Because hilltribe houses are all constructed of locally
available building materials - bamboo, timber, and thatch roofing - the
traditional styles that have evolved for each tribe provide an
interesting contrast. The differing house styles reflect wisdom and
cultural preferences accumulated over generations. After all, while all
of the tribes have lived in the mountains of Southeast Asia for
hundreds of years, the locations and altitudes at which they have lived
and the other ethnic groups who have influenced them vary considerably.
For instance, Mien, Hmong and Lisu houses, which are constructed around
a hard-packed dirt floor, show a Chinese influence, while Akha, Karen
and Lahu houses are similar to the stilted houses of Tai-speaking
peoples. Below is a description of each house style.
Click on the picture for a 360-degree
panorama tour inside each house.
Lahu houses are built on
stilts with a notched log serving as steps up to the front porch. Lahu
houses have only one door, that which opens on to the porch from the
main room. Lahus have separate bedrooms at the back of the house. Some
Lahu Na (Black Lahu) build their houses in the Chinese style, similar
to Lisu houses.
an entire extended family may live under one roof, Hmong houses can be
very large. Hmong houses are built directly on the ground in the
Chinese style, which helps keep the house warmer at the high altitudes
which Hmongs prefer.
and Tibeto-Burman cultures converge in the Lisu people, thus it is not
surprising that Lisus houses come in more than one variety. Pictured
here is the Chinese style of house, similar to that of the Mien and
Hmong. Some Lisus also live in houses raised on stilts or Chinese-style
houses built from a mixture of mud and water buffalo dung.
similar to those of the Hmong, Mien houses bespeak the Chinese
influence that is so strong in Mien culture. A Mien house with many
daughters can become crowded, because at puberty each daughter is given
her own sleeping chamber.
an oversized fedora, the roof of an Akha house hangs low on all sides
to keep out the wind and the rain. Akha houses are built on stilts,
often with one side resting on the slope of the hill. All Akha houses
have both a covered and uncovered porch.
Now that hilltribe villages in Thailand are no longer
allowed to move at will and access to modern materials has increased,
it is becoming quite difficult to find a purely traditional hilltribe
house. Most villagers live in a variation on their traditional style of
house with more expensive and long-lasting materials like concrete and
roofing tile becoming the norm.