The Akha people
Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, is near a lot of hilltribe villages. I had read about Akha spinning in a magazine (the Akha spindle, a mid-whorl spindle, is fairly popular with handspinners), and asked if it would be possible to stay in a traditional Akha village to study spinning and weaving. Indeed it was! and I spent five days with the Akha people, four days studying spinning and weaving and one day studying with the silversmith.
Here are photos from the village; I have two other pages with photos of spinning, weaving, and other fiber arts.
You can also read about my visit to the Akha village in my travel blog.
The road to the Akha village. Not for the faint of heart!
An Akha woman in traditional headdress. The balls are handmade of hammered silver.
A group of Akha women carrying reeds came into the village as I arrived. These are to make brooms.
I was fascinated by the head-sling this woman was using to carry her bunch of reeds.
Here are some Akha in traditional dress. It's common in this village to see women in traditional dress, but the men don't typically wear it anymore. (He dressed up just for this photo, because "You must have a photo of an Akha man's costume!")
The back of the man's outfit.
An Akha woman working on threading a loom. I loved the look of concentration on her face.
A side view of the Akha head-dress. The silver is pure silver, handmade with a hammer and anvil by the last remaining traditional Akha silversmith in Thailand. These headdresses can weigh 1-2 kg or more, mostly in silver!
A bamboo house that the Akha live in.
A new bamboo house was being built when I came by. Here is the skeleton.
Here is an Akha man making very thin strips of bamboo, for tying things together.
This fellow had walked across the border from Myanmar, and was talking to the others about this year's opium crop. Northern Thailand falls in the Golden Triangle, well known for its opium smugglers.
A close-up of the bamboo house-in-progress, showing how the bamboo ties are used.
The inside of an Akha bamboo house.
This was the head-man/chief of the village. When I visited, he was carving bamboo cups for sale, using his knife. Every Akha man has a knife which is a mix of machete and knife, which he uses for everything requiring cutting.
The finished cups.
They dressed me up as an Akha twice: once on the first day, for the fun of it, and once on the last day, when they put me out front demo-ing for the tourists.
The back of the Akha outfit.
...and behold! Tien as an Akha maiden.
Here I am spinning for a family of tourists. They were thrilled with this vignette of traditional Akha life, and tipped me 20 baht (about 50 cents) for the photo. (The Akha, of course, were dying of laughter off to the side.)