A way of life that hasn’t evolved over the centuries, tribal life doesn’t fail to fascinate. From their primitive hunting and gathering ethos, beautiful and brightly colored dress to sometimes unusual practices like the long neck tribe, it’s no wonder we look for ways to learn more about the intriguing ways of tribal life.
In Thailand there are seven main tribes that are known as the hill tribes. While each and every tribe’s origins is drizzled with myth and legend, they can, in fact, be traced back to Southern Sino Tibet. Mostly farmers by trade, these semi-nomadic peoples were driven to move by their need for new land on which to farm. This is when they stumbled upon the northern board of Thailand, Payap.
These gentle tribesmen and women can still be found today on the lush hillsides of Payap. However, gone are the days where there are hard boundaries between the seven main tribes albeit they all preserve their distinct culture, religion, language, art and style of dress. Welcoming of tourists and visitors, the tribes are wonderful to visit, but with western culture infiltrating as well as the proximity in which they live to local Thais, it’s thought we may be the last generation to be privy to such fascinating culture.
Our Lowdown on Thai Tribes
Akha (pronounced “i-kaw”)
Where in Thailand: mainly in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces
Where in Thailand: Mostly in Phayao, Nan and Chiang Rai
Where in Thailand: mostly Chiang Mai
Where in Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Sukhothai and Lampang
Where in Thailand: The largest hill-tribe in the country, the Karen tribes can be found in lowland valleys throughout Thailand
Where in Thailand: Chiang Mai, Tak and Chiang Rai provinces