Before coming to Thailand, I made a bucket list of what I want to do during my program and visiting a Hmong village was at the top. Fortunately, I was able to get that checked off on my list this weekend. I went along with my friend to visit her aunt in Phetchabun. On the way there, I was a little nervous because I did not know what to expect. But more than nervous, I were excited to see the lifestyles of the Hmong people in Thailand. I have always seen Hmong movies that exposed me to the Hmong villages, but actually being there helped me learn a lot more.
Hmong people are very agricultural-based, so they reside in the mountainous regions of northern Thailand. Once I got to Khao Kho, Phetchabun, I can instantly tell the difference between Khao Kho and Bangkok. Khao Kho has much better air quality because of its mountainous environment. Also, this area of Thailand is more rural and less developed compared to Bangkok. As we drove to one of the Hmong villages, I notice that there are farm land on all sides of the mountains.
Corn, pepper, strawberry and cabbages are few of the crops that are planted on the mountainsides. Hmong villagers were the main source of these crops in this area. They spend about 10 to 12 hours a day at the farm harvesting and picking their crops for many months. When the crops are ready for sale, the crops are sold for about 6 to 7 baht per kilogram. That is about 0.03 US dollars for 2.20 pounds. In our perspective, this amount is very cheap. However, in the villagers’ perspectives the 6 to 7 baht are worth their endless and exhausting work they put into harvesting these crops. After seeing this first-hand, I had a better understanding and a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into my everyday meals.
This experience has taught me so much about myself and about the lifestyles Hmong people in Thailand. In America, my parents had no choice but to make a living off of what they knew how to do best: farming. They rented out farmland to harvest crops and made an income from selling their produce at farmer markets. Every weekend, they drove hundreds of miles away from home to sell their items, even while taking care of 8 kids. Some nights my parents hardly got any sleep. As a child, I did not fully understood the amount of work that my parents put into making money to maintain the household. As I grew up, I began to be more aware of how hard my parents worked in order to provide for our family. Seeing the tiring and hard work of the Hmong villagers in Khao Kho made me think of my parents. It saddens me that this is the reality for most of the Hmong villagers and a continuous cycle for the next generations to come.
As a Hmong-American, I am aware of the privileges that I have compared to these Hmong villagers. This experience reminds me of how I am fortunate enough to have hot water, toilet paper, electricity, an education, and an opportunity to better my circumstance. Although the Hmong villages are changing as, the changes are slow. Their lifestyles maintains relatively the same because money plays as the main restriction for any major changes. Only those with enough money to send their children to school will have the opportunity of improving their children’s lifestyle and help them move up in the social-economic ladder. Some have succeeded, but for many, their hope may start to fade over time.