Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Tour - Part I

Besides the temples and historical attractions of Chiang Mai, one of the big draws to Northern Thailand are the Hill Tribes. There are about 7 main hill tribes living in this part of Thailand - Karen, Lisu, Akha, Hmong, Yau, Lahu and Palong. They all have slightly different origins ranging from Myanmar, China, Tibet and Mongolia.

To really see the Hill Tribe villages, you need to spend a few days traveling from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son or Chiang Rai. However there are day tours to nearby villages in Chiang Dao - about 80 kms from Chiang Mai. Many of the Hill Tribes have settled down closer to Chiang Mai and become a part of the tourist trade. They supplement their income by selling souvenirs to the hoards of visiting tourists.

As I did not have much time, I decided to join a Hill Tribe Day Tour. Most of the local agents offer similar packages, and prices are about the same - around 1,200 to 1,500 THB for large groups inclusive of a simple lunch. The agent will pick up from the hotels around 8.30 a.m., and drop off around 5.00 p.m. The drive to Chiang Dao takes around 1 1/2 hour, and along the way there is a stop at an orchid and butterfly farm on which I have just posted.

The first village we visited was a Red Karen village. The houses are raised from the ground on stilts. The roofs are made of tatch, and walls from mostly timber scraps and bamboo. The Red Karens are very gentle people, and subsist mainly on farming.

The surrounding countryside is quite beautiful.

Unlike many of the other Hill Tribes, the Red Karens do not like to get mixed up in the tourist trade. The souvenirs peddlers you see here are actually from the Lisu Tribe who live nearby.


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