Hill Country of Thailand
Thailand's famous Hill County
Northern Thailand, "The
Hill Country" is a diverse region with
crisp mountain scenery, exotic hill tribes, forests
which are still worked by elephants and friendly people
who contribute to the North's hospitality and enduring
The culture of northern Thailand is
rich in history, flavoured by contact with the Burmese
and the people of Laos. Lana Thai culture is unique
to the north and its people are proud of their unique
Mae Hong Son
- the lands below the wind, nestles in a valley surrounded
by lush green, forested mountains. A short flight from Chiang
Mai it is the most isolated northern provincial town in Thailand.
Home to the refugees of the Padong (long-neck) Tribe which
originate from Burma.
- lies in the very heart of the fabled "Golden
Triangle" - the mystical meeting point of three
national borders (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar). Majestic
mountain scenery abounds. The area has more than its
share of natural attractions and antiquities. It is
also home to many high altitude hill villages where
the tribes follow a way of life from a time past.
Chiang Rai, the northernmost
province of Thailand is about 785 kilometres north of
Bancock. Situated on the Kok River basin, Chiang Rai
covers an area of approximately 11,678 square meters
with an average elevation of 580 meters above sea level.
The province, which is located within the renowned Golden
Triangle area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge.
Chiang Rai, which was founded in 1262 by King
Meng Rai, was the first capital of the Lanna Thai Kingdom
which was later conquered by Burma. It was not until 1786
that Chiang Rai became a Thai territory and was proclaimed
a province during the reign of King Rama VI in 1910.
The Hill Country
The main area of Hill
Country in Thailand is the exotically-named
Golden Triangle - along the borders with Burma and northwest
Laos and the confluences of the Meknog and Mae Kok rivers
-and this is where most of tribal groups are concentrated.
In the settelment of the North, they are newcomers;
the main migration started only at the beginning of
this century. A census of studies put the hilltribe
population at a little short of half a million in 1983,
most of this since the end of the Second World War.
Northern Thailand is hill country, and laid-back
Chiang Rai is the perfect base to explore the region. Located
700 miles (1,100 km) north of Bangkok, the city is reached
by a one-hour flight from the capital. Burma, once a prosperous
land that now struggles under the heavy hand of a military
government that renamed the country Myanmar, lies just 35
minutes northwest of Chiang Rai. Laos, another land that has
seen its share of war, is 30 minutes northeast. The three
countries meet in a fertile area called the Golden Triangle
a region that was once the opium-producing capital of the
Chiang Rai has a population
of 1.2 million, yet it feels like a small town. After
dropping my things at the Wiang Inn, which charges $35.00
USD for a lovely room and breakfast, I head out to the
city's night bazaar. It's 8 pm, but the lanes are overflowing
with vendors selling carvings, handcrafts and instruments
all at amazingly low prices.
There are dozens of food
stands, and the rich smell of Thai cooking makes me
hungry. One stand, I notice, offers plates of well-cooked
beetles, crickets and bamboo larvae worms. Although
the dishes smell good, somehow I can't get over the
thought of eating bug legs.
The weather is warm, and I feel safe walking
around town. There are families strolling on the uncrowded
sidewalks, and shops are open for business. Many vendors smile
in greeting, and give encouragement each time I try a few
Thai words. The Thai, I soon discover, are a kind and gracious
Yet the Thai are not
the area's only residents. The nearby hills are home
to six distinct hill tribes. The Akha, Karen, Lisu,
Yao, Hmong and Lahu each have their own language and
culture. These 540,000 tribal people lead remote lives,
and a visit to their villages is like stepping back
Many of the villages
have limited electricity and no indoor plumbing; homes
are made of bamboo and thatched roofs. Most tribesmen
depend on farming for their livelihood, and villages
migrate between the steep hills of China, Thailand,
Burma, Laos and Vietnam whenever the soil at their present
location is depleted.
