If you, just like us, adore offbeat destinations, away from the beaten tourist paths, managed in the spirit of responsible tourism, with respect for local culture and traditions, then keep reading. We have an absolute gem for you: nestled among rice fields and tea plantations, the charming Lisu Lodge, run by the Lisu hill tribe. Time flows differently there, and your mind truly slows down. Seriously, we have completely fallen in love with this magical place in Thailand!
The longer we travel around the world with our children, the more important the quality of our journeys becomes to us. And by quality, I don’t mean luxurious hotels with 24/7 service or expensive spa treatments. What’s becoming increasingly important to us is conscious, ethical tourism, genuine interactions with fellow humans, and the opportunity to touch something authentic, prepared straight from the heart, even if just for a moment.
So, a few months ago, while browsing Pinterest during the planning of our road trip through Thailand, I stumbled upon pictures of Lisu Lodge in the Thai mountains – my most beloved region of Thailand. I knew right then that we absolutely had to go there when we would be exploring Northern Thailand.
This post was created as part of a barter collaboration with Lisu Lodge. We’re incredibly thrilled that we could experience this fantastic adventure. But see for yourselves, how beautiful it is there!
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Unexplored Places in Thailand – North of Chiang Mai
Lisu Lodge is located just 50 km away from Chiang Mai, one of the most frequently visited cities in Thailand. Chiang Mai itself is incredibly atmospheric and we are absolutely in love with it, but the real magic happens further north, towards Pai, Chiang Rai, or the famous 600-kilometre Mae Hong Son loop. Absolutely stunning mountain peaks covered in the tropical jungle are intersected by rice fields, and coffee and tea plantations. The roads wind like serpentine paths, adorned with numerous beautiful Buddhist temples with golden and white stupas. Small Thai villages are inhabited by ethnic groups with their own unique cultures, traditions, languages, and ways of life.
Lisu Lodge – Hospitality of Thailand’s Hill Tribes
One of these mountain tribes is the Lisu – an ethnic group that migrated to present-day Thailand from Tibet and Myanmar (Burma). The Lisu people have an incredibly rich and diverse culture. They wear distinctive costumes adorned with colourful ribbons and embroidery, and indeed, they wear them in their daily lives. This isn’t a staged show for tourists, unlike what we’ve seen in many other places. This is why we’re even more delighted that we had the opportunity to get to know them a little better for a few days.
Lisu Lodge takes its name from the Lisu tribe, the people who live in the village right next to the cottages. ‘Lisu” means a group of people that seeks knowledge of life, which is rooted in 2 different words “li” and “ei-li” meaning tradition, culture, and way of life. The second word “Su” meaning education, refers to both the theoretical and practical aspects of knowledge. The villager’s main occupation comprises farming, livestock, and agriculture such as garlic and corn.
The owners of Lisu Lodge were very determined to preserve the culture of this ethnic group in its most authentic form and to showcase it to people visiting this yet unexplored place in Thailand.
The idea of building a cosy Lisu Lodge, consisting of a few traditional mountain huts with modern amenities, was born 14 years ago. The cottages were constructed on the edge of the Lisu tribe’s village, amidst rice fields, longan and fig orchards, cornfields, and tea plantations. The distinctive architecture of the region was preserved, utilizing natural materials such as wood, bamboo, and stone. The interiors were adorned with traditional Lisu colours and their specific embroidery on cushions, tablecloths, and decorations
Ecotourism, Responsibility, and Supporting the Local Community
Everything is conducted in accordance with the principles of responsible tourism. The natural environment is protected – eco-friendly cosmetics are used, waste is sorted, and the natural cycle is not disturbed. The local community is also supported. Indigenous villagers from the Lisu and Akha tribes work at Lisu Lodge. Vegetables, fruits, coffee, and tea served to guests come from nearby farms. As part of a guided tour to a neighbouring village, guests can witness firsthand the way of life of the villagers, and listen to stories about customs and traditions.
What impressed us the most was the tale of the shamans and the rituals still performed during important events. The children were also fascinated by the spider-like nets made from branches and hung on gates to ward off evil spirits.
We also had the opportunity to try local specialties (tea, rice whiskey, or roasted rice cakes), and see people engaged in their daily work. All of this happened in a calm, natural rhythm, without disturbing the entire ecosystem. It was infused with great sympathy and warmth, especially towards children. Interestingly, the only sounds we heard from our cottage were those of nature: cicadas, birds, and the rustling of the wind through rice fields and trees. And in the evenings, groups of fireflies flew beneath our house! It was all very touching and extraordinary.
I know it might sound a bit like a fairy tale. But it truly is like that. And it’s worth mentioning that such experiences are not very common in our increasingly commercialized, mass-tourism-oriented world.”
Look at the two photos above. The Lisu believe that such spider-like nets hung on gates and doors will protect their homes from evil spirits (it’s worth mentioning that you can’t enter Lisu homes without a special invitation). On the plate, you can see bones from 3 chickens with bamboo sticks inserted into them. Chickens are sacrificed before important decisions, like buying a house, moving, childbirth, or choosing a partner. If the holes in the chicken bones are symmetrically arranged and the bamboo sticks form a V shape, it signifies good fortune. If the bamboo sticks are crooked, some form of atonement is needed, like offering a larger sacrifice or completing an additional task (determined by the shaman). Fascinating, isn’t it?
Araksa Tea Garden – Unexplored Places in Thailand
Owned by Asian Oasis, the same company that owns Lisu Lodge is the intimate Araksa Tea Garden. We highly recommend a trip to this plantation. You can visit on your own, but you can also join a guided tour with a guide and a plantation worker – a woman who is involved in the entire tea-making process. We opted for the latter option.
We had the chance to try our hand at manually picking tea leaves into traditional bamboo baskets, from which green tea was prepared right before our eyes. The plantation staff then showed us the entire tea-making process: from a small seed planted in the ground to dried leaves sealed in a box.
Did you know that the first tea leaves are only picked when the tea tree is around 10 years old? Or that the tiniest, youngest leaves for white tea are exclusively hand-picked, which is why the production cost is very high?
We also had the opportunity to sample various tea delicacies: fried tea leaves served with spicy lime chicken salad (absolutely delicious!), tea yoghurt cake, and various tea infusions served hot and cold. And all of this in the beautifully designed interior of the restaurant on the Araksa premises. An incredible experience! For us and the kids, who got deeply involved in the entire tea-making process.
Tea Leaf – Only after 10 years from planting the tea seed can the first tea leaves be harvested.
More information (prices, packages, availability) about this magical, intimate place in the Thai mountains can be found on the Asian Oasis website. We had a beautiful and peaceful time there, experiencing something truly authentic. We appreciate it immensely.