Laos - hill tribes : Akha, Khamu, Thai dam
Posted Date: 7/12/20139:41 AM


As always I hope you and yours are doing well.
This is the 4th and final blog on laos titled hill tribes. Currently I am in northern Vietnam on a 3 day motorcycle trek. Today is day one and if tomorrow and the next day are the same as today I should have a few great photos to share, anyway, onto the hill tribes.
The first hill tribe trek that I took left from Muangngoi on the Nam Ou river. First, let me mention that they are called hill tribes because they live on the “tops” of hills. We walked for a few hours with our guide before stopping in a village for lunch. From there it was about a four hour walk up to the Seang savang, a Khmu village. We arrived shortly before dusk all nice and sweaty after the climb uphill. When we arrived we left our bags at the chiefs house who wasn’t home and sat outside. Many of the “locals” came out to watch us. This was a “privative” village without electricity, toilets (not even outhouses) and water. The villagers had to carry water uphill for about 25 minutes from a creek.
Seang our guide who got lost a few times went back to check with some of the locals on where to go and he ended up getting caught carrying her pack Savang is also a village that doesn’t get many outsiders.

Well the chief arrived home accompanied by two guys at about 6pm. He was; let’s say a  little drunk on rice whiskey, the local “home brew”. He was attending a meeting in the village where we had lunch. I have no idea how they made the journey uphill! That night our guide tried to find a chicken for our dinner. It wasn’t looking good until someone sold him a rooster. The dinner was good, chicken, soups, veggies and sticky rice. The sleeping arrangement wasn’t too bad either. The next day we got up early to take some photos before having breakfast and taking off for NamTup, a H’mong village where we had lunch. We didn’t meet the chief before we left because he was nursing a nasty hangover. When we arrived at NamTup there was a nurse there giving vaccines to the locals. We left NamTup and headed to Kwilkan, a Khmu village (I have no idea if I am spelling the names of the villages correctly) where we spent the second night. This village was more modern and had running water and toilets. There may have been a generator there for electricity but I don’t remember. Our guide was able to buy a duck off someone so we had roasted duck, soup, veggies and sticky rice. this village sees “a lot” of foreigners who do a two day trek. There were several French there who were on a package tour.

We left the next day to hike down to a village on the river where we took a boat back to Muang ngoi.
I started my next trip to a hill tribe village out of Phongsali we took a truck to hat sa and then a boat up river for about a half hour where we started our uphill walk to an Akha village. We wanted to spend some time here taking photos but as luck would have it we got “lost” on the way up. Luckily we ran into 3 akha women who took off running when they heard us. luckily our guide who spoke their language chased them down and calmed them down. These women all had packs on their back which they carried with their “heads”.
These packs probably weighed 50 plus pounds, the women were barefoot and were also spinning yarn with their hands! The women walked about 3 hours from their village to pick fruit. Anyway, they helped point us in the right direction and we headed back uphill. we came to a fork in the trail and were lost again. Our guide went back down hill to find the women to ask for help. As luck would have it, a girl with the women was the daughter of a chief so we went to her village and stayed in her house.
We arrived at the chiefs house at dusk, too dark to take pictures. This village didn’t have toilets but it did have a water source nearby. Since our guide spoke the hill tribes’ language we were able to communicate with the locals. At about 6:30pm the chiefs mom, came home from the fields and was “sick”. our guide asked us if we had any medicine. we said what is the problem. our guide said that the woman was weak and dizzy. we said she was probably dehydrated and exhausted so we gave him some “energy” drinks and some “powerbars” to help her (if in fact she was exhausted).

We sat around drinking tea while the women made our dinner and brought it along with the table to us. the women stayed in the kitchen while them the men, a boy and our group of three enjoyed our meals. before starting the meal the chief made a toast and we drank rice whiskey before the meal and during the meal for that matter. when we were finished one of the women took the table to the kitchen where the women could now eat. The men sat around smoking their water bongs filled with some type of tobacco or tree bark, drinking tea while the women “worked” in the kitchen until midnight or so.
We got up early the next day to start our walk to the next villages. the morning started with breakfast and yes a little more rice whiskey! The villagers were not accustomed to foreigners and when they saw the “big” cameras they ran for the hills. i wished we had more time to spend in the villages so we could have built some kind of report, got to know the villagers and also maybe got a few good shots.

One thing I did learn is that you don’t want to have twins. In one village they would send the woman and the kids to the forest and if anyone survived after three months they could come back to the village. In another they just killed the mother and the kids. Now this sounds harsh and it is but thinking about it there is absolutely no way a woman could survive (read do all her work) if she had more than one baby to care for.
The next villages I visited were out of Muang khau. I did two day trips to different hill tribes including Akha and Thai damn. I know I loose some of you if I write more than 4 paragraphs so I will finish it up here with a holiday greeting – HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL

Source: Dave Donohue from Travel Blog.
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