Lawa Hilltribe

On what turned out to be our longest travel day during our recent visit to the North Thai Hilltribes our group swapped our comfortable 10 seater van for a four wheel drive Nissan Patrol and headed off towards the Lawa village of Chang Mor, high in the hills above Hod, Chiang Mai Thailand.

Chang Mor village is home to Lawa people, once more prosperous, and numerous, and living more on the plains around Chiang Mai they were pushed some centuries ago into the mountains south of Chiang Mai by one of the Thai Kings. They certainly inhabited parts of Thailand more than 800 years ago and according to some anthropologists were in Thailand before the Thais arrived. It is believed that they migrated from Cambodia, but some anthropologists believe their origins lie in Micronesia, perhaps 2,000 years ago.

Mounta9in crops Mae ThoOur visit to this Lawa hilltribe village was in the middle of the rainy season. Although the on the day we visited the weather was clear and sunny for the most part the hillsides reflected the recent and heavy rain and flashed the vibrant green, all types of green, of intense agriculture and jungle. The mountain scenery is spectacular.

Our route took us through the edge of the Mae Tho National Park which at 400-1,699 meters above mean sea level is set in the mountain range that is a continuation of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain (2,565 meters above the sea level).

As we followed the road, climbing higher and higher, we started to see Toyota pickup trucks equipped with cages above the roof and truck bed, packed full of cabbages. We must have passed more than 100 of these trucks, the farm produce of Karen farming projects and part of the King’s projects where hilltribes are supported in retraining to grow agricultural produce instead of the opium of the past.

Just outside of the village of Mae Tho we said good bye to sealed road and it was then a badly rutted and deeply muddy road up the final 55kms, 2 ½ hour’s drive, to the village. The surprise that registered on the faces of those we passed underlined the fact that not too many foreigners pass this way.

More to come in the next post where we visit the Lawa village of Chang Mor.

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