Baan Huai Hee is a small, ethnic Karen community, located 26 kilometers southeast of Mae Hong Son city. The village lies at the base of Doi Pui, the provinces’ highest mountain.
Huai Hee can be reached by 4WD, via a gravel road which climbs up through forest-covered mountains to the village. From Huai Hee, guests can trek for 3-5 hours to reach the peak of Doi Pui, and enjoy splendid panoramic views.
Until recently, the village did not have electricity. In 2000, the government built a solar cell station, which has provided every village household with green power!
The highlights of Huai Hee Community
“Stay with the gentle families of Huai Hee; learn how local people live with the forest; trek to the peak of Doi Pui mountain and support wild orchid conservation.”
Why is Huai Hee community special?
The people of Baan Huai Hee are friendly and welcoming. The community is an ideal place to experience the gentle rhythms of daily life among the Karen,,..custodians of the forest.
Villagers enjoy a simple life. They have few material possessions, and value their freedom to live independently and close to nature.
Mountain rice farming sustains the community. Local people plant rice according to a traditional rotation farming system. Under normal conditions, their plots are cultivated in a cycle of seven to ten-year intervals. Vegetables are also grown in the rice fields and collected wild from the forest.
Baan Huai Hee is one of Thailand’s first and most successful CBT projects. By establishing CBT, the villagers have been able to invite guests to their village, share their culture and way of life, and prove to the outside world that the Karen are able to combine farming with protecting the forest.
The village is also famous for the women’s group, which produces hand-made, natural dyed, traditional Karen weaving.
Don’t miss this…
Activities for guests:
- Life on the farm: Depending on the season, guests can help their host families to plant or harvest mountain rice and collect vegetables from the fields and forest. Guests learn how Karen people work to balance farming and conservation. Bring fresh vegetables home and cook a typical local dish with your host family.
- Discover Doi Pui nature trail, wild orchids and camping: At 1700 meters, Doi Pui is the highest point in Mae Hong Son. The hike to the peak takes a full day, and trekkers are often rewarded by spectacular sunrises and sunsets. On route, local guides point out flora and fauna, including edible and medicinal plants. Guests visit a community project to protect wild orchids. Camping and short trips to see orchids are possible.
Green Corner: People and Planet
Baan Huai Hee lies inside Doi Pui national park. Under Thai law, it is illegal to live inside park boundaries. The community members knew that sustainable use of natural resources was at the heart of their way of life. They needed a way to educate the public about their farming practices, so that they would be allowed to continue living traditional lives in the forest.
The village began welcoming small groups of tourists and journalists on study trips, which developed into community based tourism. Villagers showed guests how they protected the forest, which lead to improved relations with government.
Developing CBT also enabled villagers to learn more about the outside world. Positive feedback from guests reinforced the value of their culture, motivating some village youth to stay in Baan Huai Hee, rather than move to the city. They work as local guides. In the future, they hope to work as park rangers.
Tourists contribute towards a community fund, which is used to finance local village projects, such as a wild orchid hospital.