Trekking in Thailand: Hilltribe Odyssey


In the northwest corner of Thailand, near the junction of the Burmese, Thai and Laotian borders, live Thailand's celebrated hilltribes. A visit to this land offers a unique cultural odyssey. In their remote mountain retreats, the people live in a world without laws, taxes, or governments. While in recent years the hilltribes have been increasingly drawn into the modern world (some villages now have electricity, and a motorbike or truck is occasionally seen in larger settlements), there are still many village tribes that retain their ancient culture relatively intact.
The center for hilltribe trekking is the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, a day's bus ride from Bangkok. Following a ride by long-tail boat or bamboo raft to the trailhead, you will hike about 15 miles each day. Lunch will be served up in one village and dinner cooked at your evening's destination. As you will stay inside village huts, you only need to take a day pack with your own personal gear. In the winter, however, it is advisable to bring a sleeping bag. The thatched walls of the huts provide no insulation against the cold night air, and you will be provided with the thinnest of blankets.

Practically Speaking
A busy commercial center, Chiang Mai is a haven for budget travelers. At one of the many guest houses, you can book a clean room with a private bath for under $15 per night. To find a trekking agency, head for the Old City, a walled enclosure on the eastern side of town. There, along Chaiyapoom Road, you'll find a dozen agencies offering guided hilltribe treks. The competition keeps prices incredibly low. Expect a 5-day, 4-night trek to start at roughly $100 per person.

Published: 8 Jul 2005 | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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