Akha and Hmong Winter Festivals
||Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son
||Elephant safari, white water rafting (inflatable), trekking, boat trip
Featuring the Hmong New Year celebrations with their ancient courtship ceremony when in their best finery
the eligible boys and girls of the village throw cloth balls in a convention which will end in marriage.
Also the winter Akha festival, the men's, when the huge wooden village swings are used to hurl villagers towards
the skies in a celebration of the winter solstice. We will also visit and stay with the other hilltribes which
contribute to the richness of this areas cultural diversity, and enjoy the best tourist sites as well as
many other little known and beautiful places.
Maximum 8 customers plus tour leader, guide and driver.
Day 1 - Arrive Chiang Mai
Arrive Chiang Mai; check in Yaang Come Village Hotel - evening orientation - talk on history of Thailand and
Lanna Thai. Origins and basic principles of hilltribe culture.
Dinner and night in Yaang Come Village Hotel
Day 2 - Around Chiang Mai
Drive around the city moat (13th C) and up Doi Suthep Mountain to Wat Phrathaat Doi Sutep.
This most holy temple in the north contains a 16 C Buddha relic under a gold topped pagoda. Then up to the top of
Doi Pui mountain and drive 8 kilometres along a dirt road to a white Hmong village. Most of the villagers now work on
the local coffee plantation, but still lead a traditional life style.
Packed lunch here, with local coffee, then to the Blue Hmong village of Doi Pui. Now a major tourist destination,
but the villagers recently built a superb museum which gives a good overview of Hmong life.
Dinner at Anusarn Restaurant, night in Yaang Come Village Hotel.
Day 3 - Chiang Mai to Lahu outpost
Aftet breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Lisu lodge, 45 kilometres north of Chiang Mai. After a welcome drink at
the lodge, we transfer by car to the foot of the Doi Pui mountain rage, for a trek to the Lahu village of Kup Kap.
We have a picnic lunch at a small Hmong village. At high altitude, Kup Kap village looks down into
the valley far below. The 'Remote outpost' is run by the village chief (also the shaman) and his family.
Built by the village, in Lahu style, the lodge provides basic accommodation, but does have hot water and
western toilets - with arguably the best out-of-toilet view in Thailand!
Dinner and evening show by the villagers at the Lahu Outpost.
Day 4 - Trekking, rafting and elephants
Breakfast at Lahu Outpost. Walk 2 hours downhill passing Huay Sadan waterfall to the river, and travel downstream
by inflatable raft down the river to the Thai village of Muan Gurt.
Transfer upstream to an elephant camp for a picnic lunch. Then a one hour elephant ride through
steep mountain jungle and rivers. Drive to an Akha village to meet the shaman and the Akha people.
Transfer to Lisu Lodge for welcome drink, briefing and orientation. Walk through the village, starting from
Dton Loong temple (Buddhist). Meet the shaman and enjoy a cup of local tea with his family.
Visit the village spirit shrine (animist). Visit the Cultural Centre established by the village.
Dinner and show of Lisu music and dance. Overnight at Lisu Lodge.
Day 5 - Lisu Lodge - Khum Lanna
Breakfast at the Lodge. Ox-cart ride through hill country to the Thai village of Ban Phan Mae Daeng and
return Lisu Lodge. Lunch at the Lodge, then transfer by truck to Chiang Dao and a Karen village. 2 hour trekking to
a Lahu village. Transfer to Khum Lanna. Enjoy fruit drink made from the garden.
Late afternoon Thai cooking class to prepare your own Thai evening meal.
Day 6 - Khum Lanna to Lao Sip
Drive west to Chiang Dao (1 hour) and visit a Palong village. The Palong are recent immigrants into Thailand,
and only received legal rights to live here in 2005.
They produce colourful traditional clothing using cloth made from tree bark and coloured with natural dyes.
Drive to Thaton (2 hours) for lunch at Thaton River village, on the banks of the Maekok river. Then to Lor-Cha
(20 minutes drive), an Aha village which has produced a cultural village tour.
The Akha are the most exotic of the hilltribes, and this village project is a celebration by the Akha people of
their own culture. Then drive to Lao Sip, a Yao village (40 minutes). The Yao are a Chinese people who practice
an early form of Chinese shamanism. The headman, Gamunsak, is an enthusiastic host. Guests will stay in
his house and that of his brother. Recent improvements in their economy has led to many of
the Yao adopting modern Thai housing standards. Beds are comfortable and facilities, although rather basic,
are hygienic and adequate.
