Tourists are increasingly finding their way to a unique enclave in Kayin (Karen) State where the Telaku Karen live, village elders told KIC news.
The Telaku village in Hpa-an township is home to just over three dozen members of the sub-group of the Karen people. Though the residents live just 30 minutes from the state capital, they have kept fairly secluded and preserve their traditional way of life, said village elder Saw Aung Pan Shwe.
IMG 4778 420×630“People who have never seen us before come because it is unusual for them. There are other Telaku religion villages in other townships. [But tourists] don’t tend to go to those villages due to bad road conditions,” he said. “Our village is closer to Hpa-an so many foreigners come here. Sometimes, we go and welcome them at the village’s entrance. Even nearby villages don’t seem to know about our village.”
He said Telaku village welcomes visitors almost every day, with foreign tour groups stopping by in peak tourist season.
Hpa-an’s Telaku village has 16 houses and is home to about 40 people. All of the residents follow traditional Karen customs and wear only Karen traditional clothes. They are also vegetarians.
“I didn’t know such a village existed near us. I went there to visit after hearing about it from other people and I felt like I had stepped back in time. I respect them for being able to live like [Karen people traditionally] did in the past. I did feel a little bad for them because the entire village is living in houses built from tree leaves and bamboo while other houses nearby are built with teak and concrete,” said Nan Hay Phaung, a resident of Hpa-an.
Village elders say not all the Telaku people want to keep strictly following the religion and traditions, so some of the community members live outside the Telaku villages in Hpa-an and Kawkareik townships. Saw Aung Pan Shwe said the largest group of Telaku people live in Kwi Lone Tan Village in Kyain Seikgyi Township.