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Unconventional Food Sources

By Alberto C. de la Paz

 ONE QUESTION THAT OFTEN comes to mind about Hilltribe villagers is how do they get by with so little? What do they eat? Where do they get their food? Most tour guides would say that hilltribe people like to eat their "pets". While it may be true sometimes they eat dog or cat meat, it is hardly their staple food.

This unfair description of hilltribe people is only meant to shock tourists perhaps because some guides know very little about hilltribe people. Unfortunately, this idea planted in their memory may have already been indelibly imprinted.

Hilltribe people are unbelievable resourceful people and they make full use of what they have around them. There is no commercial livestock industry, which they rely on. More often than not, the only time they are able to have fresh pork is when they slaughter a pig for a ceremony. Other times, they will have to rely on other sources of food.

I will concentrate on CICADA Hunting which I was fortunate enough to have observed and noticed that this is only one of the many activities Hilltribe people engage in to supplement their diet.

During the months of February to April, cicadas emerge from their pupae and begin their raucous stage of life. For many Hilltribe people, the adult cicada is a delicacy.

 As these little buggers fly around more often than sitting on a tree trunk, those searching for this delicacy will have to know how they are caught in order to get enough of cicadas to make a good meal. It takes a good eye and a quick hand to catch these hapless insects. The method of catching them I discovered was very easy. Children showed me that they tipped sticks with a gummy substance so that the cicadas get trapped when kids lance at them.

Other villagers have an even easier method of catching cicadas. By smearing tree trunks or bamboo poles with a sticky gum made of starch and honey, cicadas that are unfortunate enough to alight on them are trapped. One has only but pick up the insects and place into a bag or a bucket.

Each family collects one to three kilos of this delicious insect per day. High in protein, they make a very good meal. Some households sell their catch for a few hundred Baht. Not bad for a days work or play?

We can learn a lot from hilltribe people. We just have to show them a little bit more respect. Want to learn more. It's easy with a visit to the Hilltribe Museum & Handicrafts outlet at 620/25 Thanalai Road, Chiang Rai. Tel. 053 719167.

Arrange a visit to hilltribe village with several tour agencies in Chiang Rai such as: PDA Tour, Golden Triangle Tours or with DAPA Tour listed in the Useful Chiang Rai Directory in our printed magazine.

Photos by: Alberto C. de la Paz, March 2002. Location: Ban Pong Pa Kaem, Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai. Tribal group:Yao (Mien)

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