About Thailand Hilltribe Holidays
Thailand Hilltribe Holidays was founded by Thai and foreign couple – Pat and Mel, who came from worlds apart but united together over a common desire to help marginalised communities and hilltribes of northern Thailand. They simply wanted to open doors for local people, giving them equal opportunities to grow and prosper whilst maintaining their cultural identity and heritage.
From Pat’s experience in the travel industry, he wanted to create a form of tourism that would be fairer to the locals, whilst offering more authentic and real experiences for travellers. This inspiration gave rise to the idea of a responsible hilltribe village tour andhomestays was born. Joining forces with his partner, Mel and her sprinkling of commercial acumen, they created Thailand HilltribeHolidays; a grassroots social enterprise that works together with their family of locally sourced staff to provide responsible tours that aim to;
- Channel tourism to benefit local communities directly
- Bring cultural exchange and provide enriching experiences for travellers and host communities
- Allow travellers to visit hilltribe villages in an ethical and responsible way
- Offer travellers a chance to experience the real northern Thailand outside the realm of commerical tourism
(Founder and Tour guide) Pat is originally from Chiang Mai and is Shan (an ethnic minority group in Northern Thailand). With humble beginnings as a tuk-tuk driver, he has since worked as a tour guide for more than 10 years. Over time he has seen the erosion of traditional Thai values and ways of life, through tourism and westernisation. His mother is the head nun at a Buddhist temple, nestled between hilltribe villlages in the mountains of Mae Hong Son, which is how he came to know and work with the hilltribe communities in this area. Pat’s father is an iconic figure for the Shan people, considered the first ‘freedom fighter’ for Shan state independence from the Myanmar government, it is perhaps his father’s legacy and strong family heritage that gave rise to Pat’s strong desire to help marginalised ethnic minority groups, by providing them with sustainable opportunities for growth whilst maintaining their cultural identity. Pat saw that well managed and responsible tourism could be a means to help in this plight, and so the idea of ahilltribe homestay was born. Pat has a huge heart and wants to reach out to people from around the world, by welcoming foreigners to share in the beauty and culture of his homeland.
(Founder, Sales & Marketing) Mel was born and raised in England and is of Chinese ethnicity. She first came to Thailand as a volunteer for an NGO working towards the prevention of human trafficking of marginalized hilltribe children. Through this work she developed a deep understanding of the issues faced by hilltribes living in Thailand, inspiring her to think of ways to help them in a sustainable way. Prior to this she has worked as a finance professional in London, before leaving this career in search of something that was more rewarding.
(Tour guide) ‘Ae‘ is our funny and friendly guide who has been with Thailand HilltribeHolidays since the beginning. Ae’s family runs a laundry shop opposite the Thailand HilltribeHolidays office in Mae Sariang. In 2009 armed with only a few English phrases, he joined our team as a driver and over time his English skills have come on in leaps and bounds. Since then he has trained to become a fully licensed tour guide and has started leading tours independently. ‘Ae‘ loves to joke and his light-hearted easy going demeanour is popular with everybody he meets. On rare moments when he’s not joking, he’s serious about his fishing and his favourite football team – Manchester United. One day, he hopes to set up his own fishing tours in Mae Sariang.
(Tour Guide) Winai is Lawa hill tribe and from La up village. We came to know Winai as he was helping out Pat’s mum (the head nun at the village temple), he started off as our full time driver for 2 years before he progressed to become a fully qualified tour guide. We are very lucky to have Winai on our team as he’s such a friendly, personable and caring guy who is really good at customising tours on the way.
(Tour Guide) Sak is Karen hill tribe and from a remote village in Mae la noi district, 6 hours away from Chiang Mai. His childhood spent in the remote mountains and forests, means that he knows lot about nature, flora & fauna. As with most hill tribes in Thailand, he comes from a family of farmers, whose life depends on agriculture and the land. Sak has an interest in Buddhist amulets but also attends church every week. This just goes to show how open minded he is, and is perhaps a reflection of the new beliefs of todays young Karen generation.
(Tour Guide) Anan is from the Karen tribe, and lives in ‘Baan Muan Ngam’ village, in Thaton, 4 hours north of Chiang Mai. The area has a variety of hill tribes living in close proximity to one another, so Anan knows a lot about a variety of hill tribe groups, and can speak several hill tribe languages such as Akha, Lahu and Lisu. As with most Karen, he is also a farmer, and when he’s not on tour he’ll be helping his family on the farm. He’s also great with his hands, and built a beautiful bamboo terrace at his homestay.