The 5 of us (Khun Mae, Luk, Pe Daeng, Mae Pa and myself) came in the end of March 2009 to initially plan to built some simple shelther and toilet. We took along things that we could carry such as some plates, candles, tents, cooking utensils, etc and travelled from Samnak to Phayao, then from Phayao, we took a bus to Chiang Mai and from Chiang Mai, we took another bus (7hours) to Mae Hong Son:
Every morning when we get up, we would walk down near the river and have some light food- then Khun Mae and the rest would start working- scrapping the skin of tree trunks to be used as foundation and support structure for the construction of the kitchen, sala and toilet, mixing and carry cement, etc. The villagers also helped with the construction of the building. We would take breaks and rest a few times but Khun Mae hardly took breaks. We worked till it was almost dark and then only we finish for the day. The next day, we continue with the same thing.
Khun Mae is the one person who constantly work very hard- as those who stay with her would undoubtly agree. Below, Khun Mae was constructing the toilet which is located up next to the cave (Khun Mae was not aware that I took the picture):
There is no pipes or electricity in the cave. Initially, we took turns to carry water up from the river to the cave for washing, brushing and toilet use. Below, Mae Pa carrying water up from the river to the cave:
Initially while the sala and kitchen (above) was being constructed, there is no shelter to cook our food. A villager made a simple bamboo table and we used it to put our food. We bought dry food like sardines and vegetables like cabbage that can last longer. Cooking was done next to the river:
Khun Mere later brought along some help:
Even though those initial days were physically tough and we were often bitten by sandflies and mosquitos and lack a lot of comfort, the days spent were memorable. Till today, the experience remains with me and I took away valuable lessons that helped made me a better person. It is not always that we have the opportunity to take part in the initial setting up of a place and I am grateful for that opportunity.