» Country? Thailand.
» In a few words, what is the idea? Great people who will make you feel welcome from the first moment. Their symbolic universe and their lives are really interesting. It is worth a visit.
» Duration? One day trip.
» For whom? Travellers with a curious attitude about these tribes, ready to ask and listen to their hosts.
» Where? Mainly in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Nan.
» When? All year long.
The Akha tribe is one of the ethnic minorities in northern Thailand, found in the provinces of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Tak.
Originally from Myanmar, the current population is nearly 60,000 inhabitants.
Their presence in this country is quite recent – the first settlements occurred in the early 20th century, so many living here today are either the initial emigrants or their children.
Such is the case of Ay-Aar and Yea-Sure, Ploy‘s mother and aunt, whom we are going to call on at her home in Moban-Pana Say-Eh-Ri.
Originally, this ethnic group came from China, as part of the Hani people. For hundreds of years, they have inhabited the southern provinces of Szechuan and Yunnan, where they arrived on earlier migrations from Tibet and where many of them still remain.
The Akha tribes inhabit the higher mountain areas; villages are built on the slopes from 800 meters up and the economy is based on agriculture. They grow rice, corn, sugar cane, tea and other vegetables, including poppies.
Their diet is supplemented with wild berries and meat from domestic animals.
Survival in such an isolated and demanding environment makes the role of the community in everyday life very important – the Akha understand that their traditions are the sum total of all their knowledge, off which generations before them have lived and therefore it is senseless and pretentious to attempt to change things by simply thinking differently.
At the same time, paradoxically, many communities have abandoned their traditional animism to embrace the beliefs of Christian missionaries, a radical change in the way they understand the world and society.
It is very rewarding to share food and talk to them for a few hours. Not just to ask them about their personal life stories or beliefs, but also about much less significant but nevertheless curious things such as if they like dancing or their favourite food.