Over eighty percent of
individual foreign tourists visiting Chiang Mai make enquiries about
hilltribe trekking. Of particular interest to most are the six major
hilltribes which inhabit the Northern Highlands. The largest group is
Karen, followed by the Meo, Lahu, Yao, Akha and Lisu. Each tribe has its
own distinctive language, costume, religious and historical background.
The Karen have moved eastward from Myanmar into Thailand over the last two
hundred years because of political conflict, while the others, originating
in south-west and south-central China, moved first into Laos and Myanmar,
and then into Thailand within this century. It is estimated that the total
hilltribe population scattered over twenty-one provinces, is about five
hundred and fifty thousand.
Exploring and staying in
hilltribe villages is an experience which visitors can also fully enjoy
the splendor of northern landscape: the jungles, mountains, rivers,
waterfalls and caves, while using a wide range of transport including
longtail boats, raft, jeeps, horses and elephants. And of course it
wouldn't be called trekking if it were not done on foot.
A great many of the
tourists visiting Chiang Mai make enquiries about hilltribe trekking. They
come looking for adventure
and a learning experience that will last a life time. The experience of a
trek around the Chiang Mai area usually includes beautiful mountain
terrain, wild and steamy jungles, clean rivers, photogenic waterfalls and
unusually shaped caves. Visitors can journey to these places by foot, by
horseback or on the back of an elephants. Traveling by longtail boats and
jeeps are becoming more and more popular as tour agencies expand their
approach to trekking.
The Tourism Authority of
Thailand (TAT.) wants to help visitors seeking information about trekking
and trekking agencies. Here is a list of some guidelines for potential
trekkers to follow.
1. The Main Trekking Areas
Over the past twenty years, three main trekking areas, in which there are
many different routes, have become most favoured by tourists. Those are as
A. A.Chiang Mai - Mae Tang
Route usually includes a raft trip down the Mae Tang River.
B. A. Chiang Mai -
Mae Hong Son
adventurers through spectacular mountain scenery where some roads are
virtually impassable except in dry season.
C. A. Chiang Mai-Chiang
Rai Route if one chooses, he can take an extremely pleasant, but
potentially with exciting longtail boat ride on the Kok River, all the way
from Thaton to Chiang Rai.
The other major
trekking areas in the North are Chiang Dao, Pai, Mae Chaem, Mae Chan,
Ngao, Phrao, Wiang Pa Pao and Lampang.
2. Before going on a
trek its a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different hilltribes
and their culture. A good place to start is to visit the
located in the Rama 9 Park on Chotana Road,. The museum has a very
informative about each of the hilltribes. The exhibition include costumes
worn by the different tribes, maps and charts telling about hilltribe
festivals and each tribes farming cycle. There is also very informative
library containing up-to date books about each hilltribe group. The Tribal
Research Institute is open weekdays from
to 12:00 and
from 13:00 to 16:00.
3. TAT. Chiang Mai does
not have any organized trekking tours but will gladly had out an
information with a list of the licensed private companies specializing in
trekking tours. Read this sheet and then do some shopping around.
4. Some of the better
companies specializing in trekking tours are members of NORTHERN THAILAND
JUNGLE TOUR CLUB. The guide are usually licensed and have studied at a
school which offers training in the tourist industry. It is recommended
that you take advantage of their expertise. They know the trekking areas
very well and often can speak the hilltribe dialects. Their English is
quite good as well as their knowledge of hilltribe culture. It is always a
good idea to speak with your guide before hand to check their language
5. All treks must be
registered with the Tourist Police before departure. This is done for your
protection. Companies which don't adhere to this are breaking the
law and offering a potentially dangerous situation. You should avoid these
6. Recently, some
trekking companies and guides have used narcotics to lure tourists. Some
have even asked hilltribes to demonstrate the use of narcotics. These
tactics when used are detrimental and can get you in trouble. Remember
that in Thailand
there are laws with stiff penalties concerning the use of narcotics.
Visitors are welcome to make enquiries with the Tourist Police to fine out
which companies have a bad reputation with the police department.
To date there are more than 43 Travel Agents and
Guides listed as member of the Northern Jungle Tour Club in Chiangmai,
Lampang and Mae Hong Soon.
Click to this links to find their details :
Listed Travel Agents & Guides -
Northern Jungle Tour Club Member
7. Keep your valuables,
in a safe at the hotel or guest house you are staying at when trekking up
8. Protect yourself
against the nasty little mosquitoes of
Donut rely only on the use of prophylactic drugs. In Thailand the many
different strains of malaria parasites are resistant to many of the drugs
on the market. You should also protect yourself by wearing long pants,
long-sleeved shirts, thick socks and a scarf around your neck. Also use at
when trekking strong brand of mosquito repellent. At night you should
sleep under a mosquito net and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and
dawn when the little pests are a nuisance. For additional information
about malaria you can call (053) 221529 and talk to someone at the Malaria
Centre of Chiang Mai. This office is located on Boonruengrit Road inside
the Suan Dok Medical compound just west of the moat in Chiang Mai.
9. TAT. Northern Office
: Region 1 has long realized the importance of the varies hilltribes in
Thailand and has
tried to help preserve and promote the hilltribes culture and tradition.
Information about the culture and way of life of each tribe is shared
among government agencies, trekking tour companies, guesthouse owners, the
media and tourists themselves. As a visitor you should remember.
9.1 to respect their
beliefs and religious symbols and structures. Be careful about what you
touch. It is better to ask your guide about some do's and don't before
entering a hilltribe village.
9.2 to dress
appropriately. Hilltribe people are generally modest and it may offend
them if you stroll around flashing your skin.
9.3 to ask before you
take a photograph of someone. Some villages do not even permit being
9.4 to avoid trading
western medicines and articles of clothing. Many of the hilltribe people
are not familiar with the use of western medicines. And by trading
clothing you may be adding a new element of dressing and grooming
contribute to their welfare, (pens, paper, needles, thread, cloth and
material used of vinous hilltribe handicrafts.)
10. Prices of treks are
determined by the duration of the trek and the transportation used. The
kind of meals
available and the size
of the trekking group will also effect the price. The average size of a
trekking group is about 4-10 trekkers. The cost breakdown may look
something like this.
AVERAGE COST OF
TREKKING (Group of 4-6 Paxs)
2 days and 1 Night
1,600 Baht/Per head
3 days and 2 nights
1,800 Baht/Per head
4 days and 3 nights
2,200 Baht/Per head
board-meals / Accommodation / Elephant ride and Raft or Boat ride.
11. Some trekking
companies offer a low trekking rate to attract tourists. Make sure that
you will receive the standard services. Paying a low price does not always
mean that you will get the quality standard services.