Unirea got stuck for the first time on Khao Luang. The mountain roads were so steep and narrow that we stopped on a slope; could not climb, nor descent it. Luckily two villagers were passing by on enduro motorcycles, and they helped us move forward. What can I say, life is challenging.
Difficult and beautiful. Beautiful and colorful. Villagers from Kiri Wong have plenty of skills. And they like to be independent. They live on the “self-sufficiency economy” principles promoted by His Majesty the King of Thailand. That means they produce locally everything they need: from chili to chicken. After the floods had destroyed the village two years ago, they did not wait for the NGOs or the government to come and help. They re-built everything by themselves.
Having such an independent spirit, I was not surprised to hear that people at the foot of the mountain manufacture and paint their own clothes using a traditional 100% natural method.
How do they do that? First they buy the cotton cloth. Then they finely chop various pieces of bark, plants or fruits, each holder of another pigment. They get yellow from Khanun (jackfruit), brown from the Ku Kuang bark (“deer ears”, a shrub growing in the area), dark brown from Poo Long (none seems to know the English name) and the excellent orange you see below comes from the mangosteen.
They boil the chops until the water gets the right color. They take the fabric and simmer it in this water, but not before folding it with bamboo pegs, so the final result comes out with a floral print. After an hour and a half, they take the fabric out of the water, let it dry in the generous tropical sun and then turn it into shirts, pants, skirts, blouses, bags and hats.
You can buy any of these at the store in the center of the village. I paid 400 baht (aprox. 10 EUR) for a pair of pants and a cute little bag. My feeling is it will take some time before the colors on these two items fade.