Do's & Don'ts when visiting hilltribe villages
With such demand to see the hill tribes, visits to hill tribe villages and hill tribe treks have become a money making business giving rise to many ethical questions over how this is being carried out. There are concerns about the impact of tourism to villages, erosion of local culture and the environment and whether the villagers are getting a fair deal from tourism.
Almost all tour agencies in Northern Thailand advertise tours to hill tribe villages, unfortunately most of these are to villages which have been modified for the tourist, so the experience is not in its natural setting. These villages typically charge an entrance fee and stands are set up inside where villagers sell souvenirs and handicrafts. Even the souvenirs and handicrafts are not handmade by themselves but sourced from town. Some also argue that the hill tribes are being exploited by the company that manages the entrance fees, and do not receive a fair pay.
With a little bit of research it is possible to find tour agencies that offer an authentic and ethical experience of the hill tribes.
So when inside a village what are the “do’s and don’ts” and how do you make sure you a responsible tourist? Here are some tips:
• Always ask for permission before taking photos. Communicate this through body language or ask your guide to help
• If you want to make a donation the proper channels should be used, so talk to your guide as they will know best how to do this.
• Avoid creating a culture of begging by not handing gifts or money out individually
• Show respect for religious symbols or spirit catchers which are often at the front of the village or house
• Support their livelihoods through buying handicrafts they make. This is a great way to help and a more sustainable option than donations
• Dress politely and modestly
• Common sense and courtesy should prevail. Remember a smile goes a long way!
• If you minimise your cultural and environmental impact you can’t go far wrong.
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
This is a new private temple and thus not a temple with historical value. The temple is painted in white and on all the surface is decorated with glass mirror. On a sunny day, the light reflects on mirror and making the temple outstandingly sparkling white. The architecture is amazing and the sculpture is so intricate & detailed. However, i don't understand why some of the western mythology sculptures have been built here. Maybe it's just the liking of the owner and to make it more distinctive.
Every angle of the temple is an art or architecture marvel. There's no information leaflet available in English. You have to pay for most of the information booklet. Some of the complexes are still under construction.
Chiang Rai, the capital of Thailand's most northerly province, is 180km from Chiang Mai.
Thailand's northenmost province of Chiang Rai is encircled by mountain ranges that mark its boundary with Myanmar to the northwest and Laos to the northeast. Inhabiting the highlands are hilltribes like the Akha, Lahu, Karen and Hmong. The province has three gateways to Myanmar and Laos, accessed from the border towns of Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong & Mae Sai.
Some recommended websites for you so that you don't have to spend your time searching all over the internet:-
Do remember to check out my travel pages on Chiang Mai on some interesting travel tips on Night Bazaar, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Maesa Elephant Camp etc.
In the far north of the province is the area known as the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong and Ruak Rivers meet to form the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
"Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)"
This is a new private temple and thus not a temple with historical value. The temple is painted in white and on all the surface is decorated with glass mirror. On a sunny day, the light reflects on mirror and making the temple outstandingly sparkling white. The architecture is amazing and the sculpture is so intricate & detailed.