These lovely Lahu ladies flagged us down en route to Mae Hong Son, Thailand. We were about halfway between Pai and Mae Hong Son after renting scooters for the day.
The Lahu originated in China and Tibet, but many moved outward over the years to Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and Thailand. There are estimated to be about 100,000 in Thailand today.
After a little flute show, these ladies flashed us their pearly whites. Well, at least one of them did. The elder Lahu’s teeth are stained from chewing betel. Betel “quid” is a mixture of the betel leaf, areca nut, and sometimes tobacco. The effect is apparently the kick of a coffee, with the satisfaction of a cigarette — without the second-hand smoke. Younger chewers will have their lips and teeth stained red, while lifers like Mama Lahu here (that’s what she called herself) can expect the blackest of black — a look that the Lahu consider sexy.
Sexy? I’m not sure. Funny? Most certainly. When she asked if I was single and I said yes, she pointed at her friend, winked, and said, “So’s this one.”