07/10/2014

The Akha hill tribe people in Laos

The Akha people of Laos are an indigenous hill tribe who live mainly in the mountains of the province Phongsaly. The ethnical group of the Akha people originally settled in the Kuaichao and Yunan province of China, from there they moved also to Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The population of the Akha in southwest China, eastern Myanmar, western Laos, northwestern Vietnam and northern Thailand is estimated about roughly 400,000 people. In all these countries the Akha people are an ethnic minority.

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The best way to visit the Akha hill tribe people of Laos is doing a several days trek to the villages in the mountains. One possibility is to start the trek in Phongsaly. A guide is mandatory for the trek, because the Akha people don't speak English, and the accommodation or the food could be a huge problem without guide. Guided tours are offered in Phongsaly from the tourist office or a small local tour operator. There are not many tourists in Phongsaly, but it isn't a problem to find a guide, or if needed, other foreigners to join the guided trek.

The other possibility is to go by bus to Boun Tai and start a 3- or 4-days trek from there to Akha Loma, Akha Mouchi (Mochi) and Akha Eupa (Eurpa) people. Boun Tai is a small town on the way from Oudomxay to Phongsaly. The trek from Boun Tai is lesser known than the treks around Phongsaly and it starts by a songthaew to reach the first Akha Mouchi village. From there a hiking trail, sometimes pretty steep, leads from village to village and ends at the main road, where it is possible to catch a bus either back to Phongsaly or to Oudomxay.

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02/22/2014

Muay Lao: the Kick Boxing Scene in Vientiane, Laos

Ask a European about Asian kick boxing, he for sure will answer: "yes, Thai boxing!". Ask Thai people about kick boxing, you most likely get the answer: "Of course, it's Muay Thai, we invented it, and we are the best!". But Laos’s people will probably explain, that "Muay is a Southeast Asian traditional martial arts with its roots in Cambodia, the Thai people call it Muay Thai, and here in Laos the name is Muay Lao." 

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In Southeast Asian sport events the term "Muay" often acts as an umbrella for all traditional kick boxing styles mainly from the Indochinese countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The word "Muay" comes from the Sanskrit term mavya and means "boxing". Unarmed martial arts have always been a constant part of Southeast Asia since ancient times. Evidence shows that a style similar to kick boxing was practiced by the Khmers in the Angkor era. Since the kingdom of Angkor at that time dominated and controlled most parts of Indochina, it is highly probable that Muay started with the early Khmer people. In this context the often used label for Muay Laos as "the little brother of Thai Kickboxing" seems to be wrong, but there are also historians who claim that Muay Lao originated in Northern Thailand.

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