OAT Worldwise Article


Thai Hill Tribe Wedding Celebration

Chiang Rai – Mae Chan

Trip Day 12

After another delicious and healthy lunch, we left the Golden Triangle Inn and Café in Chiang Rai, Thailand and boarded our bus for our visit to one of the Hill Tribes of the upland region of northern Thailand.

These people had migrated from the Asian interior about 100 years ago and settled in this area to live an agrarian life and cultivate the poppy.

Today, the hill tribes are working to preserve their ethnicity and with the Thai government establishing many programs to introduce more useful agricultural staples, the tribes have become more prosperous farmers.

Most recently, they have found that tourism is a more profitable and safe alternative and will supplement their law-abiding farming.

Our planned afternoon destination was to be the small village of Mae Chan. We were driven in our bus to a gas station north of Chiang Rai where we had an opportunity to use the facilities and then climbed into two open songtaew taxi trucks (safari like pick-up trucks).

We saw our Tour Manager Anya in a very serious conversation with the local drivers. We wondered what was going on between Anya and the drivers as we all looked at each other in puzzlement. As Anya returned to the group and brought us all together, we noticed a very enthralling smile on her face – we knew we were about to experience another wonderful OAT adventure.

She told us that the drivers knew of a local wedding celebration and if we would like to attend, we were invited to join the festivities. Without hesitation, we all agreed that this would be a wonderful ‘once in a lifetime’ exposure to the Hill Tribes of Thailand.

As we arrived at the wedding celebration, we were told that the bride and groom were from two different tribes. The actual wedding had been the day before and that the festivities were still in progress.

With radiant smiles, the children welcomed us with great enthusiasm. The adults, wearing their traditional formal attire, took us to meet the bride and groom. As we were greeted we were seated at a long table and offered food and drink.

The bride, accompanied by the groom, brought us shots of Mekong Whiskey for a toast to their health and happiness. We were then encouraged to eat, have more Mekong whiskey and to meet the families and the people of the community.

As my wife Gennie and I mingled among the wedding party, the women were willing to pose for photographs and show us their clothing, intricate silver ornaments and beautiful headdresses.

Their attire had a predilection for bold and bright colors and each piece was fully embroidered. The jewelry was of fine silver filigree and other beautiful items from the region, and comprised of rings, chunky and thin bracelets, balls, bangles, discs and neck-rings.

Their women’s hair was woven and placed under headdresses, generally blue and heavily embroidered with the tribal designs. The men wore typical western clothing; shirts or t-shirts and slacks. Sandals were worn by both men and women.

On many occasions, tribal members would come up to us, welcome us to the wedding in limited English and ask questions such as where we were from, how did we like the celebration, wasn’t the bride beautiful, and did we want some food.

One individual even put another drink in my hand and proposed a toast! I cheered, we clinked glasses, and I took a long drink with him. Suddenly I realized this drink had ICE! OH, NO!

The other drinks I had tried did not have any ice – this one did. I knew right away that the dreaded loose bowel “tourista” would follow. And within the hour it did.

After over two hours of enjoying the wedding party, our Tour Manager Anya encouraged us to get back on the trucks to visit the planned hill tribe villages further up the mountains.

As we left, all of us agreed that this was one reason we travel with OAT! We appreciate the ability to deviate from the planned schedule and be involved in a spontaneous opportunity to join a celebration such as this wedding.

We all enjoy a good party and being able to meet the real people of the countries we visit shows that celebrations world wide are about families sharing and caring for each other.

Submitted to OAT - Vic and Gennie Garcia


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