On our recent trip to the Akha hill tribe village in Chiang Rai we had the opportunity to head out for the morning with the guesthouse owner’s wife, Praeo and her mother. Having lived their whole lives in the village they took us down to the river to show us the traditional style of Akha fishing.
With not a rod or box of bait in sight, we set about catching some fish, hill tribe style.
With a language barrier between us, we shadowed the actions of Praeo’s mum, communication coming in the form of body language rather than the spoken word. We watched in fascination as mother and daughter worked together to start building a mini dam in the river, gathering rocks and making a wall using the sand from the river bed to stop the water flow, creating a still reservoir.
Once that was built, the pool of water was then drained using bowls and the trapped fish could then be picked up from the dry rocky floor of the once fast flowing river.
After an hour and a half of toiling, knee deep in the river, our collection of fish wasn’t exactly bountiful, apparently due to the lack of recent rain. There were plenty of black Akha crabs in our catch which Praeo’s mum seemed very happy with, plus a few small fish and a tiny snake that Praeo caught with her hands.
As we got ready to leave we took apart our carefully made dams and returned the river back to its natural state.
Praeo and her mum laughed loudly, enjoying each other’s company, pleased with the mornings fishing. It seemed a lot of work for not much reward, yet it was charming to see an insight into the local life.
Even though myself and Jmayel didn’t catch any fish ourselves, we certainly enjoyed our morning down at the river, learning to fish the local Akha way.
Akha People: with an estimated population of 500,000 they are one of the largest hill tribes, originating from China they have since filtrated into Burma, Laos and Thailand with around 80,000 living in North Thailand. Notably Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces.
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