Machetes and mittens on market day

 This morning we said goodbye to Ban Tham Lod with two favourites; another breathtaking sunrise and a Shan red curry for breakfast. We’ve finally succumbed to the local habit of eating ‘supper food’ for breakfast, which is both delicious and cheaper, since local rice and spicy vegetables is usually half the price of Farang (white foreigners) dishes like toast or cereal. 

Listening to the gibbons this morning whilst watching the sunrise, we were able to pick out more dimensions of the song. The eerie haunting sound, rising and falling starts by the dominant male and can be heard for miles across the mountains through the dawn mists. By calling, the gibbon groups can find out which other groups are in the forest. The females reply, mothers and daughters singing together so that other groups can tell how many females are in each group. It was very moving to hear this very primeval song of connection which has presumably been happening each sunrise since before recorded time. 

We also found out more about the curry, since the lady who owns the roadside eatery showed Clare how to make it last night. Next challenge is to follow the instructions successfully! 

We were taken by motorbike taxi to Soppong, where we waited at the market for the bus back to Chiang Mai. It was the regular market for hill tribe villagers to come down to Soppong and sell their produce (vegetables, fruit, herbs and dried fish) and to buy household essentials ranging from machetes for hacking bamboo, to torches, shiny Chinese made watches and themal gloves and hats. Clare enjoyed trying to match the brightly coloured costumes to the particular tribe and village ( black Lahu, Karen, red Hmong). The rules seemed to be that the women from each tribe each wore the same pattern of dress ( eg black underskirt, green overdress, red embroidered tabard) but with freedom to choose fabric ranging from bri-nylon ( wouldn’t you want something easy to wash if you had no washing machine) to jazzy sequins ( clearly the women to watch) to more hard worn cottons. 

Arriving in Chiang Mai, we were delighted to discover that our favorite guesthouse, Top Garden, have an unexpectedly available room free for Noel’s birthday on 22nd December. In the meantime, we have a more basic but quiet room beside a Wat at La Maison Vert. 

We are now sitting in the garden of Phak Hao Wat. Six young monks are decorating the garden with potted poinsettias, orchids and button flowers ( ‘ready for Christmas’ says the older monk who is supervising them). With the sound of Om mane pad me hum in the background, it seems a delightful, though quirky mixture of Tibetan and Thai Buddhism. 

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