Hanging Out with the Hill Tribes

Jan. 20, 2017:

Yesterday afternoon, I opted to go to a jade factory where one of the carvers was the man who carved the Jade Buddha at the Doi Suthep temple we visited a couple of days ago.  Since that Buddha was carved nearly 20 years ago, I was surprised to see what a young man he still is!  Their jade carvings were magnificent, and one of our party bought a laughing Buddha.  The  jewelry offerings weren’t too shabby either! To top it off, the factory is surrounded by flowers, including some incredible orchids.

Master carver with his lotus blossom sculpture



Today, our mission was to go learn about some of the many hill tribes living in Thailand. While many of them are native to Thailand, others have immigrated from surrounding countries; predominantly Myanmar.  The area we go to visit is like a collective of the various tribes, with some tribal members living in the village, and other returning to their villages at night or weekly.  The tribes included in this village are the Yao, Palong, Akhu, Lahu, Sgaw Karen, Padong (or “long-necked”) Karen, Kayew Karen, and Hmong peoples.  This village collective is called Baan Tong Luang.

Women of the Sgaw Karen tribe


Baan Tong Luang village


Lahu man smoking a traditional pipe

In addition to getting to see members of each tribe dressed in their traditional attire, you also get to experience different practices/customs of traditional life.  For example, one older gentleman was demonstrating how his tribe uses a crossbow to hunt.  Naturally, all the guys in our tour flocked around for that demonstration!  I was more interested in watching a very elderly woman show her artistry in creating beautiful batik fabrics. I love this art form!

Lahu villagers


Lahu crafts and headgear
Hmong woman making batik patternn
Indigo plant for dying batik
Another intricate Hmong batik pattern
Trying on a Hmong skirt
“Ironing” the finished batik
Makes you appreciate your ironing board, right?!
Inside a Hmong home

Each tribe has a few homes in the village constructed in the style and materials common to their tribe, so you can see how the villagers traditionally lived.  The homes are all constructed around a communal rice paddy and crop area, which the villagers tend. Most of the homes we see have darling children, and the village acts as a giant display area for the sale of the native crafts of each tribe.  This is my kind of day — cultural learning experience and shopping opportunity!!!

Irrigation system for the rice paddy
Another housing style


Entrance to the Akha village with a “spirit gate” to stop bad spirits from entering

In any event, you couldn’t help but be struck by how lovely and kind each of the villagers was.  So many of the native costumes were brightly colored that they all made beautiful pictures!  I particularly liked the velvet coats worn by the Palong tribe, and the Padong and Kayew Karen tribespeople were striking with their tubular brass embellishments.  The villagers let us try on various headgear, and take photos with them.

Ahka woman with traditional headgear


I think she wore it better!


Palong villager with velvet coat


Pudong woman with typical makeup and brass knee rings and bracelets


Pudong man spinning wool
Kayew Karen or “Long-necked” Karen tribespeople 


Following the fun of meeting the hill tribe peoples, we returned to the resort for an afternoon at leisure. Jim and I started out by walking around this gorgeous property.  Then we retreated to the pool area to swim, edit photos (in my case), and gaze across the rice paddy. We’re almost sad to leave this oasis, but Bankok calls!



2 thoughts on “Hanging Out with the Hill Tribes”

  1. Hi, Actually batik is referred to give pattern on fabric using wax and parts of the fabric that is covered by wax could not be dyed, so to change a different color, a lot of process to remove the wax from unpainted pattern, and cover the area which is not going to be dyed. The fabric that is weaved with geometrical designed is called weaving fabric and in Bali some are called ikat when the designer tied a group of yarn together, and those yarns will be weaved latter. Any technology not using wax unless a print, is not called Batik. We met you when we went to Patagonia with Tauck tour 2 years ago. Enjoy your advanture. Best Regards,Lim Hok Tan


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