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The moment I stepped foot at Min Nan Thu Village, I was greeted by Thynn, an English speaking 18-year-old girl who took me around the houses and shared some interesting facts about their community. She thought I was a local and instantly speak to me in their language. Of course I didn’t get to understand a single word she’s saying but her excitement and her welcoming aura uplift my eagerness to get a feel of their way of life.
I asked Thynn if she goes to school since her English is pretty good, she said no. Apparently, she had to stop after graduating from secondary school to work and help her family. She now supports her family by guiding tourists around the village. She gets very little though, nonetheless, she has a very positive outlook in life, which is admirable.
We walked through the village, children greeted us and friendly faces welcomed us. The community contains less than 50 houses and got their electricity only 7 months ago! The ladies still collect water, by hand, from the nearby reservoir every day. Time hasn’t exactly stood still as there is evidence of satellite dishes, televisions, mobile phones and solar panels but why not? The skills that they have for farming and manufacturing are still basic and labor intensive.
Our first stop was to a small bamboo house. We went inside and was entertained by the family living there. They show us around the house and Thynn put thanaka (natural sunscreen) on my face. After which they show us their sand paintings hanging on the wall outside of their house. They earn by selling these paintings to the tourists. When I was asked if I wanted to buy any of their paintings, I said no. I didn’t feel any pressure to buy anything or to give money. They were not pushy about it either, unlike the other touristy spots around Asia were the vendor would try every possible scam to get you to spend money on something.
Moving on, we went to another house a few houses away from where we were. Two elderly sisters, one was 88 and the other 90 invited us in. They offered us peanuts and tea while we watched them spin and weave, generally just getting on with ‘life’. It was also interesting to see them make a traditional huge cigar, which are known as ‘Cheroot’. They often hold a bowl under the end of the cigar whilst smoking which you can see in the photo. Cheroot cigars are made with some tobacco leaves but they also have lots of other ingredients too which can vary, but would often include bark and tamarind. They are not rolled with paper, but with leaves, so they are usually green.
After a few minutes, three local ladies joined us. They seemed genuinely interested in actually having a conversation. Talking with foreign tourists, was a way for them to practice their English and learn about different cultures of the “outside world.” Which I enjoyed more than they do.
On our way out, I saw some local boys playing “Sepak takraw” (same as in the Philippines) or ‘caneball’ which is played over a net with a ball made of cane, but instead of hitting the ball over with your hands you use your feet. It is also sometimes known as kick-volleyball.
Overall, it was really a moving experience to see how simply these people live. They are considerably poor and yet how happy they appear to be. I hate to think about how this experience will change as the tourist numbers swell, changing the experience from carefully and cleverly “serendipitous”, to outright capitalization.