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Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Cairns, Australia
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Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Hello everyone :) I will be travelling to Chiang Mai in September and would be interested in visiting a few of the local Hill Tribes as part of a day trip. Would anyone have any recommendations on any tour groups who specifically visit different Hill Tribes. I'm not interested in visiting any of the Elephant Parks as part of the tour as I have heard too many bad stories so I think the Hill Tribe culture will suffice. Any suggestions on who to see for an authentic experience would be very much appreciated. Thank you :)

Chiang Mai
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1. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

At the risk of getting everyone up on their soap box about a "Human Zoo" I am going to answer this one.

To really get to see an "authentic" hill tribe village you would have to travel far north of Chiang Mai. There is, however, a place that I have been to on my own and I now take my family and friends there since I thought that it was very well done and not an over the top tourist trap. (Which I happend to think most of the khantoke dinner venues are) It is a government sponsored hill tribe encampment not very far from Chiang Mai. All of the five hill tribe groups that live there do so of their own choice. You can watch the various hill tribe people weave, cook, sew, grind grain, grow rice, care for their oxen etc. All of the day to day jobs that they would be doing if they were able to live in their "native" areas. Just playing with the children is heaps of fun!

Yes, there are small stalls outside of many of the homes that sell native crafts. But, you will find that no one "strong arms you" or is "in your face" about buying anything like you will find in the Night Bazaar. The first time that I visited I had intended to only stay for about an hour. Four plus hours later I finally got back into my ride and left. I have also on occasion, when my family has visited with small nieces and nephews started our visit to the hill tribe venue at the Mae Sa elephant camp. There we all got on board elephants for a one hour ride from the camp through the jungle to the hill tribe village. I'm planning on doing that again next month with friends who will be visiting me from OZ.

So, perhaps you may want to consider giving this venue some thought. If you decide against it, then you will have to plan to make some of your time here in the North of Thailand the Chiang Rai area I'm afraid. Enjoy your time here in Chiang Mai. Marie (nannyre)

Kansas City...
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2. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

We rented motorbikes and did our own tour outside of Chiang Mai. Visited the hill tribes on our own - was much nicer not to be a part of a group. It does feel like an exhibit at times but once the tour groups left, we were able to talk to the women, play with the children a bit. They loved the postcards that we brought from home - seemed really interested in where we were from... and I think most of them enjoyed sharing a bit of their lives with us... yes, they sell crafts but I don't even remember anyone asking me to buy something - they just presented what they had available to sell. Two things that I noticed... there were very few men in the village... and a couple of the teenage girls had braces - did not expect that...

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

nannyre - What is the name of the Government Hill tribe village you visited? I don't want to go to Chiang Rai. It sounds good and not too far. I went to one a few years back but the name escapes me. Everyone rode elephants, went on a bamboo raft and saw caves etc on route to a Long Neck Village (it wasn't a village and that's all I'll say on that.) Your destination sounds much better.

I'd like to go to the place you went but I need the name sponsored by the government?

Cairns, Australia
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4. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Thank you all :) Sounds like my suspicions are true in that alot of the Hill tribes are not very authentic. As Hot Toffee has requested., Nannyre, are you able to let us know the name of the Government sponsored group of Hill tribes and how I may go about going to visit please? Thankyou again :)

Chiang Mai
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5. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Hi! It's called Baan Tong Luang, and is a government sponsored Hill Tribe cultural preservation village. It's not too far from the Mae Sa Elephant Camp as well as The Tiger Kingdom. Established in 2003 for agriculture, and opened for tourism in 2006. The purpose of opening for tourism was to generate income for hill tribe people while preserving the culture. This village has 5 different hill tribes and a total population of about 150 villagers including: Ka Young (the long neck), White Karen, Lahu, Hmong and Dara Ang (Refugees from Burma).

@justme8888 - Many of the men work at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp as mahouts, so that may be the reason you didn't see too many men there when you visited.

Do be prepared for quite a bit of walking while you're visiting the Village. It is rather spread out. There is also a small restaurant where you can try some of the local food too. Oh, and do stop and enjoy playing with the kids out there! They are funny as all get out! Enjoy! Marie (nannyre)

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6. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Marie, this is the same place we visited a couple of years ago, our driver Tommy called them the Mong. The views are spectacular, we had a walk around the area met the oldest man in the village. We were shown around one hut & they young girl explained how the weaving press worked. I bought a couple of cushion covers that show the history of their past from leaving burma. The young girl explained what the embroidary meant & i just had to buy them. Can't remember what i paid as i didn't really worry about cost.

There is a church up there as well.

We watched the young boys playing with their wooden spinning tops in the dirt. The young girl also showed us some crops which i recognised.

There must have been some celebration happening later that day as a lot of utes with girls dressed in these beautiful coloured dresses drove up as we were leaving with our driver.

It was a wonderful experience, the drive up is beautiful. CJ

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7. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

@ CJ....right you are!! Same same! The "little girl" in me always likes playing "dress up", trying on some of the "native outfits" too!! The Church is a Catholic one and there is also a small museum up toward it on the left that is very interesting. If my friends who are visiting me have boys with them we usually loose the boys about 1/2 way through our trek since they become totally caught up in firing arrows from real bows at the target also. LOL. Glad you enjoyed your visit there. Marie (nannyre)

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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8. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

> Thank you all :) Sounds like my suspicions are true in that alot of the Hill tribes are not very authentic.

Rubbish. There is a very small minority of villages that get a large percentage of all the tours, by virtue of being close to other attractions.

There are hundreds of hilltribe villages all over the North, and most don't ever get tourists.

You don't even have to go too far from Chiang Mai town.

Final misconception: It's just as easy to find a ridiculous tourist-trap in Chiang Rai province as it is in Chiang Mai, when signing up for a tour. Chiang Mai province has incredibly remote parts.

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Hi nannyre,

Thank-you so much! I am delighted to learn about this place. Nice to know it's spread out and not a tourist box. The whole thing sounds so contradictory to the usual touristy villages. It's worth the trekking.

Best!

HotToffee

Edited: 18 August 2011, 05:41
Cairns, Australia
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10. Re: Any suggestions of authentic Hill Tribes near Chiang Mai?

Yes, thank you very much Nannyre. I really appreciate your input and I'll look into it further. Sounds exactly what I am looking for :)

Han_CNX, I'm sorry to upset you but alot of what I have read and seen in tourist brochures etc does make the Hill Tribe villages look very much like they are there just for a show. I haven't been there yet so I am only going on what I have been told. Glad to hear there are also authentic villages and that is the sole reason I posted my question., so that I can visit these people. Thanks :)