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Our Akha Friend

By AlanBW
This extraordinary character is a member of the Akha hill tribe, one of six hill tribes that have settled around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. She is a street vendor in Bangkok and we have known her for several years. The nearest transliteration of her name is ‘Apraeuw’, although some of our Thai friends affectionately call her ‘Oi’. The image above was captured in our favourite little open-air bar near our hotel, which is on Apraeuw's patch for selling her handicrafts and it is here that we usually see her. On this occasion, she was sharing a joke and a smile with Tricia and I caught her completely unawares. Whenever we appear Apraeuw greets us both with a hug and a kiss, to the incredulity of passers-by and the people eating and drinking in the bar! We regard her as a friend and are very proud to do so.

Aprauew is a diminutive lady, standing around 4 feet three inches in height, yet she connects with people of all nationalities through her charm, that amazing smile and her vibrant personality. Along with many of her tribal colleagues, Apraeuw sells Akha handicrafts in an area of the city popular with tourists. The Akha have their own language and we know that Apraeuw speaks very little Thai or English, yet through a combination of smiling, pidgin and pointing, she barters with visitors to sell her wares. It would be wonderful to converse with her - she would have some amazing tales to tell.

The Akha are believed to have originated in south West China and Tibet. Over centuries the Akha migrated to Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and northern Thailand. Each Akha village is characterised by carved wooden gates, which they believe are presided over by their guardian spirits. They live in bamboo houses built on low stilts with steeply pitched roofs, with a large entrance opening on to a square living area with a stove at the back.

Akha men make crossbows, musical instruments, baskets and other items of wood, bamboo and rattan. The women spin home-grown cotton into thread with a hand spindle and then weave it on a foot-treadle loom. The cloth is dyed, usually with indigo, and sewn into clothing for the family. As it is difficult to eke out a living from agriculture alone, many Akha make and sell handicrafts to boost their income. They sell hats, bags, belts, silver necklaces and bracelets, carved wooden objects, etc., in ‘tourist’ areas of Thailand, including Bangkok and some coastal resorts.

Traditionally the women wear wide leggings, a short black skirt with a white beaded bag similar to a sporran and a loose fitting black jacket with heavily embroidered cuffs and lapels. The ornate black caps such as Aprauew is wearing, are decorated with items such as beads, shells and silver coins.

My sincere thanks to all of you who passed on messages re Tricia’s mum; these were very much appreciated. The good news is that she will be leaving hospital tomorrow and going home. We have a home care package in place for her and now we begin the task of ensuring that, despite the onset of Alzheimer’s, she will be able to lead an independent life for as long as possible. We spent most of the Easter period in Taunton so that we could visit her regularly and also to prepare for her homecoming by cleaning her flat, buying in essentials and so on. There’s a lot of paperwork to deal with on her behalf, so that will keep us occupied for a while.

Tags: Woman Travel General Bangkok Candid Thailand Portraits and people Hilltribe Ahka

Voters: Nettles, Badgerfred, Richsr and 140 more

Readers' Choice Awards are given to photos that get over 30 votes

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Nettles 14 England
25 Mar 2008 8:31AM
Wow, I get to first for once.
What a wonderfully happy character she is, we could all possibly learn from her.
A superb shot as always.
Good news with Tricias mum, you'll need a rest after all this.
25 Mar 2008 8:38AM
Colourful character Alan, well captured,
nice write up,
Richsr 14 91 223 England
25 Mar 2008 8:46AM
Nice portrait - like the details and colours in tis Alan. Well captured.
Regards Richard.
AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 9:07AM
Many thanks Annette, Fred and Richard - Alan
jaktis Plus
17 84 Sweden
25 Mar 2008 9:30AM
A lovely warm portrait

mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2408 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 9:32AM
There's so much gentleness, warmth and contentment in this, love it.
Artois 15 405 1 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 9:35AM
Great capture of character and warmth. Good colours too a good cultural shot.
AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 9:55AM
Many thanks Peter, Moira and Stella - Alan
glyndwr 14 97 10 Wales
25 Mar 2008 10:27AM
A charming smile very well captured.
I love the story Alan.

