My husband and I are heading for Chiang Mai right away. We hoped to do a hilltribe trek. Any recommendations for tour companies? I imagine these treks are quite commercialized, but would want to avoid anything that is like a human zoo.
I'm probably not a great help but i went on one of those last year. It was either combined with elephant riding or Golden Triangle. Went to a travel agent type person in a building rather than on one of the random dudes on the street, think it should cost around 600baht.
As for it being ethical it was kind of another story. What my one did was take us to one of the tribes (some characterised as having black teeth, can't remember name), and you had to pay an extra fee to see the long neck tribe. While we didn't pay the extra fee (due to it feeling like a human zoo you're talking about) we just waited around with the first tribe, who will try sell you things (similar to those ladies that have the flashy hats and play those frog things, hehe). So yeah on one hand they may need the money, but on the other there was a huge zoo feel about it, hard either way.
It seems as if a lot of the tours are almost the same thing, just a different person selling you it (possibly for a different price). The normal bartering type principles probably apply. As for the elephant rides it appeared, as there were large congregations of people, most people going there were with the same type of tour.
Of both tours I went on the hill tribe thing was the only thing i didnt like because of your reason
The rest of the tours was great, and for that price included a buffet lunch and a whole days activity which was awesome.
That's just my experience, maybe someone else could shed some more light
I went on one about 4 weeks ago and just booked it through my guest house, i did 3 days 2 nights, it was really good, and our guide was brilliant. I stayed at thape gardens guesthouse and that was also a really nice and resonably priced guesthouse.