Ethnic Groups of Luang Namtha
One way to experience the deep richness of Luang Namtha, both cultural and natural, is a one-day trek. On a Nam Ha Trek hikers have the opportunity to learn about the daily lives and rice cultivation of some of Northern Laos' ethnic groups. These treks also passes through the biologically diverse primary rainforests of the Nam Ha protected area.
For a greater appreciation of the local ethnic groups of Luang Namtha, it's always a good idea to learn a little about their culture and heritage. The various ethnic minority groups all have distinct characters that make them unique.
The Khmu People
Khmu villages are some of the most isolated in Northern Laos, and access to basics such as electricity is still emerging. The Khmu speak the tribal Khmu language, which they still use in spoken form to pass their culture down through oral tradition.
If you are visiting the houses of Khmu people, it is important to keep in mind that, within the context of their animist belief systems, homes and villages are very ritualized spaces. It is considered taboo to enter a Khmu house without permission.
The Hmong People
This ethnic group is also one of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. The Hmong tribe was one of the most affected by the Secret War in Laos in the 1970s, during which they were recruited by American forces to fight against the communist-nationalist ruler Pathet Lao. The political turmoil caused a diaspora of Hmong people to neighboring Thailand and western countries, where communities with Hmong origins still band together.
The Lahu (Musur) People
The Lahu tribe speaks its own local language, in which Lahu or la hou is a verb that means 'to breed tigers.' Like various other ethnic groups of Northern Laos, their spiritualism involves ancestor worship and is filled with celebrations and rituals throughout the year.
Marriages, house-buildings, and the agricultural cycle all call for Lahu rituals. The most heavily celebrated annual event is the new year festival that usually takes place in late January or early February of each year.
Photo: Lahu flute players in traditional dress
Etiquette for visiting villages in Luang Namtha
Ethnic minorities of this northern region of Laos still adhere to the way of life that they have been practicing for generations. You can have the opportunity to see how rice is cultivated, the traditional village houses that the people live in, the traditional dress that they wear, and the traditional customs that they practice.
To make the trip more meaningful, memorable, and respectful for all parties involved, there are a few do's and don'ts that visitors should keep in mind.
Dress modestly and respectfully.
Be sure to remove your shoes before entering any houses.
Finally, make sure to ask before taking photos.
Show public displays of affection
Buy wildlife or consume it
Consume too much alcohol or use any illegal substances
Distribute religious propaganda
Enter private rooms of village homes