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.