"Mountains, hilltribes and trekking in Chiang Rai" Top 5 Page for this destination Chiang Rai by mim95

Chiang Rai Travel Guide: 244 reviews and 741 photos

I spent about a month in Chiang Rai province, the main purpose was to work on my fieldwork research on community tourism in an upland ethnic minority (aka: hilltribe) village in the province. Chiang Rai is the northern-most province in Thailand that shares its border with Burma and Laos. The area was once known as the Golden Triangle, with many opium fields and inter-country illegal drug trades.

The intriguing hilltribe cultures are very different from the dominate Thai culture. They live on the hills of the northern part of Thailand, as well as Burma, Laos, Yunnan province of China and Vietnam. They have their own language, religion (although some have been converted to Christians), beliefs and traditions. And because of their unique culture, they attracted many foreign travellers to visit these villages every year, whether it is by trekking or by a tour bus.

Please be a responsible tourist if you decide to visit these hilltribe communities. Visit the hilltribe museum in Chiang Rai city or Chiang Mai city first to learn about their culture and difficulties they are facing today. If you are considered doing overnight trekking trips, make sure you join a tour that can benefit the local communities directly. Most tours are for-profit oriented and the hilltribe homestay family recieve only a very small fraction of what you paid for. Tours run by local NGOs can assure that more benefits can go back to the communities through community development projects.

There are numerous Chinese villages in Chiang Rai province too. The Chinese are descendents of the ex-KMT soldiers who fought against the civil war in China before the communists took over in 1949. They escaped into Burma and eventually settled in northern Thailand. Chinese (mandarin) is well spoken in Mae Salong, one of the larger Chinese communities in the province.

Additional resources on hilltribe:
1. Virtual Hilltribe Museum
2. Articles and books written by Dr. Erik Cohen, a sociologist that has dedicated his research on tourism and hilltribe.
3. Articles written by Dr. Philip Dearden, who has interests in ecotourism, especially in Thailand and SE Asia.

Responsible tours offered in Thailand:
PDA Tour - Chiang Rai based
Mirror Art Group - Chiang Rai based
Andaman Discoveries - Phang Nga based. They do responsible tours and volunteer trips in Southern Thailand. They won a number of awards, including the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award - Best for Conservation for Cultural Heritage and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful mountains and fascinating ethnic minority and Chinese cultures
  • Cons:Best visited with your own transportation if you want to go off the beaten path
  • Last visit to Chiang Rai: Apr 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (34)

Comments (11)

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Oct 14, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Excellent page, plenty of good advice. We were in the district with members of our Orchid Society early 2010, had a great time. Returing with group Nov/ Dec, Bangkok and Vietaine. Our first visit to Laos.We visited Hill Tribes out of Chiang Mai.

  • cal6060's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Great tips..and good information..

  • picek's Profile Photo
    Oct 27, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    Agree entierly about resposnible tourism. A minimum anyone can do is to choose right companies who'll benefit locals. But when money talks... Nice page on CR.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Apr 23, 2009 at 12:45 AM

    Good tips, hope I get there.

  • BillNJ's Profile Photo
    Apr 5, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    Very interesting and informative page on the fascinating Northern Thailand region.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    May 16, 2008 at 6:37 AM

    Great tips Mimi!

  • Tina-Perth's Profile Photo
    Feb 7, 2008 at 7:19 PM

    I love congee too, Mimi! Anytime I can get it for breakfast, I have it, but I don't like the Thai style one too much - with the salted egg, I prefer pork or chicken congee.

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2007 at 5:09 AM

    Great page on Ciang Rai with good tips and nice photos. Thanks.

  • Linda_T's Profile Photo
    Aug 11, 2007 at 4:42 AM

    What wonderful tips, I only went as far as Chiang Mai but will definately include Chiang Rai next time

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2007 at 2:07 AM

    Excellent tips - the food tips are mouth watering. I have still to make it to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. One quirky question, did you see anyone send Myanmarese postcards from Mae Son. Cheers, SL


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