingly. 

So from the perspective of observing the hill tribe children I would say that they do not have TV, walkman's, toys and good clothes but they do have respect for their elders, that they are obedient and they are happy. 

The adults take what they have and make the best of it. Scraps of food and what we consider garbage is fed to the animals. If they did not have access to even the market 20 km. away from their community or the person driving by periodically with produce for sale they would still survive. The same however could not be said of people back in North America. 

You share here and you get along. You dress the same if you are a woman or child and you help each other to build better lives from what I witnessed. Looking forward to visiting them again in two weeks time and buying some items for them that will make their lives a bit easier for them. 

Living with a Hill tribe for 2 days - Part 1 of 2

A 2 part article written about a foreigner living in a Thai household. 

Foreigner Living in Thai Household - Part 1 of 2

Foreigner Living in Thai Household - Part 2 of 2

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