Could be better
Published/Last edited or updated: 12th June, 2019
The Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre is a long-standing establishment dedicated to the culture of Chiang Rai and northern Thailand’s ethnic hill-tribe minorities.
Long-standing is the key word though and unfortunately it’s one where we feel the description “showing its age” would be a major understatement. However, it is a well-known museum and living in constant hope of a desperately needed make-over, we’ll give you a brief run-down.
Our first gripe is that we’re not really sure how appropriate the term “museum” is when tens of thousands of the subject matter—i.e. hill-tribe minority people—still live in the hills outside town? Perhaps cultural centre or something would be better and contents are mostly everyday objects and standard traditional dress that you can still see in many villages anyway. Explanations tend to be anecdotal; a particular festival or traditional religious belief of a certain ethnic group and there’s little or nothing in the way of actual ethnological, linguistic or historical detail on the various groups.
The thrown together, rather scrappy displays include a small exhibition of opium paraphernalia—far inferior to that you can see in either Sob Ruak’s Hall or House of Opium—while the lovingly maintained and displayed minority costumes at the Oub Kham Museum are far superior to the dusty traditional dress on show here.
The Hill-tribe Museum is funded by famed Thai philanthropist Meechai Viravaiydya’s excellent PDA, (Population and Community Development Association), so it is all in a good cause and there’s a Cabbages and Condoms restaurant on the ground floor. However, as you’ve gathered it is in serious need of a make-over and is worth a peak only if you’re at a loose end but don’t go out of your way.
If you are in those parts though you can wander across the road to the small Tung and Kom Park opposite which contains an elaborate Brahma shrine as well as the remains of the old Chiang Rai’s women’s penitentiary. An adjacent exhibition hall is rumoured to have another display of hill-tribe costumes and paraphernalia though was closed at the time of our visit.
From the clock tower walk north to Thanalai Road and turn right. Follow the road until you see the small park on your left and PDA building next to Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant on the right. For the Museum enter the car-park and take the lift to the 3rd floor.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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