Friday Lens Affair 231

Akhu Tribe, Kengtung, Myanmar

This week I’m featuring an amazing portrait of a woman from Akhu tribe in Myanmar taken by Rosenthal Maya and Sari Even from the Chasing Lenscapes Blog.

Maya and Sari are sisters who happen to love photography and travelling the world.

Give them a camera and throw them in the middle of an unfamiliar area and they couldn’t be happier.

Some photographers love to hike for hours to get the perfect landscape shot but for them, the most interesting subject matter to photograph is human beings and cultural habits.

In their blog, they write about their adventures and provide tips, city guides and foodie recommendations. Do follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Story: Akhu Tribe, Kengtung, Myanmar

I was watching my sister’s face as she was sitting on the floor, trying to drink the homemade herbal tea from the not-so-cleaned glass.

She was barefoot and sweaty and I could read on her face the inner debate that was going on inside her head “to drink or not to drink” (Sari had always been more of a posh spice kind of traveller until we started travelling together).

Nevertheless, her enjoyment was clearly written all over her face as she was listening to the stories of the two women from the Akhu tribe.

Unlike many other famous tourist attractions all around Myanmar, we have never heard about Kyaing Tong prior to our trip but we decided to make the effort and visit this remote place because someone had told us about the unique hill tribes that live in the area.

In a span of 2.5 days, we managed to visit many unique villages that still kept their old traditions and customs.

These are very poor villages with no electricity and no running water and the local guides are doing their best to help them.

This picture was taken at the Akhu tribe whose women are known for smoking long bamboo pipes.

Throughout our stay in Kyaing Tong, Johm, our local guide, kept repeating his mantra: “Don’t buy anything when we first enter the village! Just smile and refuse politely”.

Well, he knew what he was talking about. Every time we got close to a village, we were engulfed by a swarm of local women and children that kept shoving their hand-made artefacts in our faces and didn’t take no for an answer.

We resisted their persistent efforts until one of the women invited us to her home. In the privacy of her home, we were able to have a more intimate chat and take pictures in better lighting.

Johm would translate our questions to them and many times they would ask us about our lives back home.

Usually, at the end of the visit, we bought some artefacts from a few women and gave the children the gifts we’d brought with us (stickers, crayons, hair accessories and toys).

One of the best things was to see their faces light up by the sight of these simple gifts. Of course, at this particular village, the big hit was the blow-ball pipe.

The women laughed when they first saw the plastic pipe but after we’d shown the children how they could lift the ball by blowing air into the pipe the women wanted to try these funny little blow-ball pipes themselves, a change from their long traditional bamboo pipes.

Myanmar is a great destination for culture lovers and photographers but this area, in particular, is a must for anyone who wants to escape the tourist crowds and find some off the beaten path experiences.

Akhu Tribe is commonly knows as the bamboo pipe people, they live on the hills around the city of Keng Tung in the Shan State of Myanmar.

The Shan State is in eastern Myanmar bordered by China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south. It is an area that is familiar with the production of opium and civil war.

Akhu evolved in small communities in an isolated valley for generations and they have developed a language that is mutually unintelligible with those of other minorities, and traditional dress and costumes that set them apart from other tribes.

The people are Baptist, with missionary proselytising clearly influencing their culture. Houses remain very traditional same as clothing. Women wear cotton jackets died black using indigo and lacking any frills, while head-gear consists of black turban-style scarves. What their dress lacks in colour their jewellery makes up for.

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Pin Akhu Tribe Woman, Kengtung, Myanmar

4 thoughts on “Friday Lens Affair 231

  1. Warren Chong

    Stunning photos.
    Love this area.
    But I think this ethnic group is more commonly called Akha and they also live in northern Laos and Thailand.
    I hope to revisit soon.

  2. George

    This is an outstanding portrait and a wonderful story. I’ve never been to Myanmar and I regret not visiting the country two years ago when I had the chance. Thanks for sharing :)

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