Living with Lisu Hilltribe

From link::AsiaAdventure

While in Pai I was in close proximity to many of the colorfully attired hilltribe villages living in the area. I had noticed flyers advertising homestay opportunity with one of the Lisu hilltribes with the chance to learn a little bit about their culture and lifestyle. They also had a very nice website describing their village while explaining and describing the various classes offered in the village. Several of the classes offered which interested me included learning Lisu style massage as well as the chance to meet with their village shaman/medicine man and learn a little bit about their healing work and spirituality, primarily a combination of animism and Buddhism. Other classes including learning about Lisu arts and crafts, jewelry making, meditation, detox, etc.

While it is strange enough that a seemingly primitive hilltribe village would be technological savvy enough to have their own website, it turned out to be the creation of an American expat living in the village, married to one of the Lisu women. Albert, in his 60's, has been living in Thailand for 5 yrs and in the village for several yrs. He is married to Susanan, a Lisu woman in her 40's. Together they take care of the majority of the services provided by the homestay experience. Albert takes care of the meditation, detox, jewelry making classes, etc, while Susanan the primary person instructing about Lisu arts and crafts, Lisu massage, hikes into the hills and forest to identify medicinal plants and herbs, etc.

The drive from Pai to the village of Nong Tong, near Soppong, was an extremely picturesque and windy route over a mountain pass and down into the next valley to the village of Soppong. I drove the route to Soppong and the village the day before I joined the homestay on a motorbike. Took a little over 1 hr each way and was comparable to driving Independence Pass in Colorado. The scenery was beautiful driving through the the mountains on steep narrow roads, seeing the ricefields, workers in the fields, cattle on the roads, and everything else common to the area. The next day I took a bus back to the town to start the homestay for 3 days. Wasn't sure exactly what to expect but seemed like an interesting way to experience authentic Thai life while getting away from the masses. Also hoped to learn something new and exotic while studying Lisu massage.

I was able to practice Lisu massage the day after I arrived with Susanan. It was described on the website as a meridian and energy balancing technique with acupressure. While it was a nice massage, I didn't find anything exotic or particularly different about it than I had learned in the past. It was in some ways quite similar to shiatsu which I had learned in the past. However, there didn't seem to be a focused emphasis on balancing out energy and meridians in the body. Susanan's English speaking was ok, but not good enough to be able to communicate about balancing energy and sensing nuances in people's bodies. To me it seemed quite similar to a clothed shiatsu massage that followed a routine on the body with possible focus on real tight or troubled areas of the body, of which I didn't really have any. It employed a few Thai style stretches but otherwise didn't take much from Thai massage.

I was able to receive several times from Susanan and another woman in the village, possibly a relative of hers although she didn't speak any English. Then I went through the routine myself. I had been planning on perhaps working with them for several days on learning Lisu style massage, however after experiencing the work I really didn't find it that necessary. In looking back, I believe I thought that in learning with the village women living in a tribe that they may possess some kind of secret insight or wisdom of the body which I hadn't learned or experienced yet. Perhaps their relative isolation from the modern world would have enabled them to hold onto some ancient knowledge lost from most modern people. However I didn't find this to be so. I thought the website really hyped up the massage, as well as many other aspects of the homestay, as though it would be sometime totally unique and different. This I didn't find to be so although I did enjoy the experience and enjoy taking chances in learning something new.

Another feature advertised on the website is meeting with the village shaman or medicine man and experience Lisu spirituality and healing. In talking with Albert he mentioned that I may be disappointed with the experience. Apparently the shaman speaks no English and translation from other Lisu folk possessing beginner knowledge of English wouldn't help too much. I decided to skip out on this offering of the homestay. It would have been cool if there had been a ceremonial healing or other event involving the shaman that I could have watched and experienced. However during my 3 days there nothing of that nature occurred.

From link::AsiaAdventure

Other links::
Pai, Thailand
Pai (but no pie in sight!)

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I found the brochure to be most alluring, only to find, many of its offers nonexistant. I dont need someone to escort me to ride elephants in Chiang Mai, for example, and lomi lomi, well its a wonderful massage technique, but didnt seem to exist except on paper.