Clambering into a long boat on the banks of the river Pai,
I am anticipating what we will find in the Kayan Village on the other side.
The team from the Cross-Cultural Co-Creation Association
is taking an initial trip to visit
Huay Pu Keng village, near Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand.
The beautiful river is flowing, the hills and jungle are dense around us, and
the villagers are awaiting our arrival.
The villagers are in fact Burmese refugees who fled the persecution of minority groups in Burma. Instead of living in refugee camps, as many people do, the Thai government decided to create several tourism villages, to make money from the unusual 'long necks' of the refugee women. Many families are here, unable to leave as they are still refugees, making a small living from tourism.
Inform yourself about the complex situation in Huay Pu Keng: please explore this website.
Cara, the mastermind behind Ways Of Change, was instrumental in connecting us with Huay Pu keng, as she has worked with the village for the last 6 years. She witnessed the disconnected dynamics of the tourism here, but believed that the villagers themselves should feel comfortable to come and ask for her help before she herself can suggest any changes. She was thrilled when the village chief finally asked her for help to improve the tourism, as for the changes to work, all parties must be on board 100%. Cara loves the phrase 'mutual empowerment'!