Huay Pu Keng, situated in Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand, is a small village populated primarily by the Kayan and Kayaw (Karenni) ethnic subgroups. The village is differentiating itself by focusing on community-based tourism activities that avoids the extremely negative ‘human zoo’ aspect that has characterized a number of hill villages in northern Thailand. Many tour operators and tourists alike consider this exploitation and avoid these villages. But there is an alternative in the form of managed community-based tourism (CBT).
Huay Pu Keng Village has, with support, worked on changing the attractions offered, with visitors now able to engage in workshops that offer classes in; making a brass bracelet, bamboo cup, water bottle or traditional bells. Furthermore, guests can try their hand at weaving or spend a full day learning how to carve a Kayan doll from wood. All these workshops are led by local Kayan artisans. Additionally, guests can join a guided tour to a cave where World War II artefacts remain. Homestay and dining options are available in the village.
Hosts and guests have been very positive about the workshops and tours. The Kayan are able to make a living and invest money in health care and education while visitors acquire a truly unique and memorable experience.