Located just north of Chiang Mai next to Ratchamangkla Park is Chiang Mai Tribal Museum. For those not intending to do a few days trekking north of Chiang Mai this is the best place to experience something of the rich hill tribe culture found in the north of Thailand.
Over centuries the north of Thailand has seen migrations of tribal people from China, Tibet and South East Asia. North Thailand is a fascinating place for those keen to see ancient ways of living; it is also an integral part of most trekking trips sold in Chiang Mai.
I remember many years ago my girlfriend and I did a trek with a bloke who styled himself ‘coconut Dundee’. It was a 3 day trek complete with opium pipes. One the first night we stayed in a tribal village. It was fascinating walking around the village seeing how things were done. The kids were friendly and the adults generally just smiled and got on with whatever they were up to. I remember the following morning I heard something that sounded like church singing. I went off to explore by myself and found a religious gathering. They were singing a standard church hymn but in their own language. I slipped off my shoes and sat at the back. The singing was beautiful as was the atmosphere. It was a magical moment for me; nearly as good as the pipes the night before.
Anyway to learn something about the Karen (famous for the ‘long necks’ created by multiple gold rings), the Akha, Lisu and Hmong hill tribes a trip to the Tribal Museum is an excellent option. Those tribal people that stay in the village next to the museum are dressed in their traditional costumes.
The museum site is fairly small but contains plenty to see. There is an information area with information about calendar activities for the tribes focused around agriculture. There are also model villages to give you an idea about traditional hill tribe architecture. Each visitor also sees a 15-minute video about hill tribes.
A taxi to the hill tribe museum takes about 40 minutes.
When I went to the Tribal Museum we saw hill tribal people in their full regalia. However, others complain that they missed this.
Opening Hours: 9am to 4pm
Cost: 50 to 100 Thai Baht
Address: Chiang Mai Tribal Museum, Chotana Road Rd., Chang Phueak, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand
Phone number: +66 (0) 5321 0872