With many of the fast paced adventure tours being off limits for us to partake in as a family, we opted for a trip to visit a few of the many hill tribe communities that surround Chiang Dao and Chiang Mai.

Although some of the tribes in Chiang Dao are located less than a kilometre away from each other, their houses, dress and way of life are entirely different.

The Lisu tribe wear beautiful brightly coloured clothing. Purple, pink, violet, turquoise, and red are present in their long fluid dresses and their intricate headdresses. Their houses are built close to the ground, with dirt floors and bamboo walls, although recently some of the wealthier families have started to use concrete foundations.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

An Akha lady wearing her distinctive traditional hat

In stark contrast the Akha tribe’s basic bamboo houses are raised off the ground on wooden stilts, many of which have thatched roofs. Their traditional dress is more structured, with heavily embroidered jackets and skirts, but it’s their hats that give them their distinctive look. The large headpieces are covered in pom poms, coins, brightly coloured beading and silver jewellery, and although I didn’t try one on they look very warm, not the type of hat I would want to wear in 30 plus degree heat.

The Karen tribe wear a simple, more practical style of clothing; a hand woven tunic, a sarong and turban style headdress. They build their wooden houses closer to the ground with only a few feet between the soil and the floor, a space that’s used to keep their many animals, and it was in this village that ‘the boy’ had the most fun.

It’s lucky that children love repetition, as with only two baby books in the backpack he’s becoming very familiar with their content. His favourite book of the two is his nursery rhyme book. Every evening he picks a page and hands it to us to sing the rhyme of his choice, his current favourite being Old MacDonald had a Farm.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' and I find a big pig under one of the houses

Well today he was in luck. The Karen tribe had the content of his favourite rhyme right there in their small village.  We had great fun spotting the animals tucked away under the little houses. We found pigs, ducks, chickens, a cockerel, dogs, cats (I’m not sure this was in the original rhyme, but he made it into our version), a cow tucked behind a bush and very sad looking monkey (again, an added extra).

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Making friends with some of the local children

‘The boy’ was sad to leave the animals behind and even the prospect of meeting the Karen longneck tribe wasn’t enough to cheer him up.

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most rewarding.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Meeting a mother and child from the Karen Longneck community

Top tip of the day:
An active toddling baby in hot weather can mean higher instances of nappy rash, particularly if the brands of nappy you have access to are sub standard to those at home. We’ve found that putting baby talcum powder on him and in his nappy helps to stop chafing and reduces soreness.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

WARNING: chewing tobacco regularly may discolour your teeth!