Photo: Pretty valleys around Mae Salong.

Ban Lorcha

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Ban Lorcha is a small Akha village beside the highway between Tha Ton and Mae Chan and close to the turn off for Mae Salong. The village is the site of a community-based tourism scheme run by the Population & Community Development Association (PDA) that aims to create a ‘sustainable tourism strategy and alternative model of tourism development’ for hilltribe villages.



To quote the PDA, tourism to hilltribe villages in Thailand has tended to focus on “short stops to a group of houses and stalls selling souvenirs that are not even made in that village. This kind of tourism activity is so contrived that tourists feel they are not learning anything about the people they are visiting. Often there is no contact between tourists and villagers. In this type of activity villagers selling trinkets and souvenirs often harass tourists, taking photos of hilltribe women is often followed by upturned open palms asking for compensation for the pictures taken… ” It’s a bit generalised, but fair enough.

Straight from the village loom to the souvenir shop.

Straight from the village loom to the souvenir shop.

There’s a nominal entry fee of 50 baht which goes towards the community scheme as well as a fund to set up further schemes in other villages. And yes, there is a souvenir shop at the entrance to the village, however all items sold come from Ban Lorcha itself and you are able to browse hassle-free. There’s usually traditional dancing on show and weaving displays that might seem slightly contrived (because they are), but as the PDA points out, you’d be unlikely to see these under normal circumstances without spending days in a village or fortuitously turning up during some ceremony or another.

Hilltribe village visits can be problematic: some agents and guides are still very exploitative; easily accessible villages can verge on the tacky and when in remoter, less-visited villages, unless you have a good guide or can speak the lingo, what exactly do you do?!

Some slightly contrived, but nonetheless interesting, traditional dancing.

Some slightly contrived, but nonetheless interesting, traditional dancing.

There does need to be some exchange and the days of remote village inhabitants turning up to greet their ‘exotic’ visitors out of pure interest are long gone. Even the furthest-flung villages usually have some knick-knacks for sale, so perhaps doing it within a more ‘controlled’ framework is the most responsible way?

Magnificent Akha head dress

An Akha woman displays a magnificent head dress.

The tour itself includes stopping at the village gate, an Akha swing, the blacksmiths, weaving and a traditional house. You can either have one of the residents with a smattering of English as a guide or just wander on your own. The village trail is around a kilometre in all.

Ban Lorcha, entrance gate: they’ll explain it to you.

Ban Lorcha entrance gate: They’ll explain it to you.

All in all Ban Lorcha is a very worthwhile stop. You get far more information than you would elsewhere, a chance to see traditional crafts and culture up close, an opportunity to photograph spectacularly dressed Akha women without any embarrassment either way and the chance to pick up some genuine and reasonably priced handicrafts.


Ban Lorcha
Route 1089, Mae Salong
Daily 08:00-17:00
T: (053) 740 088 
crpda@hotmail.com
Admission: 50 baht

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Mae Salong.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Mae Salong.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Mae Salong.
 Read up on how to get to Mae Salong, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Mae Salong? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.




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