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Slumber Party at the Village Chief's Crib

LAOS | Monday, 11 June 2007 | Views [2672]

The Akha tribes, and specifically this tribe, seem a little more well off - relatively speaking as far as hilltribe living goes. Most of the houses in this village have satellite dishes, TV's and many have DVD players with all the latest children's Disney flicks. We were told by our guide that this tribe has thrived on the opium trade they do with the lucrative China market, not too far over the border here. The Akha tribes women are also very creative and industrious, producing beautiful textiles and handicrafts that's part of a cooperative. We later find shopping in Luang Prabang boutiques, their products command a very high margin (try 10 times mark up from what the local tribes would charge me in their village). Unfortunately the village women do not see the profit margins to the degree that shop owners do, but what a great opportunity for the tribes women to begin selling higher, and using the money for skill development and education for children. My fellow trekker, Daiana and I set out after our usual "public" shower and then to meet the local women. The local women, dressed in beautiful, colorfully embroidered black outfits, with hats adorned with embroidery and coins. These women are strong and rugged, working the fields all day, often with their children strapped to them if there's not an elder at home to take care of the child. We were invited into several homes where we were also invited to take photos and share tea. One woman tried to sell us a chicken, and picked out a nice one, sending her son up to the chief's house where the chicken was physically weighed on a scale, and Darrin and our other fellow trekker from Italy (Sury) got to observe not only the commercial transaction, but the actually slaying , plucking and preparation of the chicken for our dinner.

That evening was met with traditionally shots of Lao Lao (locally made rice whisky) with the village Chief and his directors sitting around our table, all sharing a meal together. Women (aside from guests) are not allowed to dine with us. Local custom and rules of the village don't permit it. We spent the night chatting with the Chief, through the cryptic translation of our guide. We learned that the Chief resolves all issues, most recently the dispute of a water buffalo that had been killed by another neighbor's water-buffalo. The issue couldn't be resolved by the chief and the two villagers locally, as the owner of the "killer buffalo" said he couldn't afford the settlement payment to compensate the owner of the dead buffalo. So the case was taken all the way to court in Phongsali where a judge presided over the matter and the owner of the "killer buffalo" ended up having to may more than double the amount that had been first locally decided in the village. I guess it pays to resolve disputes locally.

After rounds of Lao Lao and village stories, we happily crashed on our floor mats - this time with no mosquito nets, and sharing our beds with some very big, furry black spiders that lurked all around us.

Tags: Adventures


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