Magic Moments

Returning to the Lisu village in N.W Thailand where I had stayed last year, I had a surprise in store for Asur and Asa. The Lisu are direct descendents of the indigenous semi nomadic tribes of Tibet, and the people from this village were from the ‘Flowery Lisu’ group, so called because of their colourful dress. Asur, whose name means ‘4th born boy’ had met and married Asa, which means ‘4th born girl’ many years ago, and they had appropriately produced four girls together.

©ClareRowntreeXF60mmF2.4 R MacroX-E1FUJIFILM-5


©ClareRowntreeXF60mmF2.4 R MacroX-E1FUJIFILM-3


Now an elderly couple, they live very simply in a one room wooden house, sleeping on thin mattresses on a raised platform which then becomes a seat during the day.

©ClareRowntreeXF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OISX-E1FUJIFILM-3 ©ClareRowntreeXF60mmF2.4 R MacroX-E1FUJIFILM-6

Asur, a retired fisherman, is the music man of the village, and plays the traditional Lisu gourd reed organ, known as a ‘fut luq’ and a three stringed lute of Chinese origin, known as a ‘jit’.

©ClareRowntreeXF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OISX-E1FUJIFILM                                                        Asur plays the ‘fut luq’ outside his house.

©ClareRowntreeXF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OISX-E1FUJIFILM

He played the reed organ for me last year and I remember the simple but hauntingly beautiful rhythmical sound it made.

Music plays an important part in Lisu culture, traditionally young men would visit neighbouring villages, dressed in all their finery, carrying their instruments and playing and singing to lure the local girls in courtship.

With some gentle encouragement, he tuned up his ‘jit’ and played that for me as well.

©ClareRowntreeXF60mmF2.4 R MacroX-E1FUJIFILM

He’d been a bit reluctant at first as he’d not played for a while, but got into the swing of it and it he looked as if he was enjoying it, as if it was taking him back to times gone by.

©ClareRowntreeXF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OISX-E1FUJIFILM-4

©ClareRowntreeXF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OISX-E1FUJIFILM-6

Knowing that I was going to have a chance to revisit them this year when I was back in the area, I got some of my photos of them printed, and remembering that their house hadn’t been very well protected from the elements, I’d had some of them printed onto a hard backing material so they could put them up without risking too much damage to the images.

Asur was snoozing in the corner when we arrived and we offered to call back later, but were ushered in by Asa who insisted on waking him up.

I handed over their photos and watched their reaction.

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-2

A little dazed at first, Asur sat up and started to look through them. A slow smile came across his face.

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-4

It was lovely to watch them looking through the photos, and see how much much pleasure they were bringing.

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM

Knowing that they had family, I’d done some duplicates for them too.

©ClareRowntreeXF56mmF1.2 RX-E1FUJIFILM

Asur was a man of few words, communicating more easily through his music, but I heard him saying something to himself in Lisu as he was looking through the photos. I asked what he’d said and the answer brought tears to my eyes.

“Now I can die and everyone will see these photos and know who I was”.

It had been a long journey to get the photos back to them, taking the images back to England to process and print them, then bringing them back carrying them with me through Vietnam and Laos before arriving at their village tucked away in the mountains of Thailand, but those few words had made it all worth while.

Many of the hill tribe people from the older generation don’t have many images of themselves to pass down to their families, so it was lovely to be able to do this for them.

Asa made him put his shirt on and sit for a ‘formal photo’ with serious faces and rather stiff postures as is the customary way in Asia.

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-8©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-5

I did a few more relaxed photos,

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-7

then he played the ‘fut luq’ for me one more time.

©ClareRowntreeXF14mmF2.8 RX-E1FUJIFILM-6

It might have been wishful thinking, but I’m sure he was tapping his feet with just a little bit more of a spring in his step this time.

Magic moments.

©ClareRowntreeXF56mmF1.2 RX-E1FUJIFILM

Categories: ThailandTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. very special story. Your photos will be treasured by the family for years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a great story. With some wonderful photography. Brilliant stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful story Clare. Lovely pictures. But that will mean that you will have to go back in a few years to show the new pictures to Asur and Asa. Perhaps I can come with you at that time! Enjoy your trip


    • Hi Manjit! Thanks for reading it! Yes it has a bit of an exponential feel to it but I think the first is the most important. I’ve got lovely friends over there who took me to the village and they’re very kind at taking my photos back to the ones I can’t reach myself. Means a lot to the older ones I think. Loving hearing your tales too – we must meet up next time we’re both in town! x


  4. Wow beautiful story, also bought tears to my eyes. Well done Clare, you have given so much back to so many folk. You should be very proud as I am sure your family are. Love Barb xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Barb – had so many magic moments on my last trip but this one was a standout. Lovely couple, and the first people I’d photographed on the Thailand leg of the first trip before meeting you guys last year.


  5. You have absolutely made my day. This was my first visit to your site, tipped off by a man whose Blog goes by the name of Tastehitch, and he was correct in his assessment of your work. I will certainly be back, frequently. Your photos are magnificent, as is your heart and soul in regard to your subjects. Thanks very much.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a lovely comment! Thank you very much for the kind words of appreciation and I’m delighted that you’re enjoying the blog. I’ll be away on another adventure in the short term but will be back with more blogs before long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is certainly nothing in my comment that is not completely deserved. I am still dazzled by the clarity of your images, and the face of you subjects have me mesmerized. I can actually tell they’re wonderful people without ever having met them, and it takes an amazing photographer to capture that kind of magic. Thank-you again since your reply to my comment gave me another reason to return and see the pictures yet again.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: