In the north of Thailand, a number of tribal groups live. In the "old days," they used to grow opium poppies. The sale of an opium crop provided one family with enough rice for 3 years. The King's mother (mother of King Rama IX) who died a few years ago, however, started a program to help the people substitute rice for poppies.

The rice, which you see in the top picture, is not grown in wet fields. It is "dry" rice. It therefore takes 3 times the usual amount of water to cook it.

The woman you see belongs to the AKHA tribe. These people are called "primitive" by the other Thai. I am not certain why they are called that. They were gypsies, in the past. Now they have settled down into villages that, by the way, have TV sets, electricity & motor bikes.. They continue to wear their traditional garb, chew beetle nut (a slightly narcotic nut that stains the teeth red), & allow tourists to take their pictures for 10 baht (ca. 20 cents American). When groups of tourists come to the village, up in the hills, the children swarm around begging for candy in a very aggressive manner. They remind me of the beggar children in Cairo in that they don't stop. I wonder if the government provides them with dental care?

The men and women live separately under the same roof. The women have their own entrances at the back of the house. There was a school house that looked fairly new. The village streets (hard packed dirt) were littered with candy wrappers (wonder why?)  Chickens and dogs ran free; pigs were penned up.

The sign on the bridge above was upside down but said, "Welcome" in English.

I felt that these Akha people were very much like the "tame" Maya one sees in the Yucatan Penninsula.

Page 5