The Hill Tribe Village Children of Northern Laos

Hill Tribe KidsDespite being neighbors with Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos remains refreshingly different from the regular Asian travel circuit. Northern Laos remains somewhat isolated from foreign influences, especially the hill tribe mountain villages.

To date, Laos remains at the top of my list for backpacking Southeast Asia. The people are friendly, the food is great, the weather was perfect, and the scenery was breathtaking. No tourist traps. No commercialism. No scams or shady dealers.  We were able to enjoy our time in Laos because of the people we met and the moments we shared.

Just a few short hours from Laos’ ancient capital city of Luang Prabang, travelers can enjoy traditional Southeast Asian culture.  Some of the mountain villages we passed through were places out of time. We were surprised to meet these kind, hospitable people who were open, honest and completely candid in their dealings with us.

Our three day trek with an experienced guide took us through the high mountains of Northern Laos from Luang Prabang to Xieng Khoang province. The journey took us up and around some of the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen.

Lush rolling green mountains, rustic hill tribe villages and crop fields dotted the mountain sides.  We stopped at several hill tribe villages along the way to take in the scenery and meet some of the beautiful, colorful people that inhabit the area.

These hill tribes encompass the various tribal groups that immigrated from China and Tibet over the past centuries, and who now inhabit the remote border areas between Northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

These people are farmers who still use ancient slash and burn agricultural techniques to farm the heavily forested land.  (Wikipedia)  We saw evidence of this everywhere we went, passing by large burnt patches of land and freshly cultivated plots of land.

The lifestyles of these ethnic groups varied as we traveled.  None of the villages had electricity.  Their lives revolve around the sun. Work starts when the sun comes up and bedtime comes when the sun goes down. There was one water pump for each village.

Animals had free reign with pigs, chickens, roosters goats and dogs inhabiting the same living space as everyone else.  The young girls of each tribe had their own responsibilities.  Most seemed to be caring for the babies and younger children.  Their eyes are already old and wise beyond their years. They’ve already seen so much in their short lives.

We came upon this village on our second day on the road. Our stop was completely unplanned.  We were having problems with the engine and needed to buy some water.  When we arrived, no one was in sight, but as we made our way down to a nearby river, we noticed small faces creeping out from behind closed doors.

A young girl in traditional clothing with a baby strapped on her back kept pace with us as we wandered along. Soon enough, we were joined by her shy, young friends, who all solemnly stood back and watched us closely.

Here are a few of the young faces we saw in this village:

Lao Mountain Village Kids

Children hanging around on a mountain path above us.  They weren’t sure what to do when we arrived, but their curiousity got the better of them when they realized we meant no harm.

Village Kids in Northern Laos

A young girl with her siblings.

A Lao Mountain Family

Portrait of a traditional Lao family.

Lao Girl with Toddler

A young girl in traditional dress with a toddler strapped to her back.

Mountain Hill Tribe of Northern Laos

Family portrait.

The following photos were taken from a village just outside of Luang Prabang:

Village Boy

Tire Boys in Northern Laos



From a village we visited late on our first day of travel.

Lao Village Kids


These faces will stay in my heart and mind forever. Laos is an incredible journey.

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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

26 thoughts on “The Hill Tribe Village Children of Northern Laos


    (October 12, 2008 - 8:12 pm)

    Laos is one of my favorite places. When I arrived from Thailand in Luang Prabang, coming down the Mekong back in 1998, I was immediately taken by their cheerful happiness that infected us travelers instantly and even we yelled at each other “Sabaidi” across the streets. Thanks for that wonderul article. I WANT TO GO BACK, PLEASE!


    (October 13, 2008 - 2:49 am)

    Hi Fida,
    Thanks for stopping by! I bet Laos has still seen some big chances since you were last there, even though to my eye, it looks untouched. I want to go back, too. Every time I look at my photos and go through my travel journals, my heart aches a little from wanting to return to that special place and time.


    (October 15, 2008 - 7:37 am)

    I like the treatment you’ve given these photos – it’s a nice soft look.


    (October 15, 2008 - 12:17 pm)

    Long time ago when I was in moutains I saw a place which was untouched human’s hand. There is less and less such places in my country. It’s a pitty because a lot of my friends very often would like to escape from crowded places, noise, pollution… Civilization is tiresome.
    I like travelling to isolated spaces because my energy level grows up there.
    Laos must be beautiful.
    Your photos are great. I like third photo from the end. I like this effect – black and white photo with coloured elements. Do you still work with PhotoShop?


    (October 16, 2008 - 4:55 am)

    Thanks Craig. I’m learning every day, but I wish I could take a few months off to travel again!


    (October 16, 2008 - 4:59 am)

    Hi K,

    It is sad to see that places like these are growing fewer and farther between. You’re right. Civilization is tiring. I was dreaming about my cottage and thinking how nice it would be to get away from the city just last night. I’m fed up with everything at the moment and really need some peace and quiet.

    Some of these photos were treated with the software I have at home. The photo you’re talking about was done on Picnik, which is affiliated with Flickr. Cameras also have this option of filtering out colors.

