Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Village | Chiang Mai

Baan Tong Luang

How you view Baan Tong Luang is a personal experience it seems.  Some people love it, others hate it.  I definitely recommend reading a few reviews.

We went after a lot of careful consideration and decided it was something we wanted to experience for ourselves.

So what is Baan Tong Luang?

It’s a fabricated village which is home to seven different tribes that can be found in the surrounding Northern hills of Thailand.

Some refer to it as a human zoo.

That phrase really put me off.

But I did my research, and I encourage you to do the same if it’s somewhere you’re considering.

Perhaps with some knowledge before going you’ll have a greater understanding as to what you’re walking into.  Or on the other hand you might feel it’s not for you at all.

One thing you must understand is that the hill tribes in Thailand are not considered Thai nationals.

Most of them migrated from the borders that surround Thailand, such as Burma and Tibet.

Even those that are born in Thailand find it hard to be considered nationals.

By not being considered Thai they aren’t allowed access to hospital care, education, police protection and they aren’t allowed to own any land.  Which means they can’t ever own their own property.

Citizenship isn’t impossible though.  Especially for the younger generations, and there are establishments that relentlessly fight for them and deal with the complex application process for sole individuals.

But as expected city life changes the cultural foundations of the generations moving up, so many of the hill tribes are starting to lose their identity.

Baan Tong Luang is a project that offers the tribes a way in which they can earn money and have a place to live that is supported by the Thai government.  They won’t be forced off the land and they’re able to maintain their lifestyles, while having access to education for their children as part of the foundation the village provides.  Those that excel in their studies are sponsored into further education.

The money they earn provides them with medical care, money to support their families and the chance to buy homes back in their original homelands.

The way in which Baan Tong Luang works is that you are able to walk through the settlement, meeting the various tribes in their traditional costume and observing them while they work.  In essence it’s a living museum.

And of course there are lots of stalls for you to pick up various knick knacks as a memento.  We decided to immerse ourselves into ‘British Thai backpacker life’ by buying necklaces and bracelets as we went around.  Nothing expensive but something which we enjoyed doing and amused us greatly.  Of course it’s not obligatory to buy anything.

The village also provides a lot of information about the various tribes.  I was surprised to learn that the elongation of the neck of the Padaung women is not quite as it seems.  The neck itself can’t be stretched and instead the weight of the coils actually compress down onto the collarbone and the ribs of the wearer- so giving the illusion of a long neck but instead it’s the body that’s changing.

How long the village will last I don’t know.  Simply because traditions and cultural identity will lose their meaning for the younger children.  That’s just human nature.

But for now we found it a wonderful place to experience a life that we would otherwise struggle to get access to.

I think you have to throw yourself in to really get the best out of it.  Yes, it may seem strange to take pictures of people, but at the same time you’re communicating with them.  Laughing with them.  And with children you always have something in common with them.

William loved playing with the kids that lived there and on all the various toy cars and swings we came across.

In fact he didn’t want to leave.

-#mamastraveltribedoesthailand

MamasTravelTribe

37 thoughts on “Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Village | Chiang Mai

  • Wow I bet this is an amazing place to get to look around and such a privilege for these people to share their way of life with you.

    • I felt so privileged at being able to witness lifestyle that’s so different to my own and gain a greater insight into it all.

  • Wow your photos are absolutely stunning! What an interesting place it looks to be, a human zoo is a little off putting I agree but it looks like you had an amazing time!

    • My son would have stayed and played if we’d let him. He had such a great time interacting with all the kids.

  • This looks like such an interesting place, and I think to totally understand a country you need to experience all parts of it x

    • I think so too…it would take absolutely years to do it properly. But it’s nice to experience different aspects in a short time.

  • Wow, your photos are absolutely incredible! I’ve heard of this place before, but I never realised the complexity of these people’s situations, or how this unique project came about. Thank you for sharing your experience! xx

    • It’s a really complex situation. One of the ladies that works/lives there sends her money home to burma and has managed to buy a house for her family to live in. She’s sending her daughter to university there too so it’s nice knowing that the money made helps them all directly.

  • What an incredible place – I have never heard of it. Must be so difficult for the people trying to gain citizenship not to be able to buy land or access health care.

    • It must be so hard, I couldn’t imagine dealing with a sick family member knowing I couldn’t access any medical help.

  • Wow what an incredible place to visit. I can only dream of being able to visit such a beautiful, culturally interesting place!

  • Wow! What an interesting experience for you and the family. I was a little concerned when you stated that others describe it as a human zoo, but can understand that this project is actually helping, so by visiting the tribes you’re helping them by putting money back into their system. The next elongation thing was news to me – I genuinely thought the copper rings made the neck longer, not push down on the shoulders. Learn something new every day! x

    • I know right?! I always thought their necks extended too… I was literally like how did I not know that?! lol

      • The whole experience sounds right up my street – I really hadn’t considered Thailand before, as I know so many British tourists/back packers go there, and I like to be away from the crowds and do things that are relatively unknown or not typical for British travellers. But this was the first time I’d heard about this in Thailand, so you’ve certainly inspired me x

      • I think a lot of people are put off for a similar reason, but it’s honestly an amazing country. You can easily avoid the parts that aren’t your style.. there was no way we were heading to any party areas with the kids! lol

  • Such a wonderful experience, especially with your family. So interesting to learn about how traditions came about and the differences in lives and how we live them.

    • It’s crazy isn’t it? How we’re all born into the same generation but our lives all pan out so differently.

  • This looks and sounds such an interesting experience. If I am ever in Thailand I think I would like to visit Baan Tong Luang. Seeing how other people live is always so interesting.

  • I have read about this place and the human zoo comments had put me off too so I appreciate your take on it. I was in Thailand 19 years ago but stayed in the south and the islands mainly i want to take my children so it is good to collect lots of inspiration

  • oh my goodness, I had no idea this existed. What an interesting place

  • Looks like everyone had fun. It was definitely a fantastic experience.

  • I’m really glad I read this as, like you, the human zoo description would have turned me off the idea of visiting. It seems such an interesting experiment and I hope it continues to allow these tribes a safe place to live and practice their own customs.
    C x

  • Wow sounds like an incredible experience. I had no idea about the coil rings too!

  • wow what an amazing experience and the photos are incredible I felt like I was really there! I would LOVE to visit Thailand! x

  • I found this such an interesting read. I’ve nwver heard of the place. I can imagine it being described as a human zoo put you off. How lovely that William enjoyed playing with the kids.

  • Wow amazing photos, it looks like an incredible place to visit x

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