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The Northern Hill Tribes

Fang Travel Blog

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Girls of the Akha Tribe

A four-hour truck ride brought us from Chaing Mai to the village of Fang where our guide, Ping Pong, bought groceries and supplies. Fourteen of us clambered into two wooden flat-bottomed boats known as longtails.  A potent V-8 engine powered ours and its long prop-shaft flexed noticeably as the driver used it and the throttle as a rudder. He skillfully maneuvered sweeping river bends surrounded by jungle covered hills. We passed several small villages and scanned the banks for crocodiles. When we were finally dropped off there was no doubt that we were in remote back-country.

There were more than ten hill-tribes in northern Thailand, all in a relatively small area around the Golden Triangle where the Thai, Burma, and Laos borders met.

Boy in an Akha village.
That region was primarily noted for its number one output: opium poppies. With the United States government's aggressive drive to eradicate the crop, Chris and I were concerned, being  the only Americans in the group. Our guide told us to say we were Canadians if asked.

 

Under a scorching sun, we hiked inland on flat ground to a village of the Akha tribe. More than two thousand years ago they migrated from Tibet to Yannun, China, then into northern Thailand around the 1910's. The women wore black headgear decorated with red tassels, white beads, and silver coins. Children swarmed us; hands out at first, then digging into our pockets. The trail climbed upwards through a bamboo stand into rainforest. The hill finally peaked at a wide horse-shoe ridge and we descended into the next valley.

 

We spent the night there, under a full moon, at a small village of the Lisu tribe. They also migrated from Tibet into Thailand, during the 1920's. The various tribes could be identified by their dress. The Lisu wore more blues and greens than the Akha and their houses were built on the ground; dirt floors, bamboo walls and thatched roofs. Hogs seemed to outnumber people and we enjoyed a fine meal of stir-fried pork, peas in their pods, and jasmine rice.

 

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Girls of the Akha Tribe
Girls of the Akha Tribe
Boy in an Akha village.
Boy in an Akha village.
Fang
photo by: rotorhead85