A local hill tribe guide to join you is a must or
better is a hill tribe home stay.
Village customs and traditions must be strictly
obeyed, only a local guide or host family knows as
every village has different rules. Here are a few tips
Please be careful with trekking operators that
advertise new area or village. Most good eco-culture
friendly operators go to the same area and villages
year after year. They have an excellent relationship
with them so everything is in balance and harmony so
they do not need to go to a new area.
hill tribe villages do not have handicrafts as they
spend most of their time working in their fields.
There may however be elderly women in the village
taking care of young children that do make
handicrafts. In this case there will be one home or
area where handicrafts can be viewed and bought. No
one will bother you to buy anything and you are not
looked at as a major source of income.
Make sure you are not allowed to give candy to
children or money for pictures. Fruit is the best
option to give and can be purchased for around 25 Thai
Baht per Kilo. Hill tribe children get candy any time
their parents can aford it as it is very cheap but
they never have enough money for fruit. Figure to
purchase around 10 Kilos of fruit for a normal sized
Lahu Village tour near Chiang Mai Thailand Video
Nothing should be exchanged directly between the
visitor and anyone in the village. Give your gifts or
fruit to the village headman, elder or teacher and
they will distribute it. They know all the children
and make sure everyone gets their fair share. If you
do this yourself or the guide the older children will
take it away from the younger ones. Another trick is a
child will run back to their house and put it away and
come back for more. The teacher or village headman
will not let this happen.
A village is a very communal place and what belongs
to one belongs to all. Jealousy and hate between
villagers can arise because one family or person
received something from you and they didn't. It is
true that many villages that are visited by tourists
drop drastically in population because of jealousy.
Most move away to a different village. Usually that of
another family member who is married to a someone in
taking pictures during your village
trek or hill tribe
tour wait. When you arrive there will
be lots of excitement so keep your cameras in your
pack or the vehicle. After about 30 minutes and after
the fruit has been given out things will settle back
to normal. You will know when to take pictures when
the children are playing, the villagers are doing
thier normal daily routines and you are mostly
ignored. This is the time to take out your camera and
take pictures. You will get much better candid shots
of the villagers doing what villagers do. No need to
ask or pay money for photos but take your photos from
a distance not in their face. Your guide should know
Visiting hilltribes in North Thailand Video
Ask to meet your guide first. Talk alone with your
guide. Find out how much your guide knows about the
village as you can. Tell your guide you want to give
candy to children and pay villagers money for
photosand if he or she says no problem find a
different operator and guide. Many tour operators
don’t care about the well being of the villagers and
will say yes to anything you want to do..
Ask how many persons are going on the trek with you
and get it in writing as part of your receipt. Many
people are told a small number later to find out there
are up to 15 persons going on the trek. If they come
to pick you up and there is more than what they wrote
on your receipt when you paid for the trek get your
money back. 6 persons should be the maximum and the
fewer the better and a private trek is best. The fewer
people on the trek or tour the better the experience.
Hill Tribe Home Stay:
Karen hill tribe home stay host family
For a wonderful experience making life long friendships
and learning local culture and Hill Tribe Home Stay is a
must. The best areas for a village home stay is Doi Inthanon National Park
and the small village of Thaton,
both away from the normal tourist crowds.
Although both are with Karen hill tribes they are
much different in what is available to enjoy. At Doi
Inthanon home stay you will experience hiking in the
cloud forest, swim at the waterfalls, learn to roast
coffee and enjoy village life. In the Thaton Home Stay
You visit other hill tribe villages such as Lahu and
Akha, learn to weave cotton, visit the local market,
cook Thai food then a private long tail boat ride.
Both are at clean comforatble traditional homes in
your own bedroom, clean toilets with showers and all
bedding is provided. In both villages your guide
speaks perfect English and in Thaton your guide speaks
all the hill tribe languages.
If you enjoy hiking and the outdoors Doi Inthanon is
the one. For a more culture experience the village in
the Thaton area is best.
Overnight in a Lahu hill tribe village, Chiang Mai
tour and trekking operator will keep
the number of persons visiting a village small. The
impact of even 50 visitors a month in a village is
devastating and should not be allowed. Some excellent
operators take visitor to a village only once a week
and then no more than 6 persons. They have many
villages they can visit so they can take tourists
daily to different villages.
There are areas where hundreds of trekkers visit each
month to the same villages. In many villages in these
areas the villagers will run up to you and try to sell
you trinkets made in China as soon as you arrive. You
will need to pay money for photos or make a purchase
from them. Once you buy something from 1 you will be
bombarded by several more selling the same trinkets.
The villages heavily visited by tour groups and
trekkers are mainly the Mae Teang and Pai areas.
want to visit hill tribe villages on their own and
most of these want to spend an evening with a family
in the village. This is not a good idea. You must know
the culture and customs of the village and each
village is different. You can do a lot of harm by just
entering the village from the wrong gate. Many have
gates for visitors and gates for residents and the
villagers believe if you enter from the wrong gate you
could be bringing in bad spirits with you. They will
then have to spend money for a ritual to cast out bad
spirits that you brought in.
If you pay money to stay with a family the other
families will be jealous and this could cause
unbalance and arguing among villagers. They also
barely have enough food to feed their family and will
feed you and not have enough to feed themselves. They
do not eat the same food as Thais so if you bring food
they may not eat it. They do not use fish sauce but
salt and they do not eat the white pig but black pig.
Also they do not eat their own animals, not even eggs.
They purchase eggs and meat from other villages to eat
as they will not kill their own animals so sell them
to other villages. If you give them money for food
they will have to travel a long way to the market and
will cost them time and money.
If you are thinking of staying overnight in a hill
tribe village it is best to do a Home Stay that
is included in your trek or tour not in
a large group trek or going on your own. This way you
will be treated like family not an unwanted guest. You
will be able to visit local markets, visit neighboring
villages and cook meals with your host family. You
will make friends for a lifetime while enjoying a
Planting Rice at a Karen hill tribe village
If you would like to visit a real hill tribe village
find a tour or trekking operator that follow the basic
rules of Eco tourism in Thailand
They can provide a local hill tribe guide that knows
the culture of the village and knows the villagers
like family or has family in the village.
Eco-tourism is not cheap so before you go out to find
the best price for a trek or tour, first think about
who wins and who looses on a cheap tour or trek. No
one wins. Think about it.
Written by Randy Gaudet Founder and Director of All
Thailand Experiences and has been living in Thailand
and helping hill tribe villagers and Orphan childrens
homes since 1989. Read more
about the Author
Our hill tribe village photos away from the
normnal tourist crowds.