This lovely gentleman is Somsak Sriphumthong, better known as Mr Somsak. He lives in Mae Klang Luang on doi Inthanon and is part of the Karen hilltribe community.
He's one of the most colourful personalities I've met during my travels. He's always smiling, giggling or telling the same joke 30 times a day. You meet him, you love him. •
But it's his journey that makes me look at him with an immense admiration. That's why I didn't post one of the 50 funny pictures I have of him, but I chose the only one I have where he abandons his bubbly persona for just a few seconds and lets us have a glimpse of his more serious side.
Like many hilltribe farmers, when he was young, growing opium was his only means of survival. If you zoom in on his arms you can see that production wasn't his only link with the drug. •
But at some point he decided that he deserved a better life and started to take action. With the help of the Thai Royal Project he turned his opium field into a coffee plantation, went to school for the first time in his life to obtain an ecotourism licence, and is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his area.
His coffee shop where he roasts and brews his organic coffee now has contracts with big tour operators that bring tourists to taste his coffee, and he owns award winning community homestays that ensure him and his community a comfortable and opium free life. •
• 📷 @karen_mandau & @eike_michler •