If you have watched reality shows about spoilt, rich children getting everything they demand, parents answering to every beck and call, then the way of life in the hill-tribes will be a shock to the system. The people of the hill tribes migrated from the southern part of china and settled in Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. In Thailand they settled in the northern part and little has changed in regards to their lifestyles despite many years having passed.
The hillside tribes who reside in northern Thailand comprise of 7 major tribes; lisu, lahu, Karen, Hmong, akha, Yao and the lawa. Each tribe has its own distinct cultures, language, mode of dressing and religion. A profession common to all of them, is farming and hospitable and welcoming to people visiting their villages.
Karen is one of the major hill tribes and if you are yearning to go native you can opt for a home stay in their villages if you want to know more about their culture. Choosing to plan your own trip maybe cheaper but a little difficult so it is better especially if it is you first time to choose a pocket friendly package from the tour operators in Chiang Mai, for instance packages from US$150 per person for a 3 days stay are easy to find. It is inclusive of meals, accommodation, local guide, transport to and from the village and an English speaking facilitator.
In the village you will have a chance to live with the locals and learn their culture and also get involved in their daily activities including basket making, cooking and weaving. The Karen hill tribes live around the mae Hong son area which is very mountainous and you can trek to the top of the highest mountain. Accompanied by a local Karen guide you can tour and find out how the people live in harmony with nature. Don’t be shocked by their fashion sense because their traditional dressing is sacred to them and they have been able to stick to it despite modernization
Accommodation may be basic but it is comfortable and the local food is tasty. The locals are very friendly and welcoming so it will be very easy to fit in despite the remote culture. You will be surprised at how much fun you can have even without the technological gadgets like TV because you can spend the evenings, you can share your photos of home with them or even just practice your Karen vocabulary.
The Karen tribe grows rice, vegetables and corns and you will have an opportunity to walk through the rice fields. The guides will explain how they do their farming and if you don’t mind you can also join in. if at any point in your life you feel that you can caught up with the fast pace of modernization, the hill tribes is the place to be. It will be worth every penny you spend.