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Akha Hill Tribe in Thailand

The Akha hill tribe originate from Tibet, the majority live in Yunnan province in south west China. However they can also be found in Laos, Myanmar and northern Thailand in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces. The Akha hill tribe migrated to Thailand at the beginning of the 20th Century and now approximately 80,000 live here. They have no traditional written language and literacy amongst older generations is virtually nil.

The Akha live in low stilt houses made of bamboo.  The design of a traditional Akha house, is sectioned by gender so that there is one side is for females and one for males, there is also a communal area for both genders.  The Akha are expert hunters and practice slash and burn farming.

Akha Hill Tribe Clothing

The traditional dress for Akha women, are black shirts with embroidered cuffs and lapels,  broad leggings around the calves, knee length black skirts with a kind of traditional Akha embroidered sporran over the top.   A distinctive aspect of their costume is the Akha headdress worn by women adorned with silver bauble and coins.

Akha hill tribe Thailand

Akha hill tribe Thailand

Akha Swing Festival

Traditionally every village would have an Akha swing which is only used during festivals such the annual rice harvest celebration.  Women will dress beautifully wearing lots of silver.  The festival usually lasts four days with lots of singing, dancing, eating and swinging.  Every Akha village also has a spirit gate decorated with amulets and wooden carvings, the gate acts to protect the village from evil spirits. The Akha are traditionally animists who believe in spirits, over the years they have been converted to Christianity and Buddhism which they practice alongside animism.

Historically the Akha used to grow opium but since this was outlawed by the Thai government in 1959, the Akha had to cease opium cultivation and grow other cash crops instead such as rice, corn and soybean.  This was done with the help of the Thai King’s crop substitution program which is viewed by the international community today as a successful model for opium cultivation substitution.


Akha Hill Tribe Villages in Thailand

If you are interested in learning about the Akha hill tribe, then one of the best villages to visit is Ban Lorcha village located in Chiang Rai province. This is a community based tourism project founded by the PDA organisation. The village is run and owned by a cooperative of Akha hill tribe villagers. There is an entrance fee, and it is a village set up for tourists, but in the unique way it has been set up and managed, it does not feel commercialised, and feels like a cultural and educational experience. If you visit ban Lorcha, an Akha village guide will show you around the village, and demonstrate to you different aspects of traditional Akha village life, such as their houses, Akha spirit gates, handicrafts and hunting methods

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