The area north of the Chiang Mai province in Thailand is dotted with many hill tribes of different ethnic groups that have immigrated to this hilly area from neighboring regions. This includes the surrounding countries in Laos, China and Tibet where many of these tribes still live. OF these tribes, the most well known are the Hmong, Lisu and Akha hill tribes that have moved to Thailand. Leaving their country to avoid persecution and other civil unrest, the hill tribes have been migrating through the hilly areas of Northern Thailand and stayed to farm the fertile areas for a variety of commercial crops that are viable in the area.
While staying at the comfortable Lisu Lodge, I was able to visit both the Lisu and Akha hill tribe communities and got a chance to tour their village and meet some of the colorful tribe members that typically meet visitors. Many of the villagers spend their free time creating handicraft items they make and sell at the village for supplemental income outside of farming.
Visiting the hill tribes of Northern Thailand
The Ahka village tribe live along many of the hilly areas in the northern Chiang Mai province and live an agricultural lifestyle. We visited a tribe during the daytime without males (working at their farms), most of the villagers we met along the way were women. You see some wearing their traditional garb and head dress, many created for sale at their kiosks lining the mostly dirt road leading uphill into the more remote areas of the village.
Typical architecture and rural living with electricity
Many of the village women earn supplemental income from their craft work mostly of hand-made textile crafts they either sell at their kiosk or sell to distributors who resell them at larger regional markets or bring them down to Chiang Mai for sale in the many outdoor markets in the city. It is a very simple life and relatively easy even though the income earned from making hand-made crafts is fairly low paying, it is convenient working in any location including outdoors or while hanging out with other villagers in the streets.
Capturing some local insects for roasting
I noticed that a lot of the villagers socialize together outdoors while working on a crafting project or household function. Even though they are socializing together, they all have chores and work activities they can also do while gathering together. It is wonderful that these impromptu outdoor gatherings are a way for the community to share news or gossip while still doing everyday functions and chores.
A villager showing her handicrafts for sale
The hand-made items for sale at each stall is filled with elaborate handicrafts made by each person. Even with all the intricate details to each item, the prices are quite cheap and I can’t help but to purchase some souvenirs for gifts, even though I have no need for any of the beautiful hand-made items.
The villager below has been wearing her head dress since her husband died. She is an elder who was married to the village shaman (medicine man) and is comfortable with her traditional lifestyle and costume. Even though her children have moved to the modern city of Chiang Mai and adopted more modern lifestyles far away from this rural area, she maintains a very simple life and home. Many of the children in the village eventually move away from the village, preferring a more urban city environment than working hard in an agricultural capacity that is monotonous and low paying.
We visit the widowers simple bamboo home to see the interior and her rustic kitchen below, and she prepares some hot tea for her visitors in this simple hearth on the ground. It is amazing to see that this type of lifestyle is still being maintained but also quickly diminishing from this village. I admire the few collections and organic materials that make up this mostly bamboo and wood framed home with lots of open air peeking in between the wood slats of the home.
I also visited the Lisu tribe while staying at the Lisu Lodge which is a wonderful eco resort an hours drive from Chiang Mai. The village is located just outside the resort and again was empty of the men who were doing their farming during the day time. Most of the villagers that we met were older women who were also busy working on the sewing machines and creating pillows, purses and other textile crafts for sale at the tourist markets in Chiang Mai or just locally. A few of the villagers where also recruited to work at the resort in different capacities including the Thai masseur lady below who gave an excellent body massage on the lanai (deck patio) of each villa at the resort. It was fantastic that Lisu Lodge and their owners Asian Oasis really help to hire and train the younger villagers to work at the resort instead of the typical exodus to the larger city of Chiang Mai where most hope to get better employment. I just wrote about my eco stay at Lisu lodge, you can check out this wonderful stay and the eco practices Lisu Lodge promotes here.
You can also check out these cool lodges and places to stay in Northern Thailand here for updated reviews and prices.
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Thanks for reading my post on the Hill tribes of Northern Thailand for Travel Photo Mondays. Please do visit some of the bloggers participating below for today’s link up. While visiting the Lisu and Akha hill tribes, I was a guest at the Lisu Lodge, all opinions and thoughts are my own. If you want to take some of their village tribe tours or stay at their eco lodge at Lisu Lodge, you can find out more details on this website here.
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