The population of northern Thailand consists of residents of cities and mountain villages, whose lifestyle has not changed for several hundred years. The population of the hill tribes in Chiang Mai is about 500 thousand people including Ethnic Lao, Burmese, and Chinese nations. These tribes live far from cities, on the mountain slopes, in villages built of bamboo. The largest number of settlements is located in the province of Chiang Rai and near the city of Mae Hong Son, bordering Burma. For many centuries, the main occupation of the hill tribes of the north was the cultivation of poppies. Nowadays, hill tribes are the most interesting tourist attraction of the north.
The most popular mountain villages are Akha, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Lisa, Padaung and Karen. Each tribe has its own language and culture.
For example Akha women like to wear headdresses decorated with silver or aluminum bells and coins. The distinguishing sign of the representatives of the Lisa tribe is metal cylinders inserted into the earlobes. The Karen tribe Chiang Mai is the biggest hill tribe with rice-growing areas. Local people prefer V-necked bright tops. Women also wear bright and cheerful hats. The representatives of Hmong tribe Chiang Mai are famous for their unusual clothing: female wear pleated dresses with embroidery and men prefer colorful wide trousers.
The Padaung women are also well-known as long neck Chiang Mai women. They look very exotic, as they wear heavy copper rings around their necks, the number of which can reach up to 25-30. Rings for these women are the best jewelry which they never take off. Girls begin to wear them from the age of 4 years. As the neck grows, the number of rings increases. Where did such a strange tradition come from? According to the legend, men ringed the neck of their women to protect them from the sharp teeth of large predators. Later the rings became an ornament and an indicator of the social status of their owners. Padaung women are happy to take some photos with you. Some of them even have a special set of half rings which tourists can wear around their neck to feel the full weight of these jewelries.
Mountain villages are scattered throughout the north of Thailand, if you wish, you can visit them by yourselves or during the Doi Suthep + Meo village + Waterfall tour. Some tribes can be reached by car, and others only by special four-wheeled mini safaris or mountain biking.
Villagers always welcome visitors very hospitably. Some of them sell their own handicrafts: stoles, striped cloth bags and purses, wooden figures, jewelry, hats. It is no doubt that visiting hill tribes will be an unforgettable experience!