Huai Kee Lek is an ethnic Akha community, located in Chiang Rai province, in the Wawi sub-district, approximately 25 km’s from the district center of Mae Souay. The village can be reached by a 3.5 km dirt and concrete road, which winds up into the mountains. Huai Kee Lek community gradually emerges into view, perched impressively on a mountain ridge.
The highlights of Huai Kee Lek Community
“Experience traditional Akha culture in a mountaintop hut; explore a self-sufficient life; witness ancient ceremonies and support community efforts to preserve Akha culture.”
Why is Huai Kee Lek special?
Guests to Huai Kee Lek are allowed a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the Akha. Huai Kee Lek was established according to traditional Akha beliefs, on a bright and sunny mountain ridge, far away from water. Akha people do not locate their villages close to water, because they believe that malevolent water spirits will destroy the village.
The community fields are located approximately 3 to 5 km’s from the village, to prevent domestic animals from destroying their crops. Fields are located close together, so that villagers can share their labour, such as planting and harvesting rice.
All aspects of life are influenced by traditional beliefs, which have been passed down orally between the generations.
Every month, local people participate in ceremonies which form a bridge between these beliefs and daily activities. Ceremonies are integrated with agricultural practices and the cycles of the seasons. Akha people use mountain rice for many ceremonies, and plant corn to feed their pigs and chickens, which are used for ceremonies as well as for eating.
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Activities for guests:
- Akha culture and traditions tour: Villagers lead guests to visit important local cultural sites, such as the iconic Akha Swing and the village Spirit Gate. Guests learn about the various religious rites that govern and protect the Akha. Guests also experience typical daily activities and observe the extraordinary craftwork that creates traditional Akha dress and everyday artifacts.
- Community forest and nature tour: Local guides lead guests along the stream and through the fields to learn how the Akha grow and gather crops, as well as to see many of the wild plants, fish and animals that play a part in the villagers’ self-sufficient lives. Local guides explain the agricultural cycle and ceremonies which the Akha are responsible for performing during the year.
- Join living traditions: In addition to a general exploration of the village, local people are keen to share their living traditions with guests. Visits can be scheduled to coincide with ceremonies, conducted naturally each month. Guest are invited to visit, experience and join together with the Akha people.
Green Corner: People and Planet
Akha beliefs forbid local people from cutting down trees in sacred areas. Attaching a ‘spirit eye’ to trees indicates that they must not be cut. The watershed is also sacred, and it is forbidden to farm or cut any trees in the watershed area.
Akha villagers do not destroy termite hills, thereby protecting these small creatures which play an important role by decomposing and fertilizing the soil.
In May, during the mating season, it is forbidden to hunt big animals. Hunting pregnant animals is also forbidden. The Akha do not catch frogs or crabs close to their sacred spring, because they are regarded as the guardians of the watershed.
The people of Huai Kee Lek wish to conserve and celebrate their culture. CBT has been quite successful as a tool to stimulate interest in traditional Akha culture among Akha youth, as well to share their culture with the outside world