Dedicated to telling the stories of Northern Thailand’s ancient hill tribes, Chiang Mai’s popular Tribal Museum is a not-to-be-missed cultural experience. Discover the unique histories and current lifestyles of some of the most fascinating ethnic minorities in the region, including the Hmong, Karen, Akha, Lisu, Lahu and Mien people.
Established in 1965, Chiang Mai’s Tribal Museum focuses on the histories and cultures of the exotic tribal people who live in the mountainous regions that surround the city. Each tribe has its own distinct identity, belief system and way of life, which is what makes the museum so interesting. Often cut off from each other and the rest of the world, these remote tribes have developed their own religions, customs and languages.
The museum is divided into three main sections: indoor exhibits, outdoor exhibits and a multimedia display. Set up in a charming theatre room, the multimedia display offers a fascinating look at the daily lives, practices and routines of the hill tribes. The indoor area showcases colourful clothing and jewellery, along with woven baskets, ancient artefacts and ornaments. Be sure to look out for the ornamental Akha headdresses on display, which feature impressive handiwork that incorporates coins and silver beads. This section of the museum also provides information displays about the respective tribes’ festivals, agricultural practices, and religious and cultural ceremonies. Outdoors, a large garden is set out with a reconstructed tribal village. It comes complete with model huts that feature traditional architecture, along with a display of rural tools; household utensils; hunting, fishing and trapping devices; weapons; and musical instruments.
Once a month, the museum hosts a popular tribal market where local indigenous vendors come to sell everything from handmade clothing and authentic hill tribe food to unique handicrafts and artwork. Each month, a different tribe displays its wares, making the market a constantly changing affair. If you’re in town while the market is on, be sure to add it to your itinerary – it’s an excellent place to pick up a truly memorable souvenir and support the local people. The museum is open daily from 9am until 4pm.