South East Asian Hill Tribe Walks

  • Myanmar Shan Plateau edge - © William Mackesy
  • Myanmar - Going to festival near Kalaw - © William Mackesy
  • Along Shan Plateau edge - © William Mackesy
  • Myanmar - Shan Plateau SE of Kalaw - © William Mackesy
  • Myanmar - Dawn SE of Kalaw - © William Mackesy
  • Myanmar - Marbles, morning light SE of Kalaw - © William Mackesy
  • Cambodia - Mondulkiri - hill tribe village  - © flickr user- Carpe Diem Travel
  • View from Bokor Hill, Kampot Cambodia   - © flickr user- fabulousfabs
  • © flickr user- Stephen McGrath
  • Early morning sun glare over the rice paddies, Vietnam  - © flickr user- Stephen McGrath
  • © flickr user- Stephen Bugno
  • © flickr user- Yehuda Cohen 1

Key information: South East Asian Hill Tribe Walks

     

  • These South-east Asian countries have thrilling and fascinating hill walking, huge areas of landscape, some heavily but traditionally farmed and some combining pristine forest and farmed valleys. And in places remarkably unsullied tribal culture.
  • The range of options is huge, and you can fit in a glorious trek as part of a visit to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. There is also excellent walking in Cambodia.
  •  

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating91.5
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest14.5
  • Human interest16
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating91.5

Vital Statistics

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© flickr user- Stephen Bugno

WALK SUMMARY

The hills and mountains of south-east Asia, with their remote, tribal villages still relatively unsullied by modern ways, in valleys and patches often separated by jungly ridges, make for thrilling and fascinating walking.

The range of options is huge, and you can fit in a glorious trek as part of a visit to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. There is also excellent walking in Cambodia.

This page has been developed for the purposes of creating a Top 100 qualifying walk page from the diverse, yet in many ways broadly similar, walks to be found in these neighbouring countries. Please go to these countries' pages for further details.

Myanmar

Probably the gem of south-east Asian walking (controversial, us??): a huge area of pristine (or at least remote: a great deal of cutting has gone on) landscape, some heavily but traditionally farmed and some combining pristine forest and farmed valleys, and in places remarkably unsullied tribal culture. The fact that this is largely due to the country's horrendous regime and consequent isolation and lack of "development"is one of those ironies.

Good walks can be found in the hills and mountains of much of the country, although the Shan plateau in the east has to be singled out for wonderfully varied day and multi-day walks and hikes, walking from village to village among many different ethnic groups around Kalaw, Pindaya and Inle Lake; and Hsipaw and Nanshan, Kengtung and elsewhere. See our Kalaw Area and Kalaw to Inle Lake pages for details of what many would consider the best hill tribe walking, albeit well visited in places and at risk of cultural pollution. The easterly town of Kengtung (Kyaing Tong) has fine day-hikes in the surrounding area. It is (as of 2013) hard to access, but its hills and tribes have a remote and culturally unsullied feel, partly as a result of years of trouble. The Himalayan North provides superb mountain trekking, including passing through remote mountain villages.

The best time for hiking in most of Myanmar is November to early March. Once on trail, lodging is mostly in local homes, with camping in remoter areas.

See our Myanmar page for a lot of detail on these walks and on relevant practicalities, including the ethics of travelling to Myanmar. Walking here is exceedingly cheap, so don't be too tough on the bargaining: every penny helps the oppressed locals.

Thailand

Quite a bit of the walking in Thailand can be disappointing: overtouristed, rapacious or inexperienced guiding companies, spoilt landscape and homogenized and worldly villages. But wonderful trekking can still be found, although you will need to go further from the main centres to get there.

The best areas remain to the north-west of Chiang Mai, around Mae Hong Son and up towards Chiang Rai.

We are researching these walks with a view to developing our usual-quality information: all help, suggestions and photos are welcome!

Laos

This long-term sleepy backwater had more bombs dropped on it during the Vietnam War than any other in history. It is gradually emerging from its dark times, and now offers some outstanding walking in truly remote jungle-clad mountains and forested hills, much of it inhabited by tribes who still live poor but very unsullied lives in valleys and clearings.

There is also a wonderful diversity of vegetation and animal life to be admired.

We are researching these walks with a view to developing our usual-quality information: all help, suggestions and photos are welcome!

Vietnam

The western mountainous spine of this long, long country, and the deeper interiors of the north approaching the Chinese border, offer a lot of exceptional walking, revelling in fabulous (and much of it still fairly pristine) landscape and visiting villages in the high hills. Much of it is inhabited by tribes who still live poor but very unsullied lives in valleys and clearings.

There is also a wonderful diversity of vegetation and animal life to be admired.

We are researching these walks with a view to developing our usual-quality information: all help, suggestions and photos are welcome!

Cambodia

Cambodia is a beautiful, backward and recently tragic country. It has an array of jungle-clad hills to walk in, much of it inhabited by tribes who still live poor but very unsullied lives in valleys and clearings.

There is also a wonderful diversity of vegetation and animal life to be admired.

We are researching these walks with a view to developing our usual-quality information: all help, suggestions and photos are welcome!

 

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WARNING: These can be tough walks in remote mountains, where things can go wrong and help can be hard to get, and on which you will have to be self-sufficient. Come prepared.

ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

© flickr user- Yehuda Cohen 1

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Cambodia - Mondulkiri - hill tribe village  - © flickr user- Carpe Diem Travel...
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