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The Karen Hill Tribe

The Karen Hill Tribe

An unforgettable Karen Hill Tribe homestay experience in Nongomontha village, Northern Thai province of Chiang Mai

Northern Thai province of Chiang Mai – During my trip in Thailand, I combined a visit to the fascinating Karen hill tribe of Nongomontha village. After a long trekking into the jungle, I finally reached the village. Around 150 people live here. I had the chance to meet with them, having dinner together and sleeping for one night in this village.

It is not clear where the Karen hill tribe originates from. Tibet and the Gobi desert are considered possible homelands of the Karen. What is clear is that the Karen have been living in Burma for many centuries. In the 18th century Karen started migrating into Thailand.

Karen live in fifteen provinces in Thailand. These are all along the Burmese-Thai border from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son down to Tak, Kanchanaburi and further south to the Isthmus of Kra. Green Trails organizes tours to Karen communities in the Mae Wang area and on Doi Inthanon. Karen communities also feature in tours to the Mae Taeng and Chiang Dao areas. There are Karen villages in the Doi Wawee area, south of Chiang Rai.

The Karen hill tribe people wear woven v-neck tunics of various natural colours and turbans. Unmarried women wear distinctive long white v-neck tunics. The Karen occupy lowland areas, engaging in agriculture, including rice cultivation. Most Karen live in mountain villages and practice shifting cultivation of the rotating field type (that is, they move their fields, not their villages). They are primarily subsistence rice farmers. Because they live in the lower mountains, they have interacted significantly with the Thai population.

They are also skilled weavers and the most environmentally conscious of the hill tribes – practicing crop rotation, thus preserving the forest. The Karen hill tribe is the only tribe that owns elephants. Their formerly isolated villages now boast electricity, running water and a dirt road. Many marketable crops, such as tomatoes, soya beans, peanuts, beans and peppers, have become almost as important as the basic rice crop.

Info trekking: Yudee Mesook

❝That as individuals each of us is extremely isolated, while at the same time we are all linked by a prototypical memory❞ - Haruki Murakami

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