Hill tribes from Northern Thailand change to a fresh start

Hill tribes from Northern Thailand change to a fresh start

Explore Thailand’s life above the idyllic beaches and glistening skyscrapers. The country is known for its notorious opium trade during the latter half of the 1960s, tribes of the hill in northern Thailand are striving to come back from their past, through the aid by Local Alike, a community-based tourism business.

Meet Achai

“The jungle is my supermarket,” Phetcharat Wiboonsrisakul jokes in his daily stroll through the hills of the jungle trails in the vicinity of Suan Pa, a village located in Chiang Rai district. 

An elevated experience

Shopping at”the “supermarket” with Achai was the first stop on my three-day trip organized with Local Alike. Local Alike and Local Alike, where I’d go to Suan Pa and Pha Mee both of which are Akha villages that are scattered across the northern part of Thailand’s majestic mountains.

Achai sincerely revealed some of her secrets about the Akha and pointed out various herbal remedies for muscle pains and insect bites, as well as always thanking the spirit bird for replenishing the flora within the forest.

The hike that can be customized to suit participants’ levels of fitnessended with a lunch that was prepared for guests in a high-end bamboo hut. I experienced “lam pla”, a traditional method of cooking bamboo on an open flame.

With its stunning surroundings and the vibrant cottage industries such as weaving, coffee and pottery The development of Suan Pa’s persevering community appears promising.

Responsible tourism

The seeds for Local Alike’s involvement with Suan Pa was planted when the CEO of the company, Somsak Bookam, and Achai first met and realized the common desire to protect nature and culture through working together to create memorable travel experiences.

Established in 2012, Local Alike assesses each community’s needs and its readiness to tourism. They offer assistance to those who are chosen in bringing unique experiences to tourists that Local Alike then features on its website. It manages bookings and payment process.

Prices are set by each community. Each holds 70 percent of profits generated from each reservation.

Akha homestays aren’t uncommon however Suan Pa is not ready to provide them I was happy to find that they were not that they were required to open their homes to tourists for the sake of tourism. There’s a disturbing trend of tour operators commercially forcing villagers to be dressed with traditional Akha clothes and colourful headgear which I, was expecting to observe, only to see this notion disproved.

“Many of the tribal population are now more comfortable wearing modern western attire because they’re lighter as well as more comfortable. The tribal culture has evolved and we appreciate that instead of forcing people to wear traditional clothing all day to attract tourists,” shares Krishna Manowang who is known as Bic My Suan Pa guides.

In the event that you are concerned about the possibility that tourism might stifle Akha cultural heritage, Phakakan Rungpracharat who is the tourist community’s leader on my next stop, Pha Mee, allays this concern.

“When we discuss our traditions with others from the outside and show their appreciation, they are awestruck. It makes us feel happy when they share our pictures and videos. It inspires young people to hold on to the roots of their family,” Says Phakakan, who goes by the name of Maew.

Ethics-based travel, long-lasting impact

Pha Mee, named after the well-known “Bear Mountain”, is located in one of the most recent villages to become part of the Local Alike network. It is more busy than Suan Pa new coffee shops, homestays and souvenir stores have opened to bring a lively vibe to the tranquility of the town.

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