Good luck.

bricurtis Plus
15 2.4k 51 England
25 Mar 2008 10:46AM
A face full of joy Alan despite an obvious difficult cultural life style. Very colourful image.
Bodiewil 13 46 Wales
25 Mar 2008 11:17AM
A wonderful portrait work Alan, the Thai smile for everyone who visits their most beautiful country... Roll on summer then we're back there again.

Rock 18 10 2 England
25 Mar 2008 11:18AM
Superb shot !

una 17 10 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 11:38AM
Lovely portrait and great story.
Mavis 19 143 2 England
25 Mar 2008 11:42AM
A colourful character shot . xx
25 Mar 2008 12:20PM
Lovely portrait.
AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 12:23PM
Many thanks Robert, Brian, Dave, Rock, Una, Mavis and Mac - Alan
RockArea 14 18 3 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 12:40PM
An excellent shot matched with a fine background. Reading your wealth of information is always time well spent too.

Best wishes

Libby_M 14 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 12:40PM
great clear sharp detailed shot
i number 2 of mine crap just didnt no what it was never seen one be4
franken Plus
18 5.2k 4 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 1:38PM
Excellent character study and story to go with it Alan.

imagio 14 12 1 England
25 Mar 2008 1:39PM
Great portrait Alan and narrative too.

AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 1:42PM
Many thanks David, Libby, Ken and Bernie - ALan
susanbarton 13 11 1 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 1:50PM
A face full of character, well lit to show off the skin tone well captured

MickyMc 13 8 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 2:13PM
How lovely to have such a friend.
User_Removed 13 78 1 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 2:17PM
excellent work love the tones
Rylands 13 1 2 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 2:28PM
You have an amazing knack of capturing expressions - brilliant pic
25 Mar 2008 2:48PM
love the hat and smile,super photo
dawnmichelle 13 12 United States
25 Mar 2008 2:55PM
First off ..great news about Tricia’s mom!!!!
thanks for the update !!Smile
The image is stunning she looks like a lovely person to be around ..
Cormy 13 3 England
25 Mar 2008 3:17PM
Excellent portrait
AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 3:24PM
Many thanks Susan, Mavis, Dave, Alan, Ray, Peter and Dawn - Alan
Milla 13 7 2 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 3:41PM
Both image and the story are fab! Pleased to be 30!
lostintime Plus
13 13 6 Germany
25 Mar 2008 3:49PM
Wonderful expression, what a superb portrait.
25 Mar 2008 4:04PM
Colourful, gentle looking lady..
AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 4:07PM
Many thanks Milla, Alexandra and Chris - Alan
Glostopcat 15 255 2 England
25 Mar 2008 6:03PM
An excellent portrait of this colourful character, her personality comes across really well in this photograph
FeatherFriend 13 38 217 England
25 Mar 2008 6:15PM
Great reading and a wonderful character shot of your friend.
25 Mar 2008 6:46PM
Great character, and I love that head gear.

John Smile
25 Mar 2008 6:47PM
A charming lady. So much kindness in her eyes and smile. Very nice portrait. JNC
Rende 14 38 4 Netherlands
25 Mar 2008 6:49PM
Beautiful portrait with very sweet expression; lovely lady. Interesting write up too.
nickyv32 Plus
13 135 England
25 Mar 2008 6:52PM
What a lovely lady, wonderful shot.

