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Sak Saen Mo with mouth organ

With the Lisu in Northern Thailand

Times are changing

FEB 2019

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Amphoe Mae Ai, Northern Thailand

1982:  In the North of Thailand, near to the border of Burma

Yes, the name "Myanmar" in nowadays, at that time it was called Burma

In February of 1982 in Chiang Mai. I wanted to take part in a hill-tribe-tour, a group tour, but an ethnologist recommended to me:
"  → Take the bus to Fang,  change to Tha Ton. There you must look for a pick-up, which will transport you in Eastern direction".
At a certain point I should leave the car, walk uphill till I see some bamboo huts, called Lisu Ban Lao Tha, and ask for Sak S., he certainly will welcome me as a guest.

There was only a forest track from Tha ton to the East. Those, who wanted to travel from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai had to take the boat upon the river called Nam Mae Kok. Furthermore, in those days, Thai people avoided staying in this area because it was not really a safe region.

I could not guess, that this visit to strange people would result in a strong friendship.

bamboo hut of the family Saen Mo

1982:  In the bamboo hut

In the left hut the whole family and I slept  → upon one large lounger.  The right-hand hut was the kitchen.
"Now I am among Lisu people. At the moment I am alone, I use the only small oil lamp, which is in the house [...] the floor is stamped, the walls are woven with bamboo. I washed myself in the dark behind a fence, which was behind the kitchen.  → In the kitchen  there is an open fire. The smoke streams through the gables."
Water came down from the mountains in an open bamboo pipe.

Yes, they had pocket torches. But they used them seldom, because of the price of the batteries.

Sak S. passed away many years ago. Since then his brother Abepha has already a real house with his family. Electric energy, Internet, good roads, garbage collection..., they have a modern life.     DON'T FORGET TO CLICK THE IMAGE!

Around 1990 the government built the road between Tha Ton and Mae Chan. It was necessary not only for the connection between Tha Ton and Chiang Rai, but also for the security of the border and... to control the drug traffic.

1985: no car can cross in the rainy season

1985: rainy season, no car
can cross the rapid water

road building in 1990
road building in 1990

1990: the road from Tha Ton to Mae Chan would be built in a very short time

the new road in 1993

  1993: full speed ahead !

the area near the hot springs

1985:  Here are hot springs

I will never forget this hike with Assi, a young Lisu, 1985 in the rainy season from Ban Lao Tha to another Lisu settlement. We just passed the hot springs and now were walking along the track in Eastern direction. In front of us, there were some cows.

Unbelievable, how this area now appears!


totally tired out

1985:  Totally knocked out

On the way back, totally tired out, knocked out. Even my sandals were broken.

In 2018, I stand at the same place and take a photo of the market on the road from Tha Ton to Mae Chan!


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