Today I want to tell you my story of one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life. Meeting a Tribe called Maniq in the jungle of south Thailand.
A few months back I started to ask around my friends here in Thailand if anyone has any idea or information about tribes living in Thailand – Most refused. Some have heard about tribes but did not have any further information about them.
After some time has past another friend texted me about an article in the newspaper which showed a story of a farmer who lives near a tribe and also supports them. After contacting the farmer we were able to get more information and also the “permission” to visit the tribe together with them.
For privacy reasons I will not publish the location where this tribe lives. All I can say about it is that the tribe we’ve visited is located in South Thailand.
The Maniq are an ethnic tribe of Thailand with a population of only 300 people. They are the only negro group in Thailand which language is also called Maniq (Tonga), a Mon language in the Aslian language.
The origin of the Maniq people is not 100% sure. Some people think they immigrated from Africa, others like the farmer think they come from the Indonesian area.
The way Maniq people live is mostly in the jungle/forest in simple build bamboo huts covered by banana leaves.
Let’s start the journey!
It was a Saturday in late May when I arrived at the Farmers (Let’s call him Nock) home after a flight down from Bangkok.
Nock spoke some English so it was possible to ask him some questions about the Tribe before we went to visit them. He actually suggested to meet them on the same day I’ve arrived at his farm to just say a short “Hello” to them and just to get to know them.
I have to mention that I was a little bit nervous before we started to drive up the mountains to meet the tribe. It was the first time for me doing something like this as it is not a usual daily thing to do :D. But I was excited – Super excited!
It took us about 30 mins driving from Nock’s farm up the small mountain with pretty rough roads. I was really surprised how he quite old Ford Pickup truck managed to get through those roads. But it worked!
After parking the car we had to hike further up through the beautiful jungle to reach the small village the Maniq’s stetted up.
After hiking for a good 15-20 minutes we finally arrived in the middle of nowhere inside the jungle and there it was – The small huts of the Maniq tribes with a couple of people running around.
They were obviously super happy about our visit as we brought some rice and other foods for them. The communication worked through Nock and the leader of the tribe (An) as she spoke perfect Thai which she learned before in some community support institute.
On the picture above you can see An (tribe leader) holding her daughter.
You might ask now why a women leads the tribe – It is because her husband (Tok) who used to lead it before, is now becoming some kind of an “famous” actor for playing himself, a Maniq person in some Thai- Movies. So he is not always at home as he stay outside for shooting movies.
It also is a great opportunity for him to earn a little bit of money and also to see something outside of the jungle. I was really surprised when I’ve heard his story :).
Tok trying to shoot a bird with his bamboo stick.
I also should mention that I didn’t take any picture in the first 1 – 1.5 hours after arriving at the village. Even I had the permission from everyone inside of the village it just did not feel right yet.
I had the feeling of disrespecting the tribe by just taking pictures of them like I was in a zoo. So I decided to not take any pictures first. All the pictures you see above are from the second day of my visit.
As the sun went down we decided to go back to the farm where I would stay overnight to catch some sleep to be ready to start our journey on the next day in the early morning to visit the tribe again.
It took me quite a while to fall asleep as all of the impression were super intense to me. Meeting people who live in the jungle was something pretty special. The way they talk, behave and just live is totally different compared to the “normal” civilization. Something I haven’t seen before.
Day 2 started with a nice breakfast in a local store where we had some delicious sticky rice with fried meat on it. The perfect meal to start with enough power in the second part of the journey.
As soon as we arrived everything felt already way more familiar. Not only for me, also for the tribe. Now they “knew” me already and it wasn’t the feeling of an alien meeting them anymore :). So I walked around quite comfortably and took pictures of their daily life.
One of the boys actually promised to shoot a bird for us before we arrived on the second day in the morning. He unfortunately was not able to catch any bird and he was so ashamed of it that he stayed in the hut the whole day and he wouldn’t come out 😀
The Maniq people hunt their food with the help of bamboo “blow” sticks. Usually they look for rabbits, birds or even wild pigs. The way they cook it is also quite interesting – They make a fire and just put the animal on it and cook it medium raw so they can take out the fire again (The fire smoke makes other animals run away, that’s the reason behind it.). So in my eyes I wasn’t to unhappy that the little fella didn’t catch a bird for us, ha! 😉
In the pictures above you can see Tok showing us his skills of shooting with the bamboo “blow” stick. It was crazy how accurate he shot the little pins in a range of 15-20 meters. Once he held the stick just horizontal up in the air and shot a pin and I was quite worried about it because gravity will bring it 100% down again – luckily on no ones head 😉
One very funny story was when Tok talked to us a airplane was flying right above us and he absolutely doesn’t like the sound of it so he said “I would like to shoot the airplane down with my bamboo pipe but that could hurt people and I don’t want to hurt people. So I don’t do it” – When they translated it to me I really had to laugh out loud 😀 He definitely had a good sense of humor!
In the video above I just filmed some daily life moments of the Maniq’s life. If you listen to the sound you can hear the language which they are talking. Very fascinating and something I haven’t heard before.
After spending a couple of more hours at the village it started to rain and we decided to say “good bye” to the Maniq people. What an amazing experience that was!
The village we visited hosted around 20 people at the time we were there. They do have a couple of more members which were visiting some other family members who lived in another tribe village.
Some Maniq people are already integrated in society and go to normal public schools. They also tried to move the village I’ve visited down to the “normal” society which failed as the tribe did not feel comfortable living the way “we” live. So they moved back into the jungle.
They do get support by people like Nok – The Farmer and also the government tries to protect them and letting them live the life they choose.
For me it was the first of hopefully many experiences like this. I plan to do more trips around the world to meet all different kinds of humans to learn from their cultures and hopefully be able to document it with film/photography to write about it.
Thanks for reading 🙂