Hill Tribes - Lahu & Yao



Lahu hilltribes in northern Thailand The Lahu are larger than members of the other tribes, but they tend to be the most placid and peace-loving. They love entertainment and taking it easy.

Lahu men don’t wear anything special but the women wear several kinds of distinctive dress, such as colorful turbans and beautiful earrings, usually of silver. Men and women work together to make some of the finest baskets found anywhere in Thailand. Lahu men also produce excellent crossbows, musical instruments, and other items made of wood, bamboo and rattan.

The word "Lahu" means “hunter,” and so as you might guess the men fancy themselves as expert game trappers. They are also famous for their knowledge of herbal medicine. This is another mountain-top tribe with houses on stilts, and they also make use of "basement-corrals" for chickens, pigs, ducks, and buffaloes.



The Yao aka Mien prefer to live among low hills near dense forest, with an estimated 55,000 of them settled around the provinces of Phayao, Nan and Chiang Rai. Like the Hmong, a considerable number, possibly 10,000, are believed to be still living in refugee camps along the Laos/Thai border.

Also like the Hmong, for generations the Yao’s main income came from opium cultivation. Their houses also sit on the ground, and feature a cooking fire in the center of their main room, as well as a small shrine dedicated to their ancestors and spirits they believe inhabits each individual house.

Their language, believed to be derived from Chinese, is written in Chinese characters, and their paintings, mostly of religious subjects, reflect Chinese artistic styles. Yao paintings are coveted by many Western collectors. The Yao pride themselves on their cleanliness and are considered the "businessmen" among the hill tribes, who excel at making farm implements like axes and plows.

Due to the fact they have a written language, unlike most other hill tribes, they also know how to make their own high quality paper.