Friday, August 19, 2011


Day 64: The terrible tribal tour

This morning, we had booked a trip to visit some hill tribes outside of Chiang Mai, so we were picked up by our van and headed out on our tour. Our first stop was a butterfly and orchid park where we saw… you guessed it… butterflies and orchids! Then, we drove out to the hill areas where we started visiting hill tribes. The van stopped on a road and we all got out. The tour guide took us to walk around a few huts where a few people were just sitting around. It felt like we were walking through a zoo ogling the animals. It was just horrible. The same thing happened all down the road where we visited four or five “tribes”. People were just going about their business and here we were staring at them.

After the first set of “tribes”, we drove out to caves, where there were a few Buddha statues inside the cave. It all felt very commercial. We had lunch near the caves, and then proceeded to our next “tribal village” – the long neck and big ear tribes. This time, we arrived at an area lined with shops, all tended to by “long neck” women, and some “big ear” women. Yes that’s what the tribes are called. The long neck women were women who wore rings around their neck from childhood, and continually added rings, which pushed down their clavicle and extended the length of their neck. The big ear women were women who wore a circle ring in the lobe of their ear, which would then be made bigger and bigger, and the lobe would have a big hole in the middle of it. If we had visited their village and seen their way of life, it might have been ok, but these women were just sitting in storefronts trying to sell knick-knacks. Again, it felt like a zoo.

Apparently, all of the tribes we ogled at were all from nearby Burma, and these tribes are not allowed to work in Thailand and cannot leave their villages because they don’t have Thai ID cards so they are assigned these locations and are limited to staying in these areas.

We returned to our hotel utterly disappointed and feeling disgusting about the whole situation. We don’t know exactly what we were hoping or expecting to see but we definitely did not see it. Another horrible tourist trap, but this time, at the expense of the dignity of these marginalized people.

At the end of the day, we walked around town a bit and visited a few Buddhist temples. Then, we went and walked around the night market, had some dinner in the area, and went back to our hotel to sleep, feeling like such tourists. Sigh.
Butterfly at the butterfly park

Long neck tribe woman

Big ear tribe woman

 Akha tribe woman

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