Ban Huay Tone to Ban Huay Me
We were woken this morning by the sounds of pigs, chickens and dogs, and the (now recognisable) gentle thuds of the rice pounders in operation. The village was a hub of activity by 7am. Mia and I sampled the delights of primitive showering (a cold water tap over a very unstable wooden platform on the side of a hill) before settling down to the huge feast of a breakfast that Kai and Tao had prepared for us.
Today’s trek was much more strenuous (a lot of uphill scrambling and downhill sliding, it’s a good job we had bamboo sticks to steady our climbs and descents!) but we reached our destination, the Htin village of Huay Me, before 3pm. Whilst climbing the hill up to the top of the village, we encountered one of the male villagers who was already drunk on rice whisky! We subsequently stopped off at one of the village houses where a woman was making the rice whisky. Her husband was crushing balls of yeast (with the blunt end of a macheti), which would then be mixed with the sticky rice and the mixture placed in a bucket with water and left to ferment. We sampled a little of some that had been brewing for approximately 20 days. It tasted like sweet white wine but without the vinegary aftertaste. The couple kindly gave us a bottle to take with us to consume later on this evening.
We were staying at the village school again but this time we were able to obtain keys to the appropriate rooms. The school was situated right at the top of the village, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains from the school grounds. A few of the children were brave enough to play on the swings in our presence, but unfortunately their bravery was transient and they jumped off the swings like frightened rabbits almost as soon as they had summoned the courage to get on them!
A visit to the village shop (a room in one of the village houses which supplies basics like rice and eggs as well as a few sweet snack foods such as sticky rice biscuits and banana chips) followed, after which Tao and Kai began the preparations for this evening’s meal. The feat turned into a comedy sketch when Tao mixed whisky into our coconut milk and Taro dessert, instead of water (we’d poured the remaining Thai Lao from last night into an empty water bottle in order to transport it, and he’d obviously got this mixed up withe the actual bottle of water!) The three of us were in stitches for several minutes and even after the liquid had been replaced with the non-alcoholic alternative, the mixture still tasted vaguely of whisky due to the fact that the Taro had already absorbed some of the flavour!
We ate tonights meal in a small open sided room overlooking the mountains : morning glory fried with garlic and chillies, green curry, and a type of Thai cucumber with egg and thai herbs. The chief of the village joined us after the meal, as did the lady we saw making the rice whisky earlier, with her husband, child (who was held in a kind of large sling around the lady’s shoulder) and mother. Her mother had visited us earlier on her own and was confiding in Tao about the fact that she did not have enough rice to feed her family. She was such a delicate little lady with a beautiful and interesting face. Full of kindness, she invited us to sleep in her home (as the school would be cold with the lack of outside walls to keep the wind out) but we declined as politely as we could, not wanting to put her under any further strain.
Ok, so our sleeping arrangements were not what you would describe as comfortable but that’s part of the adventure of trekking. The three of us (Mia, Kai and myself) slept on a wicker mat in the room where we’d eaten, using our bags as pillows and with a couple of blankets each to keep us warm. Poor Tao slept on a wooden table in the classroom, because he was worried about snoring and keeping the rest of us awake. Bless!
Photo is Tao and Kai trekking through the beautiful mountainous Nan scenery.