In 2005, I spent three months in Thailand teaching English and fell in love with the country. Now, whenever I read articles about Thailand I feel nostalgic and also connected to the writer and their feelings and experiences there as well. In Hangin’ with the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand, Terry Braverman discusses his experience traveling through different hill tribes, the people he meets along the way, and the differences between the tribes. I could relate to his experiences, but also felt this was a great educational article for people looking to travel there.
His introduction sums up the overall experience before breaking it down step by step.
““Hello……hello….” The only English word most hill tribe people speak, it’s the initial greeting upon entering their villages, usually said to draw attention to the handcrafts for sale. The “I-sell-you-buy” association can be transcended in two ways. If you’re fluent in the universal languages of music, mime, and sound effects, it creates a connection beyond words.
Smiles, laughter, curiosity and engagement abound when I played harmonica, made faces, or imitated animal sounds in the village. Ultimately, a guide who has established relationships in the villages and is conversant in their languages will give you a PIN to access their world and withdraw cultural understanding, yielding a richer return on your experience.”
Many other travel bloggers have written about Thailand as well, including a great summary of why you should go in the first place by one of my favorite travel bloggers Nomadic Matt. As well as many other places and activities to explore, hill tribes were among the short but concise summary.
Unfortunately, since 2005, when Braverman’s article was written as well as when I was there, many hill tribes have become modernized by tourists. One blogger wonders if these visits have done more harm than good. Though I agree this is definitely a problem, I still believe as long as you respect their culture and encourage their original traditions, there is still a lot to learn from the many hill tribes of Thailand.