Lisu Hilltribe of North West Thailand
The Lisu are direct descendents of the indigenous semi-nomadic tribes of Tibet. Over the last 300 years or so for political and survival reasons many of the people chose to migrate down through China, Burma, Laos and most recently Thailand. Our Lisu village is called Nong Tong, in Mae Hong Son province, near the town of Bangmapah (also known as Soppong) in the picturesque mountains of North Thailand. The people began settling here only about 80 years ago and the village is now home to about 500 people. Their main livelihood is farming and craftsmanship.
The Lisu can be found all over South East Asia although it is only Thailand and Burma where they dress as colourful as they do known here as the 'Flowery Lisu'. Yunnan in southern China is where their numbers are highest yet there you will find them dressed in the not so vibrant Black costumes. Although most Lisu in Thailand especially younger children speak Thai there first Language is Lisu but many still speak Yunnanese.
The historic Lisu religion is Animism a belief that all things are embodied with "Spirit", ancestor worship, and living in harmony with nature and all beings. Over the years many of them have converted to Buddhism and more recently Christianity. Yet even the converts express their Spirituality with a curious mixture of the old and the new.
To understand more about their beliefs is not a difficult task to achieve when staying with us. The Lisu regularly practice traditional religious ritual events such as Birthdays, funerals and weddings but most especially Lisu New Year . This five day celebration, which usually falls the same time as Chinese New Year (around Jan/Feb) is the most elaborate and colorful of all Lisu festivities. & nbsp;
Why are the Hill tribes Unique?
Despite living close to Chiang Mai, Thailand's northern capital, these Hill Tribe people continue to follow a lifestyle which remains, in many respects, virtually identical to their ancestors in Tibet. Unlike many indigenous peoples around the world who are rediscovering their lost roots, the Lisu Hill Tribes of North Thailand have managed, to a great extent, to retain their original culture in their day to day life. ;
This unbroken connection with their roots has allowed them to maintain ‘world views’ and values which have not been significantly influenced by the western, industrialized, or materialistic world view. Overall, their cultural frames of reference remain refreshingly and significantly outside those of the world’s dominant cultures.
We are a Community Based Tourist program (CBT) aimed at preserving the Lisu culture. Bringing tourists to the village may have a negative effect on the Hill Tribe culture. Therefore, our aim is to attract a select group of ecotourist minded people who respect the tribal ways and embrace simplicity and the lack of creature comforts in this rugged and challenging environment.
As the Hill Tribe People participate in the development of a Community Based Tourist business they will have the opportunity to learn essential new skills which will assist them in the task of representing themselves with increased confidence and pride in all areas of modern society.
Most important, we do not believe that the CBT should replace their virtually self sufficient way of life. Their community farms & mountain forest lifestyle should continue and be allowed to evolve in other directions naturally. Rather than disrupting the normal flow of Lisu life we invite tourists to participate in the day to day, traditional activities of the community.
Change is happening to be sure, the culture is rapidly moving in the direction of the world’s privileged and affluent. They don’t build a lot of bamboo houses any more, “concrete is much more lasting” they say with a grateful smile.
It’s a rare privilege to be with these gentle, fearless people as they bravely face the wave of the future. We welcome and appreciate your interest and support in this grand endeavor.