Akha Village in northern Laos - a few miles from Chinese border

The_Traveler

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Akha Village in northern Laos - a few miles from Chinese border

In February a friend and I took a 3 week trip around northern Laos. One of the highlights was an excursion to an Akha village high in the hills northwest of Udomxai.

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This is a picture from early in the trip, at a rest stop, to give you an idea how very small many of the minority tribespeople are (these are Akha women dressed for trade)
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We (the two of us, a Lao guide and a driver) drove north from Udomxai to Phongsali along an incredibly bad road, a thin layer of gravel and tar pockmarked with huge potholes, then we turned off on a very narrow rutted road up into the hills.
We went about 30 k by road and, after passing through several small villages, ended up at an Akha village (2000 m high)
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The Akha are animists and reject most other cultures. They believe that everything has a spirit, rocks, trees, water.
At the edge of the village is a spirit gate that cannot be touched by anyone except certin males in the village.
Note the wooden effigies of things important to their culture that sit on top of the gate.

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The village itself sets on a very steep slope and every single amenity, like water and food (except for what they raise or kill) must be trucked in from below.
The government upplies somelectricity, an occasional nurse and teacher for young children.
The people are very leary of visitors, the women turned away and the children ran.
We spoke to a few men and they were civil - and we bought some candy and pencils for the children that broke the ice a bit.
Cows, pigs and dogs wandered freely up an down the slope and the woman, who are putting out fronds to dry, drift away so we don't take a picture of their faces.
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Spaced around the village were tall bamboo poles with a whippy extension.
These extensions were dipped in honey so any ghost or spirit that flew by could get some nourishment.

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Pictures had to be grabbed surreptitiously

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Our guide told us that this man wanted some 'medicine'. Interestingly he also told us that was an opium smoker (poppies are cultivated in these hills)
Pills don't have a curative effect as we think of it but pills have value as a totem. So I gave him two very large Acetominophen pills and cautioned him, through the guide, not to take them both.
Then he let me take his picture.
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jaomul

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