Hill Tribe Overnight Stay

Chiang Mai, Thailand

My experience staying at a Hill Tribe Village in Northern Thailand. Photos, stories, and bucket list successes.


July 4, 2015

After hiking through the jungle, swimming under a waterfall, and trekking through rice fields, my class made it to the village in which we would spend the night.

A smattering of buildings wrapped around a giant terraced rice field.

Hill Tribe Village, Thailand

Hill Tribe Village, Thailand

The residents of this particular Hill Tribe did not pretend to wear ancient traditional clothing, nor did they try to hide their modern technology. They just offered up some bungalows for us to sleep in.

We set our stuff down in our huts, which were made from woven bamboo & contained multiple mosquito nets.

We could walk all the way around the rice fields.

Hill Tribe Village

Hill Tribe Village

On one side, there was a river. We could see more rice fields in the distance beyond the river, along with field workers and water buffalo. There was a wooden swing set on one edge of the rice fields, and we took turns carefully sitting on the suspended planks, trying hard not to break it.

Swinging in the hill tribe village

Swinging in the hill tribe village

Besides a convenience store and a covered area in which we ate our meals, as far as I could tell, there was only one business. A cafe sat on the edge of the rice fields, in the bend along the river.

Pathway to the cafe

Pathway to the cafe

It functioned as a coffee shop as well as a bar, as well as a whatever-else-it-needed-to-be. An old broken guitar hung on the wall. Stray cats climbed in the trees. There was a wall full of popsicle sticks that people wrote messages on. I added one to the mix, but I forget exactly what I wrote. We hung out on the hammocks over the river and relaxed until dinner time. A young (I think he said he was six) Thai boy named Benson hung out with us, and we played “spidermens vs sharks” with him. He was adorable, and very talkative.

Soon the sun began to set, and we all gathered for dinner.

Sun sets over the rice fields

Sun sets over the rice fields

We sat on one giant wooden table and ate a buffet style meal. We listened to our professors tell stories about how they met their wives.

After dinner, we were told that we were going to participate in a traditional welcoming ceremony. There was supposedly going to be a group from this particular hilltribe that would meet us and take us through a traditional welcoming ritual, involving passing around rice whiskey as well as a cooked chicken, that we would all have to take a sip/bite of. However, this didn’t happen. We were a bit confused and wondering whether or not our guides were joking about the ceremony in the first place or whether our professor had cancelled it.

Instead, we met up for a bonfire. We all sat around the roaring fire, stomachs full and pupils wide.

Bonfire at the Hill tribes

Bonfire at the Hill Tribes

A man in traditional dress was present, holding an ancient wooden stringed instrument.

Bonfire at the Hill Tribes

Bonfire at the Hill Tribes

He sang us some songs, and some of us got up to spin and run around the fire. After his set, we were asked to get up and sing. A group of people got up and sang Jason Mraz, which was hilarious. It happened to be the fourth of July, and we joked that we were celebrating the red, white & blue (which also happen to be the Thai flag colors).

After the bonfire, we tried to explore some more, but discovered that there really wasn’t anywhere to go. Frogs chirped in a deafeningly loud cadence. We were so far away from any large cities or towns, and I really wanted to see the stars. However, Thailand was in monsoon season and, as always, the cloud cover was impenetrable.

I DID see a firefly, though. My very first one! I was beyond elated when I realized what the little spark on the leaf was. Bucket list item: check!

We went back to the cafe to hang out for the rest of the night. We ended up making friends with a group of Thai teenagers from Chiang Rai.

We played a game with them that involved Jenga and a bowl of hot chilis. If you knocked over the jenga tower, you had to eat a Thai chili! I was way too good at the game, though, so I volunteered to eat a chili despite never having knocked the tower down. I stuck the pepper in my mouth and pretended to chew a bit before swallowing it whole. They all called me out immediately, though.

We ended up hanging out with them until 4am, and I had to very quietly make it back to my bungalow to sleep on the mattress on the floor.

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