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Friday, September 28, 2007

Kafe with the Karen

One recent Sunday afternoon found us in the hills of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain, located south of Chiang Mai. There, we were taken to several Karen villages by our guide friend Chaiya, who is a Karen himself. I didn't realize that the Karen were the only hilltribe to grow wet rice in terraces, and we saw several beautiful examples.


They also grow organic Arabica coffee and that was part of our mission. This coffee doesn't make it to Chiang Mai, but is bought wholesale by buyers from Japan, Taiwan and Starbucks. After finding the local coffee cafe (below right) and finishing our picnic lunch with a few cups, we could see why. The beans were roasted by hand to a lovely, dark turn in a homemade roaster, shown here with some young assistants (below left).

























We also went in search of some weavers, hoping to see them in action, but Sunday is a workday and most of them were out in the fields. A few ladies were at home tho, and one showed us her weaving implements, including an ingenious thread winder that was made of branches and bamboo, and came apart for easy storage. Her backstrap loom was stored in a lovely, large basket. I was pleased to see the women still wearing traditional clothing, even with their colorful tunics reflecting the current Karen fashion statement of hot pinks and purples, rather than colors made from natural dyes. The men and boys occasionally still wear a traditional tunic (as in the style of the man roasting coffee), but more often are seen in Western dress.