Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Chiang Rai, a Restaurant and Museum is Helping Family Planning.

In the Northern Mountains of Thailand, the non-profit arm of the PDA has opened a remarkable restaurant and Museum called Cabbages and Condoms which is helping the locals
Light years away from the mass tourism areas of Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya, lies Chiang Rai, in Northern Thailand, where the Aka, Karen and Lisu Hill Tribes eke out a spartan existence, in many cases with one foot still in the stone-age.

Now it's alcohol, before it was Opium.
Some people believe that visiting them is exploitation, citing the fondness for alcohol that has developed in some villages, but twenty years ago the dependency was on opium. Exchanging one addiction for another may not be an improvement, but I can’t help feeling that the cash cow that is tourism can only better their life.

Non-Profit Cabbages and Condoms Outfil.
To the rescue comes a remarkable outfit called Cabbages and Condoms, the non-profit arm of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) of Thailand, an organization that encourages the villagers to make the best use of both the cabbages which grow freely in the mountains, and condoms which the PDA supplies. It also runs the most culturally sensitive and environmentally responsible treks in Chiang Rai, contributes to community development programmes and helps preserve the culture and lifestyle of the Hill tribes. It has opened restaurants and drop-in cafes in cities like Chiang Rai, Pattaya and Bangkok, where people can pick up information about the hill tribes and enjoy some local food, like roasted duck curry, steamed cottonfish with condom salad, and Thai Green Mango salad. The small Museum in the Chiang Rai outlet is a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyle of an opium addict.

On site is a handicraft shop which sells a variety of condom related memorabilia as well as village handicrafts like woven silk, carved wood figurines and embroideries, the profits from which all go back to the villages.

Support needed for Hill Tribe people
Despite their charmingly unaffected lifestyle, life is harsh for the Hill Tribe people whose life, in many cases, is one of exploitation by smooth talking men who lure them deeper into debt.

Cabbages and Condoms tries to help but it needs support. Next time you are near one of their restaurants in Bangkok, Pattaya or Chiang Rai, drop in for a meal and buy a little something. Without the tourists to purchase souvenirs from them, the life of the hill tribes would be even harsher.

· Cabbages and Condoms, Chiangrai: 620/25 Tanarai Rd, Muang District Chiangrai 57000. (053) 719167,

Chiangrai 57000. (053) 719167,

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