Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tribal Museum

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.

Essential Information

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


Reviews on Trip Advisor are mixed for the Tribal Museum. They had a fire in 2013 and it appears that the museum is sometimes closed, or just looks closed. Some reviewers praise the museum and the director who shows some visitors around. Others complain that they didn’t get to see any hill tribe people. It might be best to phone the museum before heading out there to make sure they are open, and whether there are any hill tribe people to see.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Chiang Mai Airport

Chiang Mai has a very good airport. It is not so big or so small as to cause major inconveniences. Moreover the airport is located relatively close to the centre of Chiang Mai. The experience of using Chiang Mai Airport is very different to the experience of using Suvarnabhumi Airport. These are good reasons to consider using Chiang Mai Airport rather than catching a bus or train to the northern Thai travel hub.

Chiang Mai has an international airport. Currently it has flights to and from China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Taiwan. There are also plenty of domestic scheduled flights that use Chiang Mai Airport. There are 130 flights to Bangkok every week. You can fly from Udon Thani, Udon Ratchethani, Mae Hong Son, Krabi and Surat Thani to Chiang Mai. Despite these scheduled flights many people will find that they cannot fly directly to Chiang Mai either because of price, bad connections or availability. Often it is necessary to spend at least one night in a Bangkok hotel. You can find a good list of budget Bangkok hotels here –

The airport at Chiang Mai is a 2 storey building with plenty of parking at the front. It is usually quick to get through customs and also passport control if you are arriving from outside Thailand. The airport is less congested and the experience of getting through the formalities is a lot more positive. For those who want to avoid the long queues and possible interrogations involved with landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chiang Mai Airport is the obvious choice.

Outside the airport you can catch a pre-paid taxi or tuk tuk to the centre of town. It takes about 10 minutes to get from the airport to the old walled city of Chiang Mai. This is where many of the best guest houses are located and has traditionally been where backpackers prefer to stay since it is near the historic sites of the city.

In terms of cost, internal flights to Chiang Mai are very reasonably priced especially if you have flexibility in your itinerary. For just 2,000 Thai Baht you can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. This is great value since the bus or train costs around 1,000 Thai Baht. The fact that the flight takes just a couple of hours rather than overnight on a bus or train is another strong argument for flying to Chiang Mai.

At the moment Thailand is going through a budget carrier boom making it possible to travel the Kingdom quickly and cheaply. The trains are state owned and the prices fixed. The logistics of bus travel make it impossible for coach companies to lower their prices significantly. Another consideration is that flying is a safer form of transport than travel on the road. This is because of the high prevalence of drunk driving and the lack of enforcement of road regulations.

When you arrive at Chiang Mai Airport your main concern might be to just get to your hotel. The chances are, however, that once you are safely ensconced in your hotel you will look back on your journey and conclude that flying to Chiang Mai was a good idea.