Learn more about the rich diversity of northern Thai culture by visiting one of the hill tribe villages near Chiang Rai during an exploration of the Golden Triangle—where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. Here are some of the best hill tribes to visit from Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai.
The Karen people originate from Myanmar and are the largest hill tribe group in north Thailand. They traditionally live in stilt houses, cultivate rice, raise animals, and craft silver jewelry. The Karen villages near Chiang Rai are known as the “Long Neck Villages” for the stacked brass rings the women wear around their necks.
The Lahu hill tribe came to Thailand from the Tibetan plateau by way of Yunnan. A strong commitment to the traditional Lahu way of life means their modern-day settlements are often situated in remote areas far from roads and towns. Primarily hunters and subsistence farmers, the Lahu often wear brightly colored floral garments.
The Akha hill tribe people originate from Tibet and migrated to north Thailand in the 1900s. They traditionally live in bamboo huts divided into separate areas for men and women. The Akha are known for their colorful embroidery, and the traditional costume is a black shirt with embroidered sleeves and an ornate headdress.
The Hmong people (also known around Chiang Rai as the Meo) migrated to Thailand from China via Laos. The Hmong live in mountainous areas and previously cultivated opium, though have now switched to rice and corn. The Hmong people, known for their batik fabric-dyeing techniques, traditionally wear indigo clothing.
Originally from South China, the Yao migrated into northern Thailand in the late 19th century, many of them settling in Chiang Rai province. This hill tribe is known for its spectacular traditional dress, which includes long blue jackets accented with red wool lapels and a turban-like head wrap.