Cool, breezy, elegant, Kalae -- the traditional house of the North -- is still as livable in modern times as it was during the ancient days.
Kalae is a stilted wooden structure, similar to those seen in other parts of the country, but with its own characteristics.
That's because building a house in the North is steeped in tradition and religious significance. Traditional home architecture embodies elements of their beliefs and values.
In a Kale, large hardwood posts bear the weight of the whole house and the single floor is raised two meters off the ground.
The four walls lean outwards instead of going straight up. Decorative wooden carvings called "Kalae", shaped like a pair of horns, top each end of the sloping roof s well as the rooftop. This is where the house got its name.
Today, Kalae houses are seen mostly in the mountainous areas around Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, where the Ko (Aklu) and Lawa hilltribes live. They also exist in the Wa and Shan states of Burma, in the little visited Northeast Indian state of Assam, andd in Loas.
Since all these areas are populated by descendants of the Thai Race, the kalae house is considered a common cultural heritage, not indigenous to one particular area.
According to legends, the kalae is symbolic of a buffalo: Strong legs, broad body, and horns that rise from the top of the hea, plus the "yan" that is the source of life and power. In fact, buffalos were of great importance to the Lanna Thai people.
Although new kalae houses have not been built for over 50 years, they can still be seen in many parts of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son.