High into the hills, just an hour’s drive from the Burmese border, is a village called Ban Hoi Sai. It is populated by a hill tribe, the ancestors of which were originally displaced from Tibet over a century ago. Initially they were nomadic, cutting down areas of jungle to create settlements where they made a living by growing opium and marijuana. A few decades ago, the King of Thailand decided to take a more sympathetic approach to them. In return for assurances that they would no longer destroy rainforest or grow illicit plants, they were given Thai citizenship and land, which they were taught to farm. They are now able to survive by growing rice, vegetables, flowers and the like but they remain poor and, therefore, they rely upon outside help to improve their lot. Today we have laboured hard to complete the construction of large concrete water butts for the village nursery school. This will allow them to collect vast quantities of rain water rather than transporting water in from elsewhere.
The sections of concrete were waiting to be lifted into four stacks of five, very heavy work with which the students battled admirably. The rest of the day was spent mixing cement manually and securing the section joins so that they were watertight. Whilst we were fortunate that we escaped blazing sun and high temperatures, they skies finally announced that this is very much rainy season and we worked with the added complication of torrential rain all day long. The result was four containers which will collect many hundreds of litres of a very valuable resource for decades to come.
We are spending tonight at a mountain camp, housed in two impressive wooden huts on stilts. The comfort of the showers and mattresses are a welcome end to a hard day. Nothing could spoil the relaxed evening, not even the appearance of a large scorpion or the gecko which jumped from the roof onto Miss Mayhew’s head.
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