Thai, 74, Si La Ethnic Group, Vietnam

Si La Ethnic Group Vietnam

Since I was a kid, I have nev­er cut my hair. I just let it grow until it falls out. This bunch of hair is from my moth­er in law”  Thai says point­ing to the bunch of hair she is wrap­ping on her head in a black cloth. 

It’s real hair! When I got mar­ried, my moth­er-in-law gave it to me” she exclaims. In Sila cul­ture, there is a tra­di­tion for women to col­lect their hair as it falls out and gift it to their daugh­ter in law when their son gets married.

In the past, cou­ples had to smoke togeth­er. There is a his­to­ry of that. Now I am old. I for­get it. If you love each oth­er, you smoke togeth­er until one of you gets high. It is said the smoke flies to the sky. Cou­ples smoke togeth­er and it is good that the smoke flies to the sky. If you real­ly love each oth­er, I smoke and you smoke… At that time, my hus­band got high first.”

He played his musi­cal instru­ment and sang in front of my house to call me. Nor­mal­ly, boys would go to a girls’ house. That’s how love was. Lat­er on, we loved each oth­er more and decid­ed to get married.”

Thai, 74 years old
Si La Eth­nic Group
Lai Chau, Vietnam

Some­times when explor­ing the eth­nic vil­lages in Viet­nam on the sur­face it might not seem like they have a strong cul­ture or own tra­di­tion­al clothes, but we’ve learned that if you get to know them a bit bet­ter it can be a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent story!

The Si La are one of the 6 Tibeto-Bur­man Eth­nic Groups liv­ing in the remote moun­tain­ous regions of North­ern Viet­nam, con­nect­ed through a shared ances­try, lan­guage, and cul­ture. Their ancient nomadic lifestyle is reflect­ed in the var­i­ous pieces of dif­fer­ent col­ored cloth and adorn­ments of nuts, shells, and sil­ver coins on the front of their tra­di­tion­al clothes.

Si La Ethnic Group — Summary

Official Name

Si La

Population (Vietnam)



Lai Chau

Dien Bien

(North­ern Vietnam)

Language Group


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