We recently had the amazing opportunity to spend the night in a Karen hill tribe village. We had initially went along for the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary because of their kind treatment to the elephants but decided on an overnight stay in order to understand the people and their experiences.
The life of the Karen hill tribe where we stayed is a dichotomy. On the one end there is the preservation of traditional methods of cooking, living, farming and weaving, but this is almost a necessity as they do not have the ability, financially or otherwise, to advance their state and so, on the other end, you have the seemingly burning desire to make more money in order to afford better things and move themselves into the modern world. It was told to us that sometimes some of the families can’t even afford an extra blanket for the cold winter nights, let alone fund the necessary technology to bring electricity to the small village. There are a few solar panels that were provided by the Thai government almost a decade ago, but some do not work and most are used to simply power a few lights here and there.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is one way they have been able to make more of a living, selling their services by way of elephant caretaker (mahout), tour guides and hosts and by selling their handmade goods to the tourists that visit. With this, the village is able to increase their wealth, little by little. Many of their handmade goods are made by weaving which is still an important part of their culture and traditions and the traditional method of using a strap loom to weave was shown to us by an elder hill tribe member.