Lisu, Yao, Akha, Lawa and Karen hilltribes live throughout northern
Thailand’s mountains. They share animist beliefs and honour numerous
forest and guardian spirits. Each tribe has distinctive ceremonial attire,
courtship rituals, games, dances, agricultural customs, puberty rites,
languages or dialects, aesthetic values and hygienic habits.
‘Jungle Treks’, lasting from 2 to 7 days, take visitors through
forested mountains and high valleys and meadows and include visits to
remoter high-altitude hilltribe settlements for overnight stays. The best
guides are hilltribe youths who customarily speak English, Thai and at
least three tribal dialects.
commonly feature travel by foot, sometimes by boat, elephant-back,
horse-back or jeep, frequently a combination of two or three modes of
trekkers are advised to shop around companies offering such tours for the
best conditions. All treks must be registered with the Tourist Police.
This is done for trekkers’ protection. Avoid companies that do not abide
by this law. Visitors are welcome to enquire from the Tourist Police to
confirm which tour companies have negative or bad reputations, or visit
the TAT Chiang Mai office to obtain a list of registered travel agents.
avoid narcotics, essentially everything from soft drugs such as marijuana
to hard drugs such as opium and heroin both during travel and at hilltribe
villages. There are severe penalties for such usage.
sensible clothing to protect your limbs and sleep under a mosquito net at
night. Malaria is a real threat, and sensible precautions should be taken
to avoid it.
should remember to
Respect hilltribe beliefs and religious symbols and structures.
Dress modestly. Hilltribe people are generally modest. Inappropriate
attire may offend them.
Ask permission before photographing someone. Some villages do not permit
Avoid trading western medicines and articles of clothing. Contributions to
their welfare, items such as pens, paper, needles, thread, cloth and
material used for embroidery are perfectly acceptable.
are determined by the duration of the trip, transportation modes, meals
available and the size of the trekking party. Check directly with the
Chiang Mai TAT office for current information.