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Local Village Life

Despite all the razzamatazz, high-rise buildings, congestion and clamor of Chiangmai or Bangkok, if you ask most Thais where they are from they will refer to their hometown as a "village". The village may be relatively near or miles away in the rural countryside. It is to these villages that the majority of Thais trace their roots; villages where family members still live, where everyone knows everyone else, where employment and income stems from the land and where Thai traditions are cherished and observed as a part of daily life. Villages are the essence -- the "essential oil" -- of being Thai. Of course, many people have to leave their home village -- in pursuit of higher education or employment -- but invariably they regularly return to visit relatives or, frequently, to live there again.

Such a village is Naambor Luang, about 45 minutes drive south of Chiangmai, which nestles within a sharp curve of the main Irrigation Canal. Historically, the area is rice-farming because it is flat, has good soil and good water. The name "Naambor Luang" means "Big Well of Ground Water" and it's within the compound of Wat Naambor Luang that the well still exists. A walk along the main street, and small, branching sois, will show Thai village life past and present. Old, teak-built houses raised on stilts are still there but there is also an infusion of brick and concrete dwellings as the old gives way to the new. Some timber-built houses are relatively "new" as they have been faithfully restored, or constructed, in traditional Thai style. Each and every house is surrounded by greenery and has a good measure of chickens, cats and dogs. Such is country life!

The temple of Wat Naambor Luang is the focal point of the village; there is also both primary and high schools for the village children before they move through to Chiangmai for higher education. A daily morning market (for which sellers prepare goods from 2.00 a.m.) sees great activity as buyers arrive early to inspect and buy vegetables and fresh meats. Otherwise, the pace of life is slow and timeless - especially in the afternoon when the village seems deserted as residents relax in the shade or take a little nap.

One sprightly resident is 76 years old "Grandpapa Tip". He lives, with his daughter Nok and her family, in a one-storey brick and concrete house set in a good-sized section of land. This is not Tip's original house which he had to give up when the irrigation canal was built - but that was some time ago. The land to the rear of the house has some fine papaya trees and there is a grove of lumyai trees which provide a welcome cash-crop when the fruit come into season. The family live modestly with Nok and her husband, Nit, going to work early to trade in the morning market and Nit also works for the Irrigation Canal Authority. Some neighbors are similarly employed while others continue the age-old ritual of rice-planting, growing and harvesting.

The Buddhist faith, and Wat Namborluang, is the main pillar of village life; Nok attends regularly at temple ceremonies and Grandpapa Tip chuckles when he recalls his time as a boy-novice monk. He learned to read and write the old Pali language of Buddhist Scriptures -- and he still can! However, his teenage years were soured by the arrival of the Japanese Army and, for a time, he was obliged to "work" for them. It was considered unwise not to! Grandpapa Tip is now happily retired 'though he still likes to keep his hand in by preparing herbal medicines and lotions for old-time friends and neighbors.

So village life in Thailand continues to revolve slowly with activities determined by the lunar calendar, seasons, rainfall and Buddhist ceremonionials. But it is changing slowly - with electricity and television in most homes -- and there is no sense denying these changes. Not to change is to stagnate and Thai village life is certainly not doing that. It is alive and well and as interesting as ever should you happen to stop by. Maybe you can persuade a Thai friend to let you see a glimpse of the "Real Thailand" -- Village Thailand!

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