Thai folk musician Pongthep Kradonchamnan shared a fascinating courtship ritual of the Lua people that he learned of during his time in Nan, around 25 years ago. He said when a Lua woman wanted to tell a man she loved him she would offer him a cigarette…
But not a typical cigarette that could be bought from any shop. The woman would grow her own tobacco plant from which she would harvest the best leaves, wrap them in wild banana leaf and cure them in honey and again in night dew. The entire process takes months.
That’s not all. She would also go up into the mountains to find a ‘salor-prao’ tree and collect its soft, sweet-smelling rolling leaves for the cigarette. For a thread, she would take bark from a hemp tree and place this in a creek, secure it with a rock and let the stream wash away the weak fibres to leave only the toughest and softest line. This the woman would knit into a thread and dye it with red colour extracted from another tree bark.
Once she had her perfect cigarette she would give it to her man, without saying a word. And he would know that she loved him.