Chiang Mai – Thailand – 3

In a park along the old city’s moat in Chiang Mai, we bought a bag of fish pellets and fed the fish in a pond. I recorded the clip below with my Jez Riley French hydrophone. You can hear the pellets sprinkle on the surface, the feeding frenzy shloshing and the appetizing crunch-crunch as they chew!

On the Trek

We went to the hills north of Chiang Mai for three days. It is a much more rural area where the indigenous ‘hill tribe’ peoples are from. Their culture is very different from he larger urban centers, and seems to follow a pattern common to indigenous peoples all over the world. Within the last 100 years they have shifted from animistic beliefs to Christianity thanks to the influence of missionaries. access to government-run education is increasing but still difficult and it is rare for youth to go past elementary due to distance from the school, cost of the uniform and transportation, and the need to help the family in the fields. Also, women still marry in their mid to late teens. The sale of crops or souvenirs is now their main economy.

Here is the sound of the Lahu Outpost at sunrise: dogs, chickens, pigs, and the village waking up.

We stayed in the Li-Su village and trekked for one night into the territory of the Mong, Lahu and Akha villages. They spoke different dialects than ‘official’ Thai and lived on the steep sides of the hills in bamboo houses on stilts. The hills are not an easy climb, especially during the day when it was definitely above 35 Celsius with some impressive humidity and not a cloud in the sky. Steep uphills and downhills on small dirt roads became single-file paths through the jungle under bamboo, high grasses and thick brush. The path would open suddenly onto a cultivated patch of banana trees, coffee plants or corn. We passed small villages with 6 families, 25 families, empty bamboo houses alone in the forest. We stopped to rest several times and bought more water and colorful souvenirs made by the local women.

We spent the night at Lahu Outpost, a lodge with 10 rooms in Lahu village. The image above is the view from the bathroom throne. There was no electricity, but they had solar cells for water heating and pumping. Gas lamps or candles were used for light, and the night sky was full of more stars than I’ve seen in a long time. The air is not clear, however; pollution from Bangkok and Chiang Mai drifts up from the south, all the villages use fires for cooking and burning garbage, and at this time of year they slash-and-burn the forest to prepare for the next crop. Haze and humidity make the view dulled, but still amazing.

At Lahu village, other lodges hosted enthusiastic young tourists who added to the beautiful night sounds of the insects, frogs, geckos and birds by singing out of tune versions of American pop songs at a volume rivaling the cicadas. In a place as far from motors and 60 volt hum as I’ve been in a long time, this sound was noise to my ears. Here it is below- see how long it takes your ears to move away from the voices and hear the other sounds.