Hill tribes of northern Thailand / March 1st 2011

Karen (paduang) woman weaving, northern Thailand

I’ve planned a couple of visits to meet my UNESCO colleagues in Bangkok, at the headquarters where I worked last year. I’d also like to head off on an excursion to photograph in the rainforests up in the north of Thailand, near it’s highest peak Doi Inthanon (2565m). For the main part though, Bangkok will be a base for the next six weeks as I rekindle my freelance work with UNESCO Bangkok.

The mountainous northern region, the Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son provinces as well as the northern river valleys share its border with Myanmar and Laos. The area is inhabited by many hill tribes: Karen (forced out of Myanmar), Hmong, Yao, Lisu, Lahu, Lawa and Akha all with their distinctive clothing and way of life. The Karen paduang or ‘long necks’ will be familiar to many as the people wearing heavy brass rings around their neck. In fact, their necks are not long… the shoulder blades are compressed downwards by the rings weighing as much as 5kg on an adult.

I visited them in 2002 (above) and although their lifestyle is almost totally reliant on the tourist dollar, (not always a pleasant experience) I’d hope the contact with and awareness of these ‘minority groups’ will go towards helping them gain some degree of independence. It’s a hope played out amongst all the world’s indigenous people. I’d question whether I’d feel happy about visiting them simply to observe (having done so once). There are other ways to see the world.

Enjoy a Thailand experience that contributes to the local people.
AFECT’S Thailand Hill Tribe Rain Forest Adventure – Chiang Rai, northern Thailand – is the oldest HILL TRIBE organization in Thailand and for 28 years we have been protecting HILL TRIBE culture. Because we are the only organization in Asia protecting HILL TRIBE Culture we are pleased to offer unique short courses in our Tribal School Adventure and Long term Volunteer placements – some of the best in Thailand. We work in association with UNESCO and UNDP.

White Karen family, northern Thailand

See this UNESCO link for resource material
Search ‘hill tribes’

© Warren Field 2011


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