Ok so its not a tourist trap as such, jsut somewhere I would avoid ever going to agan. Maybe I'm being too harsh - I was only there for an evening and an hour in the morning after all, but what I saw was the the most ugly, univiting, and dull place in Thailand. I like to think its not but I was glad to get away. I walked around for ages to find an internet cafe that worked and then further still for somewhere to find food. No one seemed to want to help me, and were in complete contrast to the many kind Thai's I had already met. It was a bit upsetting really, and I felt really unwelcome here.
The only thing I liked was the view from the guesthouse - where I could look out over a beautiful landscape and forget the town that was behind me.
Fun Alternatives: Um... get an earlier bus from Mae Hong Son so you can get back to Chaing Mai earlier - perhaps about noon, rather than 3 ish or whenever I got the bus. I think it took about 8 or 9 hours in all.
I must also include elephant riding under "tourist traps". I myself am guilty of riding elephants in Thailand (twice, sorry). The riding itself isn't so bad or anything, but the whole system of elephant riding is bad. The elephants are chained, beaten, and cut to act as tourist machines. Going on an elephant ride in northern Thailand is memorable, but do you want to support people who beat and harm these gentile creatures??
PaDong 'Longneck' Karen
Visiting this tribe clearly goes under a tourist trap. Number one you must pay 500 BAHT just to enter and photography is more. These tribes are nothing more than tourist attractions. Honestly, visiting this tribe is like stepping into a human zoo, it's depressing. The women wear these heavy bress rings around their neck to mnake their shoulders go down and neck look longer. If you have the need to go just to see for your self, by all means do so, but I warned you!
Fun Alternatives: To get a true feel for the local minority hilltribes you must go on a trek to more remote villages, where you don't have to pay to get in, not to take photographs!
Elephant rides and trekking companies - frauds
Be careful and don't fall for the "i'll give you the most inexpencive trek in town" scam by unregestered tour companies in Mae Hong Son City. These companies may offer prices under five dollars for a three-day trek, its a trap and they will ask for more after the trek, when you're in the middle of know where. Make sure ypu hire an official licenced trekking company berfor going on a Mae Hong Son trek. I reccomend using La, with the Sunflower Cafe and Treking Company (as well as the owner of the Ban Keaw Resort GH in Mae Hong Son City, great and cheep place to stay).
Also be careful when you decide if you want to go on an elephant ride. I reccomend finding a company in which the elephants arnt stabbed and beaten by the trainers. Also watch out for price scams, it's Asia, all prices are barginable and nothing is set in stone!
Unique Suggestions: Find an official licenced company in Mae Hong Son, and a good licenced tour guide, they will help alot. I reccomend using the Sunflower Cafe and Tours from Mae Hong Son. Thay have great guides also: La, Long, Patiwat, Nui...
Padong Tribe's Village
I put this tip both to Tourist Trap and Mus see sections. Maybe this is changing as a tourist trap or it has already done that.
Unique Suggestions: Maybe it is worth of visiting because there are some beutuful scenery and other activities.
Padaung or 'Long Neck' Villages
I think this fits appropriately under the heading of tourist traps.
I urge you to think before you patronize the villages of Padaung people (a.k.a. the long neck people) in northern Thailand They are concentrated in Mae Hong Son province with some in Chiangmai province as well.
These villages are nothing more than human zoos contrived by primarily Thai business people to attract tourist dollars to their own pockets.
Because tourists will pay money to tour operators to go to see a Padaung tribesperson, others got the bright idea that if they brought more of these people into Thailand, set up a faux-Padaung village of their own, they too could get a piece of the action.
To service the tourist’s unquenchable thirst for the bizarre and cute, many of the Padaung people in these zoos did not flee civil strife in their homeland, but were lured and trafficked into Thailand from their native Burma.
Virtually no Padaung people have Thai citizenship and therefore have no rights in Thailand. Because they are in Thailand illegally, they are afraid seek help of the authorities when they are held against their will or wronged in other ways. They are completely at the whim of their 'zookeepers'.
What everyone goes to see in these villages is the body molding - rings around women's necks that makes them look like they have very long necks (actually the rings depresses the clavicles and upper ribs - the length of the vertebral column does not change).
Some think that their visit would have no impact on the Padaung and they are only observing them in their daily lives as if through a window. Wrong. The number of Padaung women that are forced to have body molding done on them has increased substantially because of tourism. Traditionally only women born on a full moon Wednesday had rings put around their necks. Now more of the girls are forced to have this done to them as more long necks draw more tourists to them.
Unique Suggestions: Some people believe that at least they are helping out the Padaung by visiting them and paying for photographs with them. Think again. Very very little of the money that you spend on photographs and tours to these villages ever reaches the Padaung - it goes to the tour operators and the businessmen and women who have set up these paying zoos. In many cases the Padaung are prohibited from leaving of their 'villages' (prisons?).
Don't take my word for any of this - do some research and decide for yourself.
The Thai authorities do nothing about this tragic situation because
1. They attract tourists to Mae Hong Son and the area, and that is good for the local economy, never mind the human rights infringement.
2. Local authorities are paid off to turn a blind eye to this sort of abuse for the good of the economy. After all, the Padaung are not even Thai citizens.
3. Racism is prevalent in Thailand, as it is in pretty much all societies, and most urban Thais consider themselves superior to hill tribe people, therefore subjugating them or making money off their situation is deemed OK.
Help end this appalling spectacle - it is allowed to happen because tourists spend money to see it. Ask yourself if the inhumane treatment these people endure is really worth the few pictures that you will pay to take. If you are uncomfortable with the degrading treatment of others, and your tour operator wishes to take you there, decline to go, and tell others why you decline. The power to stop this exploitation lies with us.
Fun Alternatives: Explore the countryside on your own. You can rent a jeep or motorcycle or use public transport to get you up to the hills, and then walk from there.
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