There are times when you tire of the same old people…the same old small-talk around the water-cooler…and the same old colourless corporate garb…
When this happens, it’s time to branch-out and mingle with an alternative crowd, and get to know some of the coolest indigenous communities in the world.
The Headhunters, Malaysian Borneo
Not everyone can say they’ve hung out with a group of reformed cannibals, but that’s exactly what you get to do on this luxury Malaysian Borneo holiday in Sabah and Sarawak. Hanging out with the Iban tribe – whose headhunting habits died out with their ancestors – you can still see the human skulls which were once collected as trophies; learn the symbolism behind their elaborate tattoos, and try out both their deadly blow-pipes, followed by their even more deadly rice-based home-brew.
The Moken Sea Gypsies, Myanmar and Thailand
Taking the term ‘water-baby’ to whole new levels, this nomadic sea community migrated from Southern China some 4,000 years ago, and moved through Malaysia before settling in the 800 or so Andaman Islands off Myanmar and Thailand. Whilst active tourist interaction is discouraged due to the community’s diminishing size, it’s a real privilege to catch a glimpse of them fishing with harpoons; see their flotillas of kabang on which they spend nine months of the year, and learn of their incredible adaptations which allow them to see clearly under water and hold their breath for up to seven minutes.
The Cult of Maximon, Guatemala
Anyone trying to quit smoking will fit in well with the Cult of Maximon: a Guatemalan community which venerates the Mayan-Catholic smoking deity. Whilst effigies of the deity can be found all over Guatemala, it’s especially famous at beautiful Lake Atitlan where the colourful icon is kept in a local’s home for a year, before its given gifts of cigarettes and liquor, and then bathed in the lake during Holy Week.
Tzotzil Maya, Mexico
The best gift you can bring this fiercely independent Chiapas community (who live just outside San Cristobal in Mexico) is a bottle of fizzy pop as they believe that it has the ability to rid them of evil spirits. Cola signs appear all over the village, but this is just one of the fascinating aspects of this part Catholic, part indigenous Indian culture.
The Kuna, San Blas Islands, Panama
Our Latin America expert, James, canoed with The Kuna off Panama’s stunning San Blas Islands, and whilst he’s no giant, he felt slightly like one as the indigenous tribe are so tiny in stature. Known for their beautiful appliqué Mola, which are used in the women’s colourful dress, they speak their own language, Tule, and ward off malevolent spirits using carved wooden ‘nuchus’ dolls.