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Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

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Perth, Australia
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Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

I'd love to visit a hill tribe while in Chiang Mai in August. I've seen on some forum topics from experts that several of the hill tribes have lost some of authenticity and have become businesses aimed at tourists. Is it possible to get an authentic hill tribe experience without heading to Chiang Rai? I found some accommodation 45km out of Chiang Mai that is situated in rice fields where there is a Karen Hill tribe. Wondering whether I should just stay here. If anyone has had a good experience doing a day trip to one of the hill tribes, would you kindly tell me which hill tribe, where it's located and even a contact details for a guide you used. We'd be looking at doing a day trip and will have our 3yr old son with us. How much time should we allocate? Are there opportunities to visit a village and see a school in action? Could we combine this visit with any other sight seeing?

Thanks heaps,

Dani

Florida - Alaska...
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for Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Province, Outdoors / Adventure Travel
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1. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

There are lots of authentic hilltribe people living in villages around Chiang Mai. BUT if you are looking for a National Geographic fantasy, where everyone is running around in traditional costumes living as they did 100 years ago without satellite dishes on the roof and scooters out front, you maybe disappointed.

In the company of a good guide you could visit villages in the area and discover more about a few hilltribes.

But for your child, a visit to a more tourist oriented village where there are a number of different tribes in their colorful outfits might be more stimulating, as at 3 he may not get much from the guide's cultural explanation at an everyday village.

Perth, Australia
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2. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

Thanks MrCycling,

Appreciate your insight. I realise that people move with the times and esp as Chang Mai isn't exactly cut off from the rest of the world I'm not going to expect that these tribes haven't adopted some modern ways of living BUT i think it would be nice to have a cultural experience that isn't forced or put on for tourists, if these still exist. Can you recommend any good guides? I wouldn't know where to start?

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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3. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

If the Tour was not put on for tourists you would not be going!

The Villages were taken over by Missionaries many years ago - progress came - education, vaccination. Later motor cycles, television and blue jeans! It's the way of the world.

So, Tours are organised as another way of earning money for the subsistence farmers - the traditional way of life. As the Tourists approach they change into Traditional clothing (mainly old women and children), and the men out the back keep out of the way, while Auntie touts her wares very effectively.

How many Indigenous Communities have you visited in Australia? Uluru and Broken Hill were once Traditional Villages, but Commerce and a new way of life arrived. Dance displays are put on, and traditional foods explored. The real Communities aren't ''open'' for business, are they?

Same in Thailand - those villages that welcome inspection, do so at a cost to both sides. At more remote Communities, they would wonder what on earth you are doing.

Gold Coast
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for Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, Thailand
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4. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

We visited a hilltribe whilst on a bamboo raft trip in Chiang Rai, we had to walk across a rickety suspension bridge to get there after first visiting the local school. We were the only tourists there, the place was very basic and there was no show put on for us, but they still had some satellite dishes on their rickety houses, one toilet hut was in the middle of the village - pretty authentic in my book and my kids certainly learnt about what it means to have very little, but the villages all looked happy and we enjoyed getting a snippet of how they live, but they certainly weren't decked out in any special clothing or anything. The visit to the school was interesting too, the kids were intrigued by us and we stayed for about an hour and my kids tried to teach them some songs.

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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5. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

I visited a Palong hill tribe village, Baan Nor Lae, three hours north of CM on Doi Ang Khang mountain. Yes it had satellite dishes, TVs etc but was still 'authentic' as in it was not a tourist village where people get dressed up before the tourist buses arrive.

I stayed with a local man who is the only person who organises occasional small groups to visit and stay in his village. Many of the local women and girls wear traditional costume and we happened to pass some being made (which weren't for sale but being made for their family). We were also lucky because the visit was timed to coincide with the end of the school day on Friday which is the day local children wear traditional outfits to school and we saw them on their way home.

We saw some other visitors on our second day but they were all Thai tourists who'd come to visit the small market and the border with Burma, which runs through the village.

I found it a really interesting experience and didn't feel like I was intruding because our small group was accompanied everywhere by Joy, the man from the village.

The website for anybody interested is: http://www.palonghilltribehomestay.com/

Perth, Australia
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6. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

Thanks Kali and Cassnu,

i think for this trip at least we will only be looking at a day tour or overnight somewhere close. I realise this will be very limiting in terms of seeing less tourist oriented excursions. I have read of an organic vege farm called Spicy something or other that offers basic accommodation in bungalows about about 1.5hrs from Chiang Mai and includes a Karen visit as part of an organised tour. Not sure how this compares to some of the other organisations closer to Chiang Mai but the farm sounds lovely at least. Something to think about I guess. ;)

Perth, Australia
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7. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

Cassnu, your experience sounds very similar to one we had in Borneo, while on a intrepid tour. We stayed in a local village, did some walks through the country side and played with the children after they returned from school. There were no shows put in for us except for one night when they brought out some old musical instruments and let us have a play before performing a few songs. These villages lived in a longhouse on stilts. It was very basic with an outdoor squat toilet which was a great experience. Don't know that I'd be brave enough to do something like that now with a three year old but its one I'll never forget. The people were genuinely happy and it was great to see how they make a living from the land.

Thailand
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8. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

For a longtime resident of Thailand, it is very strange of tourists to want to see so-called authentic hilltribes. I have many hilltribal acquaintances in Chiang Mai. They are normal city folk acting and behaving like any Thai person. Some were born and bred in the city. Most young hilltribals find work in cities.They do not live in their villages and do not dress strangely nor wear the strange decorations that you see in tourist brochures. I view hilltribals in terms of the serious issues they are confronted with such as citizenship issues, education, livelihood. Also heavy proselytization by American and Korean evangelical groups. Many hilltribals are Christians. Never once I view hilltribes as tourist attractions.

9. Re: Are there any authentic hill tribes left in Chiang Mai?

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