Phu La ethnic


A Phu La village is usually made up of around 10 to 15 households who all live together as a community. The chief and the village elders play a very significant role in managing the affairs of the tribe. In 2015, when I visited this group in a northern village near Bac Ha, I found it to be a challenging undertaking in more ways than one. The road there was treacherous and at times quite daunting. Also, Phu La people appeared to be a bit distant in their demeanour so it was hard to make a connection.
I tried to find out more about their traditional costumes but soon discovered that sadly, they’re no longer made there. While meandering around the village I encountered a curious and friendly mother and daughter who were happy to pose for me. This little girl’s smile is so cheeky and yet so wise. I love the intense blue color of the intricately embroidered hat, which can be seen in the glass cabinet of artifacts in the museum. Since this first visit, I met a subgroup of the Phu La in the region of Sa Pa. The group is called the Xa Pho and their costume is completely different.


5,535 (Census 2009)


Lao Cai, Lai Chau, Son La, Ha Giang, northern region


Immigrated from China in two waves in the 15th and the 18th century