I have always been interested in various cultures especially those completely
alien to us. Thus, imagine my delight when my father told me that he was taking
us on a holiday to Bangkok and from there to visit a remote tribe that lives
about 200 kilometers north of the capital city. My father explained the tribe
lives a secluded life and the members are cut off from the rest of the world in
terms of their unique (some would call it weird, he said) cultural practices.
The Thai people are very friendly and their greetings are very similar to the
Indians. They bring their palms together in a prayer-like position and bend
their bodies a little as a way of welcoming and acknowledging you. I was rather
overwhelmed by that and took to doing that during my entire trip there. we spent
only two days in Bangkok before heading towards the remote village which was
going to be the most exciting time of our lives, dad promised. we hired a cab to
take us there in a journey that lasted more than four hours. It was an
exhausting trip but well worth the trouble.
The tribe called Sam Ponh are very friendly and bold despite the fact they
are still very traditional and conservative in their outlook. The ladies wear
coils around their neck as a symbol of beauty. I was rather startled when I saw
them in the marketplace selling vegetables, fruits and handicrafts. Their necks
are elongated and according to one of the women I spoke to, the coil is worn
around their necks at a tender age of two or three. The coils, made of steel,
are removed when the ladies retired to bed. When asked whether they feel
comfortable without them, the older among them smiled and said she did feel kind
of naked without the coils!
The younger generation women of this tribe do not appear to appreciate this
fashion and many have refused to wear them. the tradition in terms of dress code
appears to be dying out though still alive among the older ones. One of the
elderly women told us that in matter of decades, there would not be a single
woman wearing the coils. Just like many other ancient customs, the process and
invasion of westernization is slowly eroding these values, my father said.
We bought lost of handicraft and also dined in one of the restaurants there
which looked more like a stall! The food was delicious and I noticed people of
this tribe eat a lot of raw food. they did look healthy and fit. The Sam Ponh
people still use many items that we consider ancient and outmoded like the
spinning wheel to make textile.
I truly appreciated their lifestyle and the fact they appear very contented
with simplicity. They are not in the least materialistic, my dad said. However,
it was my belief that sooner or later, the tribe would be forced to modernize
and they would lose many of their age old customs.
We left the village the next morning and took a flight back to hometown from
Bangkok. It had been a refreshing and splendid cultural experience for me.