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“Tourist show for sure”

Union Hilltribe Villages
Ranked #18 of 33 Tours in Chiang Rai
Attraction details
Reviewed 22 April 2014

Good wY to see the hill people without having to travel hrs up into the hills - but on the flip side, its basically a tourist show - not a real indigenous village.

Our taxi driver took us - wasnt our cup of tea, but my wife was happy to have been able to see the Long Neck Karen women with their neck rings.

A bit of a tour and explanation would make the visit more cultural and informative as opposed to what it is - a market to buy their handicrafts.

Thank Mochilero22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 22 March 2014

Yes it is a FOR PROFIT place.There a few "typical" hill trib villages next to each other. When they see you comming it's show time untill you tip then the music and dance stop and you go on to the next "village" The only real natural thing that I came across was a human powered Ferris wheel (Powerer by me" the kids liked it because I am big and strong so I got a full load of 4. NO the typical hill tribes do NOT live like that (close together) They are in larger Villages More to the West. So save some money and just tuer West and follow the road till it ends or you get to a point where you can't turn around. You will then see what a real village is lile, kids running all over. same with the chickens. and the skinny cows.You will see old women with pipes smoking and red teeth from eating Bettle nuts.There are many diffrent villages in the area just turn west up to the hills and you will see the real ones. This one is a mini version of it's a small world minus the boats. Yes the gardens are real and yes they do keep the tips and profit from the goods sold. BUT is in not real lift.

5  Thank talbot983
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 February 2014

It's clear from reading some of the reviews that this Chiang Rai attraction is extremely subjective and will be either a hit or a miss for everyone. I traveled as part of a group trip and opinions varied widely amongst people in my own group. Personally speaking, I enjoyed my visit although I can understand why some people have objections.

#1 Is the village contrived? ABSOLUTELY. The idea is that you get to see what homes, clothing and customs are like for several Asian tribes. I could be wrong but most (if not all) of the tribes are not native to Thailand. These are families who have moved to Chiang Rai and made the conscious decision to live together in a village, so obviously you're going to see something that is arranged for appearances' sake.

#2 Is the main objective to get tourists to spend money? ABSOLUTELY. As you walk through the village there is a donation box in the area where some members sing and dance for tourists. Most of the women in the village display textiles and jewelry for sale. Is there anything wrong with that? I don't think so at all.

#3 It could be because of the language barrier but I appreciated the fact that no one in the village attempted to force you to purchase something from them. I certainly felt bad about not buying something from each and every person. In the end I purchased a handmade scarf that I loved and small trinkets from anyone with whom I took a photo. If you are open to purchasing anything while you're there, keep in mind it is in extremely poor form to try and barter.

#4 If you have a soft spot and are emotionally sensitive it's probably best that you not visit the village. If you've read some of the other reviews you will note that there are people who equate the village to being nothing more than a "human zoo." I respectfully disagree with that characterization but that is purely my opinion. When traveling to a different country it all boils down to tourism. I grew up in the Caribbean where the main industry is tourism and people leave their homes early in the morning with hopes that tourists will spend their money. That money is necessary to pay bills, buy food and put clothes on their family's back. I don't view the people staying at the Union Hilltribe Villages any differently in their need for money so they can provide for their family. The vendors who set up tables at various night markets are hoping for the same tourist dollars.

#5 If you truly want to be of help to these families I'm sure they would want to encourage even more people to visit. Remember they need money to support their families just like everyone else in this world. For many of them it simply isn't practical to carry their products down to a night market, set up a display booth, sit around for several hours hoping to make a sale, then pack their unsold items and go back home, only to do it again the next night. Staying together in a village with their items for sale on display may not be the most politically correct thing to do but it's probably one of the better options they feel is available to them.

16  Thank appetite4trvl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 December 2013

This look like a scam village where everyone put up a show for the tourists. Villagers start getting into their "role" when they notice us coming in. Everyone start doing their roles like knitting, sitting by the hut, and playing musical instruments.

1  Thank nnantasy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 December 2013

We arrived here late in the day with our driver. My husband paid the entrance and I didn't discover until after we left it had been 500 baht each. I have no idea how much if any went to the tribes.

I am 76 and was exhausted at the end of a very long day so I was not as observant as usual. I was beyond exhausted. The land is very rough, hilly , and uneven. We were the only visitors at the time and so things were probably less staged.

I immediately wondered what we had walked into. We were told there would be no men and I was too tired to digest the reason. There was a scale at the entry with one of the "necklaces" /coils worn by the "long neck Karen tipping the scale at 4.5 pounds. The explanation was that they had been worn to protect the women from animals that grabbed the skin. These women seemed unused to them and had napkins tucked in around the top to protect their necks.

The first village consisted of shacks blocked by a kiosk with a woman welling jewelry and woven items. One after the other end to end the same display and the same items. It was for tourists and I hd no way of knowing if buying would help the people

I agree it did not seem that they lived there. I only visited 2 villages as I was too physically exhausted. BTW every person was offered a bamboo walking stick at the beginning and the terrain warranted that.

When we turned to retrace our steps rather than continue the circuit as I couldn't go further, they were upset and tried to tell us we were going the wrong way but when I indicated I was hurting they smiled and nodded.

You definitely don't see the "life" of the village. The young girls wearing the heavy neck coils look really uncomfortable. The little girl weaving likewise seemed poised.

Our best moment was when a young mother let her baby crawl away playfully and we laughed along with her in a moment of genuine contact.

You will see some of this in the pictures i am posting.

I would suggest more research than we did before adding this to a trip to the Golden Triangle and other area sites.

4  Thank jroihl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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