We have been living in Chaing Mai for about two months now when I got the call from my parents saying they were coming over for a visit. Excitement and panic hit me both at once. I wanted to show them the best time possible, without giving them the usual tour that every other tourist does when they arrive. My solution? An off the beaten path tour with Paul from Best Tuk Tuk Tours.
Best Tuk Tuk Tours is a company run by Thailand born, American citizen, Paul Collins. What we love about our tour is that Paul was 100% willing to customize our tour, suggesting interesting places along the way. I contacted him and arranged for a tour that isn’t so touristy and he gladly obliged. Paul spoke fluent English and Thai which made conversing with the locals a lot easier. We also loved the fact that he knew a lot about Chiang Mai as he grew up here along with his twin brother. For our tour, we had three points of interest as we didn’t want a full day of sightseeing. The entire tour was pretty fantastic and my parents enjoyed every bit of it. This tour is one of those things where words won’t do it justice so instead, here is our photo diary of of our tour that day.
Baan Tong Luang: Exploring the Hill Tribes of Chiang Mai
Baan Tong Luang is an Eco- Agricultural Village which is home to eight different hill tribes. Here, these tribes live, coexist, and as they preserve their culture and share it with others. Each tribe specializes in a specific handicraft type, creating beautiful and intricate patterns and textile clothing.
They live is small huts with their families which they reinforce with leaves to create a thatched roof hut. They live off the land and heavily depend on agriculture to survive. The village is set among rice paddies and lush greenery.
Apart from farming, they also create a lot of handicrafts which they sell to people visiting the village. Below is a photo of Paul, explaining the history behind their craft.
Some of them weave, others create batik like textile clothing, and others embroider. The intricate pattern that they make are absolutely stunning. The woman below is creating this hand made textile print which she will then dye using a natural indigo color which they get from leaves.
Here in the village, time had seemed to stop. People were going on with their every day lives. Children were playing, the men were farming, and the women were busy. Living here in the village allows them to preserve their culture and pass it on to the younger generation in their tribes.
Here, life was simple and despite not having much, the people there seemed happy and content. Although the authenticity of seeing them in their every day lives similar to when you do a home stay is gone, this is a still a great area of seeing to see different tribes all in one place.
The Hill Tribe members were kind, they did not mind the photographs being taken, nor were they pushy in selling their handicrafts. Each tribe had a distinct look and hearing about their tribe’s history and way of life was very interesting.
We had a great time during this tour and highly recommend it to others! If you want to see more information on it, you can check out their website. Cost of entry to the village is 500 Baht a person.
A Visit to Paul’s Childhood Village and Home
Tom kindly took us to his childhood home as part of the off the beaten path tour. Usually, he goes there to visit his Thai nanny or mom who raised him but unfortunately, she wasn’t there. We did however get to meet his Thai Grandparents which was a nice treat.
Exploring Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls
This was one place that I was most excited about as I had read so much about it. This place got its rather unique name because unlike most waterfalls which are slippery, you can directly climb up the cascading falls. The water contains a mineral deposit giving the rocks a strong texture which gives you a good grip. We started by walking up to see the water source through the lush forest.
This incredible natural pool supplies water to the falls on a constant basis. The sticky waterfalls itself is located within the Sri Lanna National Forest and is a great place to head to to getaway from the city. The waterfalls are very interesting and we enjoyed climbing up and down.
By the time we finished our tour, I felt quite satisfied that I was able to show my parents around Chiang Mai without it feeling too touristy. Naturally, Paul usually does his tours on a tuk tuk but for larger groups, you have the option of renting a Songthew or an AC Van. Overall, we had a great time and loved the fact that Paul spoke perfect English and Thai. He was able to translate things for us which made the tour easy and enjoyable.
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Tips for Booking Best Tuk Tuk Tours
- Book in advance (Paul runs a one man show so reserving a slot is cricual)
- Have a rough idea of the things you want to see and do and email them to Paul. From there, he will make suggestions and create a custom itinerary
- Ask him for his recommendations on where to eat in the city
- Bring cash as you will have to pay him in cash before the tour start
For more information on Best Tuktuk Tours, you can check out: