Many tourists visiting Chiang Rai use the city as a base for trekking and visiting the surrounding hill tribe villages. Before going to the hill tribe villages I recommend a visit to the small, but very informative museum dedicated to hill tribe culture on Thanalai Road (next door to Cabbages and Condoms restaurant).
The museum has some very interesting articles and cuttings about the long history of opium and the effect it has had on the lives of the mountain people and hill tribe villages. Along with displays of costumes and written information about the different hill tribe cultures, it’s a good way to learn a lot about the people you may be visiting. If you are thinking about a visit to the long-neck hill tribes, the video presentation shown at the museum will probably make you reconsider. There is also a shop where you can buy genuine hill tribe clothing, bags etc.
(Please note that no photography is permitted in the museum).
It’s possible to book trekking tours via the Hill Tribe Museum. The tours are run under the banner of the PDA (Population and Community Development Association) one of Thailand’s largest non-governmental organisations. By booking a tour with the PDA you are helping to support their development work with all of the profits being channelled back into community development projects.
The work of the PDA
Founded in 1974, the PDA has its headquarters in Bangkok but has 20 provincial centres in Thailand. Apart from their work in family planning, the PDA is active in helping various villages and communities. However, rather than just dish out the money, the PDA actively involves the villagers themselves. This is based on the PDA’s principle that, “local people are best suited to shape and sustain their own development.”
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant
The 50 Baht entrance fee to the Hill Tribe Museum includes a voucher for a soft drink at the adjoining Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant. The restaurant is non-profit making and is run by the PDA as part of its campaign to promote family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention in Thailand. The memorable motto of the restaurant is, “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.”
Hill Tribe Museum Open: Monday-Friday 08.30-18.00 and Saturday-Sunday 10.00-18.00.
Tel: 053 740088
Website: Chiang Rai Hill Tribe Museum
Address: 3rd Floor PDA Building, 620/1 Thanalai Road, Chiang Rai