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Home > Culture and People > Meet the tribes > Go Trekking

Palong Child
Long Neck Tribe villages can be found at the Northern Border area's

Northern Thailand

Meet the Tribes

These tribal groups live in villages scattered over vast mountainous areas and the rugged terrain that forms the Himalayan foothills.. 

You will meet some of these tribalfolk on your trek.  In fact you will stay, as guests, at their village, enjoy meals cooked on their fires and experience a totally different way of life.

A brief description will give you the foretaste of what is to follow.  Your guide will explain much more about cultural issues, village economics, rituals and lifestyle.


Lahu Children

Lisu Children

Lisu (Lisaw)

There are over one million Lisu tribesfolk in China, Burma and North-Eastern India.  There are none in Lao or Vietnam.  Thailand has around 25,000 in the Northern area, they arrived in the early 1900's to establish small settlements in the mountains.

They believe they are the only tribe to survive a global flood.

Lisu costume is the most striking of all tribes with colourful striped tunics worn by women.  As with most tribes the men tend to wear dark clothing, a black jacket in this case.


(Kariang, Karen or Yang)

The Karen are thought to have originated in Tibet and have lived in Burma for hundreds of years. They have been in Thailand since the eighteenth century.

There are today some four million Karen in Burma and 280,000  in the mountain areas all along the Thai side of the Burmese border.

Karen believe a white "younger brother" will come from over the waters bringing with him knowledge of writing that had been long ago lost. As a result many embraced easily Christianity  upon encountering foreign missionaries

The Karen have a special relationship with elephants and their trainers are the best in Asia.

Karen Ladies

Yao (Mien)

30,000 Yao tribes live in Thailand.  They crossed the border from China via Laos at the end of the ninetieth century.

The Yao are literate and in many ways the most sophisticated of the hilltribal people. They use Chinese characters for writing their ancestral and medicinal books. Many of their Taoist ritual date back to the thirteenth century.

They also believe in a spirit world that is the opposite of the human one. They believe that people have several souls and ancestors, especially those of male lineage, are deeply revered.

Yao mother and child
Yao mother and child

Hmong gentleman has the longest hair in the world
This Hmong gentleman, with hair at 5.2 m, is the longest in the world

*Note that the name Meo is considered derogatory and is only used in this instance for clarity as many guide books use this name for the tribe.

Hmong (*Meo)

The Hmong have an ancient history in China and for long periods in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries they were again caught up in war against the Pratet Lao communists.  There are over four million Hmong in China and some 80,000 in Thailand.

Spirit worship is practised and the family unit is very strong.

They have developed good business skills and trade in agriculture products.


Musser (Lahu)

In Thailand there are some 60,000 Lahu.  They started arriving at the start of the twentieth century.  Several different clans are distinguished by their dress.

Although many Musser have now adopted Christianity, their own beliefs in a Supreme being and many spirits remain strong.

The Musser long for the blessings of this life and the next, for   things that are good and pleasant and, in accordance with the message of an old legend, men are particularly caring of their partners.

Muser Shaman at a religious festival held annually in February.
Muser Shaman at a religious festival held annually in February

Experience first-hand tribal hospitality on your own trek.

Home > Culture and People > Meet the tribes > Go Trekking