Posted by: James Shannon | January 26, 2011

The Life Of Pai Episode VI: A Lessu Christmas Carol

Finally, finally, finally, we have reached the concluding chapter of the Life of Pai series … and what a way to end it off with a Christmas unlikely to be rivaled anytime soon in my life.  In the days leading up to the big day, we received an invitation to attend a big party on Christmas Eve night in a Lessu hilltribe village in the mountains above Sappong, Thailand.  Given that it was potentially an once in a lifetime opportunity, it was one that was impossible to resist!

Zoom zoom … I get ready to hit the road aboard my mean hog … outtamyway everybody!

It gets cold enough in Pai at night (6c Boxing Day morning!), so the mountainsides were guaranteed to be frigid … aside from my hoodie, The Ratty Ol’ Quilt was going to keep me nice and toasty, while making a nice gift to the host family putting us up that night the next morning!

Unlike the previous trip from Pai to Mae Hong Son, I was not trapped in a bus this time, so I could get off my bike at places like this and capture sweet shots like the one above …

… and this one as well!  That squiggly line wending its way down the mountainside is the road that I was following to Sappong, and then after, the hilltribe village of Nambosape.

On a lighter note … yes, Thais have cheesy, tacky tourist stuff here too 😛


The original plan was go check out some caves near Sappong, which are regarded as one of the more popular tourist attractions in the Pai region, due to underground rivers that you have to traverse with a boat, and the birds that fly in at night, as bats swoop out of their daytime lair.  Unfortunately, it seems that the operators have gotten quite greedy over the last few years, as admission rates had more than tripled since Katie checked out the caves for the first time.


After much deliberation, we opted to skip the caves and head directly for the village…

… the problem was, we weren’t 100% sure where the village was!  Not many people in these speak/understand English, or even Thai, so we were running out of time (as the sun begins to set in the above photo, sick view!)  Just as we were about to give up and go home, we happened upon the pastor of the Christian mission at Nambosape driving up the road as we were on our way out.  He arranged for us to ride with members of his family in the back of a pickup truck.  It was a bumpy ride, but we made it in, just as the last of the dusk light was slipping away!


As we got in, we heard the sound of music, so we hurried up to the central concert stage, where we heard what we were told were Christmas hymns … but in the Lessu hilltribe’s own language, and in a different tune!  Check it out below … WARNING: TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKERS TO LIKE 2/10 … YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

As the party went on through the night, I nonetheless got tired, retiring to our host family’s house before anyone else in our party.  I must say, the first eye-opening experience I’ve had on this trip was upon the rock hard floor that each and every Lessu sleeps on every night of their lives.  How they do it while getting the shuteye they require is beyond me, and as a result, I’ll never take for granted the creature comforts we have back home in North America again.

The payoff of the restless sleep I had was earned at sunrise however, as I went outside only to be greeted by this Christmas morning sight…

Chimney smoke gives the hanging valley in which Nambosape sits a magical aura on Christmas morning … that reddish bush you see in the foreground?  Those are poinsettias … they grow in the wild here.  Pretty cool huh?

A better shot at the popular Christmas flower in its natural environment.  We have lilac bushes and azaleas, they have orchids and poinsettias … same same, but different!

The Lessu are self-sufficient farmers, selling their excess produce at market for a little extra money.  These corn aren’t meant for human consumption, they are dried out …

… and fed to these guys.  I know what you’re thinking, not to worry, our host family keeps him as a pet!  Not sure about the others though …


And with that, the Life of Pai series is concluded.  Phew!  Next photo post will profile my New Year’s celebrations in Chiang Mai and then in short order, you’ll get your first glimpses of my trip outside of Thailand … first up on the ledger after Chiang Mai … Singapore, home of the $300 spitting fine!



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