This week’s Chiang Mai Mail carries a story on a new tourist-oriented yacht that will ply the Mekong between Chiang Rai and Yunnan. For the New Mandala readership, the article is quoted here in full:

Prince of Mekong yacht launched

By Saksit Meesubkwang
The Prince of Mekong yacht has been launched to serve tourists travelling from Chiang Rai to Jinghong, Xishuangbanna in China; a journey of 340 km taking 2 days and a night. The yacht provides Xishuangbanna guides to take care of guests during the trip.
Chiang Rai deputy governor, Nopporn Tornrap presided over the launching ceremony of the Prince of Mekong yacht at the Mekong riverbank, at Chiang Saen Port in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai. The ceremony was attended by numerous representatives of local businesses and government.
The 300 ton-capacity yacht boasts 20 en-suite rooms. The biggest room holds up to 10 persons and the top of yacht is suitable to hold parties with karaoke facilities.
The Prince of Mekong yacht is called “Wang Chue Ho” in Chinese and cost 20 million baht. Tourists will have the opportunity to visit Thai, Burmese, Laotian and Chinese villages including villages of the Tai hill tribe.
This year almost 200 tourists have already reserved tickets and the yacht has received many further enquiries. Additionally, there are many Chinese tourists wishing to visit Thailand on the yacht, although these visitors sometimes encounter visa difficulties in Khunming.
Suranath Taweesupt, the Thai representative of the Prince of Mekong yacht, accepted that higher fuel costs affected yacht tourism; nevertheless, the ticket price has been maintained at the old price to satisfy clients. He said that governments of Mekong basin countries; China, Burma, Laos and Thailand, should increase support for tourism in this area.

While many elements of this article are worth further reflection and inquiry, the “villages of the Tai hill tribe” are what immediately piqued my interest. To my knowledge of the route that The Prince of Mekong will travel, these would, I assume, be Tai Dam, Tai Lue, Shan or maybe Lao villages. Are they part of any “Tai hill tribe”? Only in the vaguest and least accurate sense.

Try telling Tai Lue farmers in the eastern Shan State that they are a “hill tribe”. I am all for advertising new and exciting tourist opportunities but, at the very least, they need to get the spiel right. I am afraid that this Golden Boat will stay in port while sloppy nomenclature confuses and disappoints potential customers.