British national John R. Davies was a pioneer on
“Eco-tourism in Thailand” and began his professional career as a
research ecologist for the Natural Environment Research Council in Britain.
In 1989 he moved to Thailand to study the cultures and languages of the hill
tribes. In 1992 he founded Lisu Lodge, a brilliant idea in time for the
promotion of a new mode of tourism, protecting the natural landscape and
delicate equilibrium between visited villagers and visiting tourists.
men call the spirits
Since then, Lisu Lodge has won an award from the Pacific
Asia Travel Association (PATA) and is today managed by East West Siam Ltd.
in Bangkok, whose managing director is Frenchman Vincent Tabuteau.
To get to Lisu Lodge, head out from Chiang Mai and drive
north on National Road no.107 passing Mae Rim District until you reach Mae
Malai Market in Mae Taeng District roughly 40 km from Chiang Mai. There you
turn left into National Road no.1095 to Mae Hong Son and continue 3.5 km to
turn right and drive along a small paved road another 10 km to Ban Ton Lung.
When reaching the “Lisu Lodge” signboard, turn left another half
kilometer to reach the lodge.
Lisu girls dance at the New Year Festival
Lisu Lodge offers simple cottage style accommodation on
the edge of an authentic Lisu village surrounded by lychee plantations. It
is designed to give tourists an experience of hill tribe life in the
mountains of Northern Thailand. 24 simple bedrooms with private bathrooms
are convenient located around a central living area with traditional
cushions and low tables. Kitchen and staff rooms are located in another
There are several villages of other ethnic groups in the
area, so that trekking and mountain biking are activities not to be missed.
Furthermore, white water rafting and a visit at the Mae Taeng Elephant Camp
are additional options. But what is the most fascinating encounter during a
stay at Lisu Lodge is to indulge in the tranquility of the place and to be
far away from the pollution and traffic of Chiang Mai City.
Lisu Lodge provides a base to explore the hill tribes at
the foothills of Chiang Dao Mountain, especially the Lisu and their instant
neighbors, the Akha, Lahu and Hmong people. Each group has its own
distinctive culture, language and religion. Originally, the Lisu have their
origins in Mongolia and record their distant history in songs that are the
library of Lisu culture. This is very important to appreciate, because the
Lisu have no script by their own, no recorded history and also no homeland.
The language of the Lisu belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family and has six
different tones. Actually, it is very hard to learn and understand, practice
the many dialects and use Chinese loan-words. Luckily, in Ton Lung it is no
problem to converse with the Lisu in Thai and see the influence of Thai
Buddhist culture at work.
Interesting to note is that the Lisu practice a pragmatic
religion as a result of their long wanderings and migrations via Eastern
Tibet and Yunnan into Myanmar and to Thailand. The Lisu are traditionally
pure animists in the “shaman” tradition of the far north, but they also
practice ancestor worship in the Chinese tradition. Some Christian influence
is seen in the worship of the creator god “wusa”, while their old
grandfather spirit called “apamo” is responsible for births, weddings,
and deaths in the village. Chicken and pigs will be slaughtered during
spirit ceremonies and moon festivals, especially at Chinese New Year.
The Lisu grow rice and corn, some vegetables and exotic
fruits, and in former times poppies to produce opium. Making handicrafts is
a very important occupation, complementing the family income of poor
farmers. Tourism is certainly a good opportunity to find employment, but
also has its backlash. More and more young people leave the village to the
cities, where especially the uneducated will end up in dubious professions.
Certainly, tourism will accelerate this process.
For further information, please contact Reinhard Hohler, GMS Media Travel
Consultant by email [email protected]