Thailand 2010 – A trip to Hill Tribes in N. Thailand

While in Chang Mai I decided to buy another trip – to hill tribes. We visited one Hmong tribe on our way from Golden triangle and it was too short for me. The villages are very poor, but they had some good atmosphere that I liked to experience more. So this trip was as if to visit 5 hill tribes, the Chiang Dao cave and the Orchid farm. It was a short trip in comparison with the previous one (only 7h), the cost being the same -900bt. As always – the mini bus came to pick me from our guest house. So here we were taken to a back road, not far from Chang Mai, with a view of some separate hills or mountains that reminded me our Zion NP:

Except that those rocks or mountains were all covered with greens, unlike our dry desert Zion. By the way -during our 24 day stay – there was not a single rain…not a single overcast day, though there were occasional clouds and the skies are not very blue there because of pollution and humidity in the air.

So here we were driven to the end of that dirt road to the very last village of three. It was a White Karen tribe. The women traders from all those three villages saw our bus and just ran to the end stop, or asked their fellows to drive them on motorbikes- so that they could literally “attack” us with their goodies. Which were mostly hand made and embroidered purses, jewelry, hats. I was “the weakest link” in our group, so I couldn’t even follow the guide and group – they surrounded me like hens, little decorated women and were doing a pushy sale of their beautiful stuff:

Shortly I could catch a glimpse of their houses:

and their kitchen with some soup boiling:

The guide said that hill tribe people eat only black pigs, never the white ones…

Their fresh crop of beans:

More houses:

And they had monkeys, poor creatures, attached to chains for good luck…:

They were ready to put anything they had on me, just to make a sale…:

and when I ran out of money, they directed their attention towards the others from our group:

So we walked down that main street that was a home to three tribes: White Karen, Lisu and Akha. There is a big difference in their cloths, decorations, customs and even their houses. But we couldn’t notice much – those same women were all over begging for a sale. At the very end – I don’t even know which tribe they belong to – with their very distinct bells on their head boxes. There were some quiet ones sitting on their porches with their crafts, but they were almost unnoticeable because of the aggressive ones. But to be completely honest – they were selling rather nice crafts in those villages, except that the silver was not silver at all.

The next stop was at Chiang Dao cave, here is the entrance:

and once you enter – the cave itself is nothing special. I have seen several more impressive caves as for the stalactites. but this cave is sacred to natives and as usual – is full of Buddhas in different poses:

As usual sacred places there are surrounded with old and new temples:

We had a group lunch in one of the restaurants by the cave, it wasn’t as good as the previous buffet lunch but it was still good. Thais have a good taste for cooking.

The surrounding “jungle” where even tigers live – I wouldn’t call it a jungle… :-), looks more like a park:

The next stop was at a Long Neck – Karen village. The Long necks and Big ears are not Thailanders. They come from Burma (Myanmar) as refuges and are not legal in Thailand, have almost no rights, are even more poor than other tribes. This is how their village looks:

it is mostly stalls with scarfs and my guess is they live their simple lives in the back:

The little girls already have their rings on necks based on how old they are, poor babies…The rings press very hard on their collar bones and also on chins. I guess they loose their appetites so they are all slim:

Big Ears have rings only on their knees – to make it hard for them to run from their husbands, but they have things in their ear lobes:

And they sti there and weave. The things they weave didn’t impress me at all in comparison with what the other tribes had…Maybe their creativity is bounded by those terrible rings…

As you can see – I had no money in my pockets left. So I could spend my time admiring their beauty and taking pictures:

They are so soft and pleasant, that my heart was very saddened by their situation in this world:

The oldest one sang a song with her guitar:

So those were Long Neck Karens. By the side of their stalls another tribe had their stalls -a Palong tribe, a very colorful one:

So that was it, as if we saw 5 tribes, just very superficially. And it is enough, for they are people with their own traditions,own styles, what is the point of getting to a closer encounter – it makes you feel more weird about how unfair life is for their women…or at least it seems to us, westerners.

We finished the trip in an Orchid Farm:

Orchids everywhere in Thailand, not only in farms, grow hanging in the air. The little pots just hold the root bundles. So they are sprayed often with water and fertilizers constantly. Not so very healthy to walk around that farm…And for the last note – Ginger flowers:

(there will be more)