Village Visits

 Except  for qualified volunteers who come to work on projects or guests specifically invited by the village elders Project WIN strongly discourages visits to private hill tribe villages.

Suggested guidelines for visiting private hill tribe villages

There are a number of hill tribe villages in the hills around Chiang Mai that welcome organized commercial tourist groups at set times.  Here villagers sell craft items and attempt to create a positive experience for visitors that also generates income for the local people.  There is ongoing debate about the ethics of visiting these villages, but they are available and will of course welcome you.

Project WIN/Project Protein villages are not commercial and have nothing to sell to visitors. They are just as private as any family farm, and not accustomed to curious strangers appearing uninvited at their homes. Project WIN strongly discourages foreign visitors to the seven hill tribe villages we work with. Foreigners whose visa allows it and who arrange to work alongside villagers on projects are of course welcome, as are those specifically invited to village celebrations such as the annual Children’s Day.  Persons invited to Children’s Day will normally be those who are already part of village life through their volunteer work and/or ongoing financial support. 

The foreigners who are least welcome are those who treat the villagers as a tourist attraction to be observed and photographed.  They tend to forget that walking through the villagers’ private areas, unannounced, simply taking pictures and talking to one another but not interacting with the residents, is unwelcome and disrespectful.  More than one village child has commented that they feel as if the foreigners were visiting a zoo.

If the elders have invited you to visit, here  are some suggestions for ways to show respect:

    1. Please do not take photos at all until you have established a relationship with the people. The best time to take photos is at the end of your visit.  Ask permission every time, whether photographing a child or adult or a building, or even a pet.
    2. Speak softly, make eye contact, and smile a lot. Most villagers speak Thai, so learn a few greetings or phrases and use them a lot. 

    3. Always bring gifts, especially food. Your guide can suggest what to bring. Be sure to pay for gas and other transportation costs, food, etc.  Project Vin/Project Protein does not have resources to cover any of the expenses of your visit.  You may wish to offer to pay for some chicken feed or fish food or seeds, or cover some other recurring expense such as school supplies.  A gift of 1000-2000 baht can pay for chicken feed for a month, and 2500 baht can pay to replenish the fish pond.  Your guide can advise you on customs for presenting such a gift. 

    4. Don’t ask to enter or look inside homes.

    5. Dress modestly, as you would when visiting a temple.  Villagers tend to be much more conservative about dress than folks in the city.