    Asian Traveler

    (October 18, 2008 - 5:06 am)

    Great images and I love the innocent expressions on the faces of these children. I am delighted you managed to visit Northern Laos. 🙂


    (October 18, 2008 - 10:57 am)

    Hi June,
    Thanks! Actually, these are photos from our trip through South East Asia last year. We spent six weeks traveling through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I’m just getting around to processing my photos now. I wish we had had more time to explore in Laos. We only had a few short weeks. However, that means we get to go back. I’m quite excited for Southern Laos.

    October Highlights in the Blogging World | Travel Blissful

    (November 2, 2008 - 5:29 pm)

    […] Carrie at My Several Worlds shared the engaging Photo Essay: The Hill Tribe Village Children of Northern Laos. […]


    (November 4, 2008 - 12:36 am)

    Great images, Carrie. Like Craig, I like the softness. Laos sounds great, much better than Thailand or the alternatives.


    (November 5, 2008 - 1:06 am)

    Hi Erica,

    Thanks very much for including me on What an honor!


    (November 5, 2008 - 1:08 am)


    To date, Laos remains one of the most intriguing countries I’ve been to. John and I are waiting for an opportunity to go back as we only had time to explore northern Laos. It’s incredible.

    Mark H

    (November 21, 2008 - 2:36 am)

    Superb photo essay on Laos. What a magic place it appears to be.

    Danny Pata

    (February 25, 2009 - 2:14 pm)

    Hello Carri, Congrats this photo essay is great i love the way angle your camera it reveals the real spirit and emotions in the photos but i have a strong that like me many readers of this site are annoyed in seeing good picture with text on it. It distract the power of the image and its message. Anyway Im from Philippines. Thanx.


      (March 2, 2009 - 4:16 am)

      Hi Danny,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your concern. However, the watermarks on these images prevent copyright theft. That means anyone who saves my photos is stuck with a watermark across the image. Many photographers do this to prevent their work from being stolen. Generally, if you are interested in a photograph, you can contact the photographer and ask if the images they have posted on their site can be purchased without the watermark. In this case, you can purchase any of the images you see here without the ‘annoying’ words you see written across them.


    (February 26, 2009 - 9:54 am)

    Fabulous images! Keep it comin’…I’ve just recently moved to Phnom Penh and I find the place fascinating..

    Will swing by again.. I hope you can hop along my blog site – where I write down my thoughts on living and experiencing Cambodia culture


    (April 5, 2009 - 4:50 pm)

    Carrie, the photos you’ve captured is truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I am a Lao American. I was born & raised in the US and I take so much pride in saying I am a Lao American. I visited Laos for the first time in 2005. I traveled through Vientiane, Savanakhet & Luang Prabang. I stayed in Phone Keo a small village my father was raised in. There wasn’t running water, a shower or even a toilet. The simple leisures that I was so accustomed too were not there. Which made me appreciate where I was and where my father came from and where I am today. Because of my visit I am prouder than ever to be who I am and to know where I came from. Thank you so much for sharing this article. I brought back memories of my trip.


    (April 6, 2009 - 10:07 am)

    I\\'m so happy you enjoyed my post. You\\'ve probably already read this in one of my comments before, but Laos is still one of my favorite places in the world. I have very fond memories of my time there. I\\'m not surprised that you have such pride in being Lao American!


    (April 1, 2010 - 2:10 am)

    Laos is one of the many countries I wish I had time to visit while I lived in Asia. Guess I’ll have to save my money now for some vacations…or maybe I’ll move back to Asia now that I’m bored with living in the US again.
    .-= Chinamatt´s last blog ..Going Green =-.


      (April 7, 2010 - 7:16 am)

      Oh, that’s too bad! Still, you’ve got the right attitude. Loas is not to be missed.

    Aaron | HappytimeBlog

    (April 8, 2010 - 3:17 pm)

    Wow Carrie… Just WOW. If I could forget it all and go live somewhere tomorrow it would be northern Loas, your pictures as usual are incredible and you took me right back there…
    .-= Aaron | HappytimeBlog´s last blog ..More: How to get “Off the Beaten Track” =-.


      (April 13, 2010 - 1:11 pm)

      Hi Aaron,

      Thank you! I’m really glad you like them. Laos is one of my favorite places too. We were traveling through northern Laos for about three weeks, but it wasn’t nearly enough time.


    (April 8, 2010 - 6:24 pm)

    Beautiful post – it actually reminded me of how I felt on my first trip to Thailand & Cambodia, now more than a decade ago. The people I met in the villages were candid, friendly and didn’t hassle me for money (a different story in the cities, admittedly.) It’s sad to hear that things have changed…
    .-= Abi´s last blog ..A New Love Tradition in the City of Romance =-.


      (April 13, 2010 - 1:12 pm)

      Hi Abi,

      Yes, I agree. Ten years ago, Thailand and Cambodia were much like Laos is now. I don’t see it staying that way for much longer though.

    Jack Norell

    (April 10, 2010 - 11:36 am)

    Wonderful photos and love the feeling you’re showing through the text too. I’m always inspired when someone can take great portraits while traveling, I find it challenging. Best child shot I got is of this girl in a Rio favela daycare.

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to more.
    .-= Jack Norell´s last blog ..Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow =-.


      (April 13, 2010 - 1:14 pm)

      Hi Jack,

      Thank you. I’ve never been very good at taking portraits on the road, but these kids allowed their curiosity to overcome their shyness. It’s much harder when you go to other places in Asia where folks are used to being photographed on a regular basis. Great photo by the way!

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