Oudomxay's Ethnic Diversity
The Akha are a sizeable ethnic group in Oudomxay, having migrated from the Tibetan Plateau several hundred years ago. Akha villages are situated in remote mountainous areas. Akha women are easily recognizable by their traditional hat, covered with coins representing the wealth of the household.
Oudomxay’s Hmong, the province’s second largest ethnicity, are locally referred to as ''Lao Soung'' (mountain people). They arrived about 350 years ago, having migrated from their ancestral lands in southern China. The province’s Hmong mostly live by dry-rice cultivation and slash-and-burn techniques. Their traditional beliefs are strongly related to animism and shamanism. Hmong New Year occurs in December/January.
The Khmu form the largest ethnic group in Oudomxay, and are considered as the "guardians of the land", having settled much of northern Laos. They reside in the mountains and live by dry-rice cultivation. The main Khmu festival, known as "Teck Neum", celebrates the rice harvest season and offers thanks to the land spirits. Locals ask for a better life and good yield for the next harvest season.
Lao Loum, or "lowland Lao", inhabit Oudomxay’s river valleys. Traditionally their income has been generated by wet-rice cultivation. Lao Loum villages are characterized by houses on wooden posts to protect them from the annual floods and to cool houses. The space under the house is also used to keep livestock.
The Tai Lue began migrating to Oudomxay from southern China in the 15th century. They are known for their stilt houses with long sloping roofs, and producing strong lao khao liquor and intricate silk and cotton textiles. 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.