It’s been a while since our last visit to Na Sai Village, a Thai hill tribe village predominantly made up of the Karen tribe, the same Karen hill tribe village that at one time busily crafted each individual silver jewelry components we’ve all come to know as “Hill Tribe Silver”. Our visit today is not about silver but more about what’s coming up in a couple of weeks– harvest time for the Logan ลำไย plantation การเก็บเกี่ยวลำไย.
This is suppose to be the mother-load harvest of the last decade for some families, including a large Karen family we’ve known for many years. Everyone’s excited, including us! That’s awkward considering we’re now receiving more orders to manufacture silver beads than we have in the previous 6 months. In actual reality, we should be very excited to get back to hammering and string out silver beads and jewelry but this year is much different. Our Karen families have been waiting for this year for a very long time. Like any other plantations, the biggest harvest season doesn’t come every year and even if it did, the price for the fruit doesn’t always make it profitable. This year is different. Not only did the Longan tree yield more fruit, the price is also at the highest per Kilogram than any previous year. The Eakarak, Karen family is expecting to realize profit of nearly 1 Million Baht for this year’s Longan Harvest season. Manufacturing silver beads will have to put on the side burner for a couple of weeks… we can understand why and certainly hope our customers will too.
Our Karen artisans are the hardest working people we know. Often it seems that’s about all they are focused on– work. family. future. profit. survival. Don’t get us wrong; just as in any society, there are always some rotten or over ripe people that bring a bad name to their people. There is still much needed education in the village as euphoria of ignorance still remain, pushing many adolescents to drugs and prostitution. Fortunately this is rare enough that it doesn’t concern us any more. None the less, the world seems to rotate differently in Na Sai Village and we’re only an hour away from the big city of Lamphun.
“Out here time move slower, thunder is louder, stars are brighter, skies are clearer and 1 Baht can actually buy something,” Mr. Sak reminded us. On this particular day, we are envious of such wonderful atmosphere. Then we asked, how long will it take to harvest the Longan– “about 1 month,” he continued. “It takes a group of 4 all day to harvest all the fruit from 1 Longan tree,” he adds, “it may take us longer than a month this year considering the volume…” Counting only what our Karen families have in total, there are 880 Longan tree ready for harvesting. WOW. There looking for help so we may just be headed back up here with our own team to help our friends. Anybody interested– they’ll pay a labor fee of 3 baht per Kilogram! Maybe more if you’re a foreigner. LOL.
That said, we have to strategize our inventory and manufacturing procedure. Being that this too is our peak months of the year, we have to carefully plan how our artisans can benefit from both worlds– their Longan and also their skillful hands as silversmiths. Going head on and hammering out each order as normal is out of the question. Good thing the Karens produced more women than they do men. As it so happens, the Karen hill tribe women are just as useful, often more resourceful than their men. No offense but this part is true at least for the village of Na Sai, Prabhathuaythom, Lamphun, Thailand. So in conclusion, from the next 45 days, we will be relying on the Karen women of Na Sai to produce our silver– for the most part. We look forward to seeing the results and instead of thinking of this as a setbacks, we will look at this as an opportunity to see the difference in outcome of quality as well as reliability. We’ve work with these Karen families from Na Sai for many years– they are part of our extended family. That is we eat, play, giggle, laugh and cry together when the time come. Today we’re excited and when the Longan season is done and every fruit is cashed in, we will be joyfully laughing, celebrating and looking forward to a brighter future than before.
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Northern Thailand is home to interesting and colourful ethnic minorities, known as the hill tribes. These add an important element to tourism here and you may visit, or go trekking to, numerous villages where they are happy to receive you. Since most are rural and poor, any economically-uplifting opportunities are welcomed.
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