Remote Hilltribe villages in Northern Thailand.
Remote hilltribe villages in northern Thailand are indeed an experience. Our second day trekking led us to this beautiful village on the outskirts of the jungle. It is not possible to reach this village by foot and we had to use different modes of transport to get there: elephants and bamboo river rafts.
These hill tribe minority groups are unique and have their own language, traditional clothing, art and religion. There are +- 6 major tribes in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. The six major hilltribes are the Karen (Kariang, Yang), the Hmong (Meo), the Yao (Mien), the Akha (Ekaw), the Lisu (Lisaw), and the Lahu (Mussur).I have seen 3 when I was there in 2006.
Over 100 years ago the Hilltribes migrated south from China into what are now known as Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand. Their main income is from farming. They also tend to migrate when the soil is getting depleted.
Evening entertainment by the Hilltribes.
Now to get back to my story. Language is a problem and don´t expect to have a lengthy conversation with the elders of the tribe. I found that a couple of younger ones could speak a little bit of English. But with this in mind please don´t think that they were skimping on hospitality. They were the best hosts that any traveller could ask for. After our meal they prepared a huge bonfire and we all gathered around it for an evening lined up with entertainment.
The whole family dressed up in traditional clothes and performed dances for us. Even a tiny little girl who could barely walk danced. That evening I sat there and I was in awe of this little family.
My life as I know it felt so divorced from the way these people live. They were happy and money was not the most important thing in their lives. They enjoyed the silence and beauty of nature and the richness of the soil that gave them food on the table. For a moment I wished that I could live like that. Stripped from all the pressure of society and the troubles of life.
It was pitch black around me and I didn´t have any place to go. I sat there for a very long time until the flames started to die. But a question kept bugging me: “How will these tribes be able to stay unique and keep their culture with the rapid modern development in Thailand?”
The specific tour that I have taken are focused to uplift these small communities and a large portion of the money that we have paid for the tour are used for this purpose. Will they eventually be absorbed into the Thai society or will they keep their uniqueness? It was a question I didn´t want to know the answer to. Or maybe I already did…