Tourism to the hill tribe country is growing
each year, and I can't wait to experience this unique side
of Thailand. To familiarize myself on the region, I stop at
the Hill Tribe Museum and Education Center for information
on the various tribes.
The Karen are known for
using elephants in their farming, while the Lisu stay
together as extended families. The Akha, who are spiritists,
have a special gate at the village to prevent bad spirits,
and the Lahu tribe prides themselves on their trapping
and hunting skills. The Yau have a language and culture
similar to the Chinese, and the Hmong have large families
averaging eight children per family.
The Karen (known to the
Thais as Karieng and Yang) arrived fro mthe west, across
the lower Salween River in Burma. The Lisu (Lisaw in
Thai), Lahu (Muser) and Akha (Eekaw) crossed into Thailand
mainly from Burma's Shan State in the north, while the
Hmong (Meo) and Mien (Yao) crossed over the Mekong River
from Laos. These migrations are, however, just the final
stages of a much longer history of movement, and the
ultimate origins of most of the tribes is shrouded in
uncertainty. And, as none except the Mien have written
records, there is little chance of unveiling their early
The tribes welcome visitors, and have come
to depend on the economic boost tourism provides. Still, there
are a few things to keep in mind when visiting the villages:
Don't show physical affection (it's offensive). Don't enter
a home without invitation or take photographs without asking
first. Do be friendly and enjoy the visit.
Weather Conditions of the
Northern Thailand is
hill country, and laid-back Chiang Rai is the perfect
base to explore the region. Located 700 miles (1,100
km) north of Bangkok, the city is reached by a one-hour
flight from the capital. Burma, once a prosperous land
that now struggles under the heavy hand of a military
government that renamed the country Myanmar, lies just
35 minutes northwest of Chiang Rai. Laos, another land
that has seen its share of war, is 30 minutes northeast.
The three countries meet in a fertile area called the
Golden Triangle, a region that was once the opium-producing
capital of the world.
Northern Thailand has three main seasons:
hot from March to May, wet from June to November, and cool
from December to February. However, up in the mountains "cool"
can be very cold. Winter is the best time to visit the area.
Temperatures from mid-November
to January are the coldest and average between 13 °C
and 28 °C (56 °F and 83 °F). Temperatures begin rising
in February and in the hot season which is (March to
May) range between 17 °C and 36 °C (63 °F and 97 °F).
In the rainy season (June to mid-November), the high
temps may drop but the lows usually stay the same.
A jacket and long pants
are a good thing to have in the winter. In the mountains,
it should be cold in the morning and then warm up in
the afternoon. During other seasons, you'll probably
just be wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Thailands Hill Tribes
Over 100 years ago, hill tribe people migrated
south from China into what are now Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and
Thailand. There are six major tribes in Northern Thailand
that include the Karen (Kariang, Yang), the Hmong (Meo), the
Yao (Mien), the Akha (Ekaw), the Lisu (Lisaw), and the Lahu
(Mussur). Each tribe is district, with its own culture, religion,
language, art, and dress. The main profession of all these
tribes is farming. In the Thai language they are not referred
to as tribes but as Chao Khao, meaning "owners of the
mountains." For such a hard way of life, they are good
humored and friendly people who welcome visitors.
The largest group is
the Karen, which make up half of the hill tribe population
in Thailand. They live in the mountainous northern and
northwestern regions bordering Myanmar. They are the
most settled of the hill tribes and live in permanent
villiages in well constructed houses. The Hmong are
a well-known hill tribe and the second largest group.
They are spread over a wide area of Northern Thailand
but most are concentrated in the Chiang Mai, Chiang
Rai, Petchabun and Tak provinces. The two main sub-groups
are the Blue Hmong and White Hmong, named after differences
One of the main attractions in Northern Thailand
is meeting some of the hill tribe people that live in these
remote mountain areas. It is recommended that you have a tour
guide while hiking and visiting these places. Proper etiquette
is to dress modestly and to ask permission before taking any
pictures of hill tribe people. There are numerous tour companies
that visit hill tribes during treks.
Thank you summitpost.org
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