Luang Prabang's Ethnic Diversity

Take time to meet some of Luang Prabang’s 12 ethnic groups. You can easily visit villages with Khmu, Hmong, Tai Dam, Tai Lue, Phou Noi, and Yao.


The Khmu came to Laos thousands of years ago, with many settling in Luang Prabang. They rely on the forest for growing rice, hunting and gathering, and producing woven rattan and bamboo basketry, tools, and net-bags, as well as lao hai (jar alcohol). They practice animism and worship spirits.

The Hmong migrated from China to Luang Prabang in the 19th century, establishing hilltop villages with thatch-roofed houses throughout the province. They are skilled at hunting, mixing herbal medicines, and raising animals. Intricate embroidery and heavy silver jewellery adorn women’s clothes. Some villages create batik designs using beeswax and indigo dyes. The Hmong New Year in December/January features top-spinning competitions and couples in love tossing mak kone (small fabric balls).

Ancestors of Luang Prabang’s Tai Dam migrated to the old capital’s valley from north-western Vietnam in the late 19th century. Unlike Buddhist Tai groups, the Tai Dam worship phi (spirits) and their ancestors. Women wear colourful head-scarves and tight-fitting shirts with silver buttons. They make potent lao khao rice alcohol, and produce fine silk and cotton textiles.

The Yao, also known as the Mien, are highland people, who migrated from China in the 19th century. Their houses are made of durable hardwood, and known to be large and sturdy. They grow rice and corn, and gather forest products such as resin and honey. Young men study the Chinese alphabet to express Yao concepts. Yao women embroider garments with detailed natural motifs. The men wear earrings and embroidered tunics, while women dress in elaborate costumes with bright red collars. The Yao worship their ancestors, and hold animistic and Tao beliefs.

The Tai Daeng migrated from China and mostly settled along river banks, living in houses on stilts. Women specialise in silk weaving, and visitors can see the entire process from boiling cocoons to working a vertical loom. Aside from weaving, the labour division tends to be equal between men and women, with both engaged in ploughing, rice farming, fishing, cooking, caring for babies, and cleaning. Many Tai Daeng combine animism with Buddhism, and villages usually have a temple.

The Tai Lue began migrating to Luang Prabang from southern China in the 15th century. They live in stilt houses with long sloping roofs, distil strong lao khao liquor, and weave intricate silk and cotton textiles with looms under homes. Tai Lue practice a mix of animism and Buddhism, and most villages have a temple and monks, as well as a sacred pillar where they hold rituals for natural spirits.


Luang Prabang…Timeless
Recommended for Luang Prabang
Calao Restaurant
Take a Lao culinary journey on the Mekong River banks, and enjoy a fine dining experience in a World Heritage Site-listed building that dates to 1904. Born in 2017 from the wish to keep track of authentic recipes, Calao Restaurant features a large selection of dishes from the former royal table and ethnic groups with multiple indoor and outdoor dining options including private saloons. The restaurant presents a la carte and degustation menus as well as personalized offerings and a selection of quality imported products. Calao is open daily for lunch and dinner, and offers Wi-Fi and air-conditioning.
Calao Restaurant + 856 (0) 71 212 100
L'Eléphant Restaurant
Enjoy gourmet dining at l’Elephant, Luang Prabang’s first restaurant, opening its doors in 2000. Located in a 1960s-era building near the Mekong, L’Elephant presents an old fashion French restaurant offering traditional “falang” (French) dishes along with a Lao menu. You’ll find a wine list that matches menu items, along with homemade bread, pastries, and artisanal ice-creams. L'Eléphant is open daily for lunch and dinner, and offers a boutique, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning.
L'Eléphant Restaurant + 856 (0) 71 252 482
L’Elephant Vert
Try a different dining experience in Luang Prabang at L’Elephant Vert adjacent to its sister establishment, L’Elephant Restaurant Français. The restaurant offers a 100% Vegetarian Menu with Began and Vegan options. L’Elephant Vert also serves “Rawfully good” food, an ethno-botanical cuisine focusing on the Lao botanic aspect and using raw vegetables, leaves and herbs. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, and features a natural products boutique along with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi.
L’Elephant Vert + 856 (0) 71 252 482
Luang Prabang Deaf & Mute Community Handicraft Shop
Visit the Luang Prabang Deaf & Mute Community Handicraft Shop, located near the bowling alley on the road from the stadium, watch the residents weave and farm, and purchase their products. The Sisters of Charity opened the school to teach professional skills, such as traditional Lao weaving and sewing, to the deaf and mutes so they can become autonomous. Stop by in the afternoon when they are producing bags, shirts, scarfs, carpets and other fabrics you can buy in their shop, which helps support the school. While there, inspect their garden sprouting organic vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms, and see their pigs, poultry, and fish pond.
Luang Prabang Deaf & Mute Community Handicraft Shop 20 9513 4648
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