After the intensity of Bangkok, the people, the noise, the smells and the 24 hour bustling streets, it was a welcome relief to be staying with the Hilltribes (Red Lahu Village and White Karen Village) for a couple of days. Bangkok, culturally rich and totally fascinating, appears to be a city centred on products or ‘things’. Markets line the streets selling everything from scorpions to shoes; it’s difficult to avoid being sucked into the tourist consumer industry and buying souvenirs that you don’t really need. Trekking through the luscious jungle (while avoiding the leeches) and coming across the hidden villages of the mountain tribes living in basic huts, an overwhelming sense of peace filled the air. Kids were playing with sticks and chasing each other, adults were caring for their children or sat crafting and talking with one another. There was not one piece of technology in sight and it was liberating.
The rustic huts, though perhaps not luxurious, held everything necessary. The shower consisted of a trough of cold water and a bucket, whereas the toilet was a mere hole in the ground. Even after being exposed to technology since birth and living a privileged life with running water and flushing toilets, it was surprisingly easy to adapt to this basic way of living. Without the distraction of phones or other technological devices, you begin to notice the smaller details of where you are, like the little caterpillar crawling up the post, or the distant hum of insects, even the different smells. A ‘technological and consumer detox’ would be an apt term to use.
Visiting the Hilltribes you become immersed in a world where you merely use what you need and make do with what is available: no excess and no waste. This rugged simplicity became a weird kind of luxury. You are free from unnecessary distractions; inanimate objects that you have attached an emotional value to become simple objects once again that aren’t needed.
One of the key differences I noticed with these tribes was their genuinely happy smiles. They may have little money, but they make up this lack of wealth with community spirit and bonds as well as acceptance and kindness. I felt like my time there wasn’t enough and enjoyed the peace it provided from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities.
Returning back to the buzzing streets of Bangkok made me realise how living a life of simplicity or even travelling in simplicity is so much more rewarding and informative. By avoiding the temptations of the tourist consumer culture, you focus more on your surroundings, make time to learn more history and go out of your way to discover hidden secrets. Not only is this a more ethical way to travel, but money-saving too. To keep it ethical, you must ask permission to visit any tribes, no matter the country you visit; and respect their cultural differences.