Thailand’s Hill Tribes

As I mentioned in the previous post, Warm Heart houses 37 children from Hill Tribe villages so they can attend school longer than they would back home. WH provides after-school support, a good diet, etc.  The Hill Tribes are very interesting as they live remotely and tend to retain much of their native dress, diet and customs.

Wikipedia says this about Hill tribes:  Hill tribe is a term used in Thailand for all of the various tribal peoples who migrated from YunnanTibet, or elsewhere in China over the past few centuries. They now inhabit the remote border areas between Northern ThailandLaos and Burma (Myanmar). These areas are known for their thick forests and mountainous terrain. The six major hill tribes within Thailand are the AkhaLahuKarenHmong/MiaoMien/Yao and Lisu, each with a distinct language and culture. The hill tribes are subsistence farmers who use slash and burn agricultural techniques to farm their heavily forested communities. Tighter conservation of Thailand’s virtually depleted forests, however, has forced hill tribe people to abandon their traditional agricultural methods. Traditionally, hill tribes were also a migratory people, leaving land as it became depleted of natural resources.

Early on in our stay in Thailand, we had the rare opportunity to spend the Chinese New Year in a Lahu village (they are ethnic Chinese).  We took three vehicles of Warm Heart children (those from that village and their close friends), staff and volunteers on a three hour drive up into the mountains near the Myanmar (Burmese) border to LaWu, a Lisu village where we spent the next 24 hours.

After lunch we visited all of the families of the Warm Heart children to distribute treats and wish a happy new year. The Lisu are of Chinese descent.  This family is dressed as they do daily.


Evelind Schecter, co-founder of Warm Heart with one of the home’s boys and his little sister.


One of the girls playing in front of her family’s water storage tanks.


Here is what the village looked like.




Here is our host family’s house:



Chinese New Year is a big party for this village. Every family set up a tree like the one in the photo above and they strung it with lights.  After dinner, the whole village moved from house to house where the girls did their traditional dancing. We just watched this event, happy to be included in something this special.


Before we left the next day, Noy, one of the Warm Heart girls, modeled her traditional costume with her grandpa and brother (we learned later that someone had said something right before that upset her).  This costume is a large part of her “dowry”; the front is completely covered with large silver beads.


Noy again, now her usual happy self.  At Warm Heart the kids wear casual western clothes at home and uniforms to school.


Mae Soon was another village we visited early on.  The top photo is one of their traditional dwellings. We took note of their cooking stoves; first the large inside stove used for the bulk of their cooking.  The smoke inside their dwellings actually has benefits for them (though of course causes respiratory problems);  it continually preserves their meat hanging above and it chases away the mosquitos.  The lower photo shows small coal burning stoves usually used outside to boil water, etc.




The fields below the village.


Next post:  CHIANG MAI


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Amy Stevens
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 06:05:39

    Such great work you and Gerard are doing. You are much missed, but we are so in awe of the amazing things you are learning and projects with which you are working. The children are so precious in your pictures. Take good care of yourselves!


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