CHIANGRAI TIMES – Joel Barlow – My wife said it is, but she was just trying to get me interested. I didn’t find out what kind it is, besides “giant” (yak, yaksa – ยักษ์ ). But it’s big enough to be interesting, and in an interesting area with lots of tribal villages, terraced rice paddies, river views, hot springs, waterfalls, shrines and hill-top temples. Much of that is covered at www.chiangraiprovince.com/guide, recommended at guest houses, and so easy to find that quite a good number of tourists here do.
Big on the backpacker hit-list are Doi Klong Khai Rice-box Hill, Huay Mak Liam Hotsprings and the suspension motorcycle bridge, all in the area. Not so well-known is the huge tree. It’s even an easy bike ride out – only 14 km. from the Den Ha intersection where SanKhong Noi and RatchYotha cross. 7.2 km. from Don’s Café, with Western food from noon on. At a large picture of the King under a red corrugated roof, with two red pillars to the front, turn left: there are blue signs to the “Ton Ngoon” and Huai Kaeo Waterfall on botyh sides of the road just south of the Kok river (following along it from not far past Hang Dong). Start watching after the tree (with tree shrine) in the middle of the road, it’s about 1.5 km. past that, at Ban Huai Pu Patana.
The tree, I’m guessing, is at least 150 feet tall, 30 foot wide at the base, and when the trunk becomes round, it’s circumference might be 18 feet.
Although most trees here have some leaves in February, this one won’t until maybe May. But that means you can see the many huge bee hives attached to branches. The Ruesi hermit statue between trunk ridges is also pretty cool, especially as there’s a clay water-pot with wood nam-boui dipper by it, in old traditional fashion. Quite nearby is a Karen village (Mu 8) with lots of black pigs, a mountain stream and lots of hints as to what life around here used to be like before things got so accessible.
Southeast Asia has several folk beliefs about what a woman should do after giving birth; here’s one from Chiangrai’s hill people:
Sometimes after giving birth, a woman will become “pit duan” – thin and weak with yellow, itchy skin. To avoid this condition, a restricted diet is recommended: no beef, pork or regular chicken, only Kai Dam black chicken. Some kinds of fruit, vegetables and fish are OK, others not. Some chickens have all black meat and black bones, some have white bones and meat (like KFC or 5 Star), and there are gradations in between. Kai Dam is good, Kai Khao (white) OK, but yellow meat is regarded as distinctly bad. It makes new mothers weak, and to avoid that, many people are glad to pay extra (i.e. B150 as opposed to B120 per kilo) for the black meat on black bones, preferably from free-range chickens. That is thought best, for at least a month!
In fact, Gai Dam do have better protein, more amino acids, less fat and cholesterol, and other health benefits. Another chicken belief involves the Kai Khon Fu, fluffy, kinda scary-looking chicken. Raise that kind, and ghosts won’t bother you, won’t enter your house. Especially if someone has died there, this is seen as important. The fluffy feathers somehow close the door to the spirit’s return. Without the guardian chicken, the ghost might enter the body of some animal, and reek who knows what havoc…Joel Barlow