Hill Tribes - Akka & Hmong
Akha aka Akka
Akha are believed to originate from Tibet and there are approx 20,000 Akha now living in Thailand. They live at high altitudes and their villages are recognized by their carved wooden gates adorned with all manner of guardian spirits.
Raised houses are the order of the day, usually a simple hut resting on stilts. One room in the house is usually reserved for ancestors and spirits. Ahka women are easily recognized by their black caps covered with silver coins, and lots of these colorfully dressed women patrol the night bazaar selling an array of tribal garb. The Akha men’s more standard style clothes make them a bit harder to spot. The Ahka are very active and enjoy a number of festivals, among them the famous rope-swing festival.
A tribe well-famed for throwing in their lot with western powers during two Indochinese wars – first with the French in Vietnam and then with the Americans during the secret war in Laos. Unfortunately both wars ended in defeat, which means these guys have suffered greatly at the hands of barbaric communist governments, bordering on genocide after the Vietnam war.
While you’re in Thailand try to hunt down a copy of "The Ravens" and "Tragic Mountains" for some very excellent Hmong-related reading. In both books the Hmong are referred to as a "nation without a country", which is a phrase often used when referring to their vast numbers scattered throughout Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
There are approx 60,000 Hmong in Thailand, and at the time of writing a further 30,000 refugees in long-term refugee camps along the northeastern Thai border, a legacy of the Vietnam war.
The Hmong live in houses that sit right on the ground, not on stilts like most other hill tribes. However, the main floor of their house is slightly raised due to a kind of basement "root cellar" that they use for food storage. The Hmong are a diligent, tenacious, patient and independent people and were greatly respected by both French and American armies. They are much devoted to the sky spirit they believe has created both the world and their own ancient way of life. So far there have been very few converts to Christianity or Buddhism.