THE KHO MU
I came across the Kho Mu several times, by chance, while I was searching for other ethnic groups, like in 2014 while I was roaming through the valleys of Dien Bien Phu province in search of the Black Thai, and again in the Nghe An area while I was trying to find the O’Du, Vietnam’s smallest ethnic group. But at the time, I had only found Kho Mu villages surrounded by Thai villages, whose culture strongly influenced Kho Mu traditions. But during a new expedition in 2017, I discovered a more isolated village whose remoteness helped preserve the Kho Mu culture. And although there were resemblances with the Thai architecture, the village seemed to be as it would have originally appeared. As for the costume, the skirt borrows its fashion from their neighbours, but the jacket that accompanies it is very unique to the Kho Mu. On the front, the piece is assorted with silver coins, like armour it is used to serve as protection, and is considered a lucky charm. I remember the villagers’ warm welcome and the surprise of witnessing women smoking small wooden pipes, typical of the central area.