Day 7 - Yao homestay to the Golden Triangle
Drive to Mae Fah Luang (40 minutes), the Kings mother's domain and residence. The 26 hilltribe villages of
this high mountain area are employed in various projects designed to produce effective alternative cash crops to
the original opium. The road run along the Myanmar Burma over the top of Sleeping Lady mountain and
down into the border town of Mae Sai. Lunch here, at a restaurant on the banks of the small river separating Thailand and
Myanmar. Opportunity to visit the Myanmar town of Takhilek for an hour or so. Stroll around the bazaars on either side of
Afternoon drive to Baan Boran 920 minutes), a 4* hotel on the Mekhong river Rooms look over the river into Laos.
Visit the King sponsored museum of Opium. This multi-million dollar museum was completed in 2004 and
offers an in-depth exploration of the history of opium, its uses and abuses, and how it came to be an important factor in
the history of the region and of the hilltribes.
Day 8 - Swinging with the Akha
After breakfast at the Baan Boran hotel, drive south to Mae Suai (1 hour) and then up into the mountains of Wawi
(20 minutes) to the Akha village of San Charoen, the largest Akha village in Thailand with a population of
over 1,000. The villagers today celebrate their exotic New Year festival. Every Akha village features a huge swing which
is used only twice a year. It is situated at a high point in the village and has a long rope on which
villagers take turn (pride of place to the women as this is the women's New Year festival) to swing out over the onlookers.
Night at the 4* Baan Boran hotel, perhaps the best hotel in northern Thailand.
Day 9 - Golden Triangle to Chiang Mai
Morning visit to Chiang Saen, the first Thai city in Thailand. The ancient walled city was first established in
the 11th century. Visit the city museum, with artefacts dating back to the 11th century. Drive Mae Suai,
(1.5 hours) lunch at Charoen Garden, on the banks of the Lao river. This Thai family returned here after 20 years in
America, and are famous for their pies!
Drive Chiang Mai (2 hours), check in. Afternoon visit the hilltribe Research centre museum, or free to enjoy Chiang Mai alone.
Dinner at Yaang Come Village Hotel, Chiang Mai.
Day 10 - Karen homestay in Doi Inthanon National Park
Drive Doi Inthanon, visit Vatchirathan waterfall and the Karen Village of Huai Deng. This pristine village is still
largely untouched by modernity. The Karen practice wet rice terraced faming in this idyllic high altitude valley.
This is a homestay. You will be staying with a Karen family, and conditions will be primitive, but hopefully very rewarding.
We think so.
Day 11 - High Mountain trekking
Drive to the summit of Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand, 8,700 feet. Near the summit we take a nature walk along
a wooden walkway through mountain peat bog and forest. We are likely to see sunbirds, amongst many other bird species.
Lunch at the Kings temple. Afternoon drive to Mae Hong Son (3 hours). Check in Fern Eco-resort hotel.
Meal at hotel.
Day 12 - Hmong New Year festival
After breakfast we drive up a very steep road to a large Hmong village known locally as 'Hmong microwave',
as it is close to a radio transmitter. Here we will enjoy the carnival atmosphere as we watch the courtship dance of
the young Hmong people. Lined up in rows, boys one side, girls the other, they throw small balls to their partners as
part of a ritual which will determine future wives and husbands.
Afternnon boat trip to a Padong Karen village (optional). The Padong have migrated to Thailand and established
a village featuring their strange custom of lengthening the neck with hoops of bronze. Although a tourist curiosity,
the villagers recently achieved legality in Thailand and there is a school in the village. Whatever one thinks of
the practice, the people here are much better off than their kinfolk in Myanmar. The women weave their cloth for
sale to tourists and pose for photographs.
As an alternative, Fern Eco-resort provides nature treks in the surrounding dense jungle with a local guide.
Visit the 16th century lakeside Burmese Buddhist temples.
Dinner by the lake in Mae Hong Son.
Night in Fern Eco-resort Hotel, Mae Hong Son.
Day 13 - Mountains and caves
Drive to the cave system of Tham Lod, Soppong (1.5 hours). Rafting through an underground river and
investigation of Stone Age wooden coffins in upper galleries.
Lunch in Pai.
Drive Chiang Mai (2 hours).
Final night in Yaang Come Village Hotel, Chiang Mai.
Day 14 - End of tour. Onward transfers
For more information and prices, e-mail +662 653 9712 and +6681 450 5340
noting your country of departure.