It has been said that Luang Namtha has the largest number of ethnic groups of any province in Laos. Whether or not this is true, the fact remains that there numerous different ethnic groups living in Luang Namtha. Some may call them hill tribes, but this is not a totally accurate description as they do not all live in the hills. What can be said, however, is that many of these peoples still live a life that is virtually untouched by the modern world. They carry on their daily life as they have done for centuries. But as all societies, theirs too will change as the outside world comes ever nearer.
Each district in Luang Namtha has a different ethnic composition. The major groups to be found in each of the districts is as follows:
When visiting ethnic villages you can hardly go wrong by using common courtesy. You are a guest in their village, their home. Conduct yourself accordingly. A hello, a friendly look, a gesture, modesty and a genuine concern for your host will make the experience more enjoyable for all. A personal encounter will take away the stigma of a human zoo.
One common courtesy to remember, when offered something, it is impolite to openly refuse. If you do not want the thing offered, take it, say thank you and then just leave it and put it down. If you are asked to drink alcohol and do not wish to drink, simply put the glass to your lips without taking a sip. This is a polite way of accepting your hosts hospitality.
Please do not touch items of religious or spiritual significance unless your hosts indicate that it is appropriate. When visiting Akha villages do not pass through or touch the village gate. And refrain from breaking branches or twigs in the village or burial grounds.
Here are a few links that I have found for some of the ethnic groups in Laos. Please let us know if you find others.
General Ethnic Links for Laos
Mien (Yao) Links