AlanBW 15 20 England
25 Mar 2008 6:58PM
Many thanks Ed, Geoff, John, Jean Noel, Rende and Nicky, much appreciated - Alan
bunbeam 15 2 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 7:28PM
lovely smiling portrait, love it
AlanC1 14 1 England
25 Mar 2008 7:29PM
Fantastic, as I have said before you have a very unique style
25 Mar 2008 7:32PM
Excellent portrait great shot.
Buffalo_Tom Plus
14 2.3k 16 Wales
25 Mar 2008 7:52PM
Lovely light Alan,terrific portrait of a very happy woman.Great shot.
25 Mar 2008 8:18PM
Gorgeous smile & portrait.
rmr 13 1 Wales
25 Mar 2008 8:20PM
super portrait full of character
well done
GalleryGirl 13 4 2 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 8:21PM
She does look a happy lady. Very well captured.
Marilyn x
pamelajean Plus
15 1.5k 2216 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 8:26PM
This lady has an inner beauty that shines out through your portrait of her. Love the work in that hat, and the appropriate background that you chose. I enjoy reading your narratives. Glad Tricia's mum is going to be ok.
norton 17 2 6 Jersey
25 Mar 2008 9:01PM
Great character image Alan,the details and colours are superb.
Well captured............

phototime 15 8 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2008 9:07PM
A superb portrait Alan,nicely taken.

Hop-A-Long 14 52 1 England
25 Mar 2008 9:58PM
Fabulous image and a very informative narrative.
ChristineL 16 39 United Kingdom
27 Mar 2008 10:37AM
another super and colourful portrait Alan,
AlanBW 15 20 England
27 Mar 2008 10:43AM
Many thanks Bun, Alan, Will, Tom, Mia, Mark, Marilyn, Pamela, Tony, Mo, Andy and Chris - Alan
27 Mar 2008 11:18AM
A beautiful character, well portrayed in the image and the write up.
photophantom 13 108 3 Philippines
27 Mar 2008 11:22AM
Hi Alan,
I like the smile of your model so do the DENTISTSmile
I love it Alan d' Great.
Silverzone 13 2 England
27 Mar 2008 3:49PM
Better late than never (With my vote), lovely characterful face. Sylvia
AlanBW 15 20 England
27 Mar 2008 3:51PM
Many thanks Babs, Dennis and Sylvia - Alan
DP_Imagery 16 24 6 Wales
27 Mar 2008 4:04PM
Superb character shot that really brings a smile. Very interesting write-up too. Glad to hear about Tricia's mum Smile Bruce
ChiliMan 14 135 17 Singapore
27 Mar 2008 4:51PM
Glad she's out of the hospital, Alan Smile

And I see what you mean about this Akha lady - she MUST have really interesting tales!

AlanBW 15 20 England
27 Mar 2008 5:08PM
Many thanks Bruce and Andrew - Alan
VNelson 16 3 United States
27 Mar 2008 5:40PM
What a sincere smile, attractiveness does not depend on age.
piccy 15 8 Wales
27 Mar 2008 5:55PM
Terrific shot.
AlanBW 15 20 England
27 Mar 2008 6:37PM
Many thanks Verne and Freda - Alan
rocky41 16 174 England
27 Mar 2008 6:40PM
great character
GrahamBaines 14 39 United Kingdom
27 Mar 2008 8:20PM
Wonderful portrait Alan, both in photograph and narrative.

AlanBW 15 20 England
27 Mar 2008 8:51PM
Many thanks Rocky and Graham - Alan
brownsilent 14 7 2 United Kingdom
27 Mar 2008 9:28PM
Very good candid, great detail and lovely light.
trissie 14 United Kingdom
27 Mar 2008 10:13PM
A lovely portrait Alan, a great write up and beautiful colours.
Very pleased to hear abour Tricia's Mum.

Trish x
JimV 14 6 3 Canada
27 Mar 2008 11:47PM
Beautiful portrait and write-up (as always) Alan, good to see Tricia's mum getting home but this must be a trying time for all of you.
Rgds., Jim
GlenD 14 United States
28 Mar 2008 4:09AM
Sper shot and story Alan, I bet she could tell you some pretty good stories if you could understand her.
Good to hear Mum is going home, wish her well
AlanBW 15 20 England
28 Mar 2008 7:25AM
Many thanks Johanna, Trish, Jim and Glen - Alan
anpix 13 88 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 7:41AM
Lovely photo
riprap007 16 1.6k 37 England
28 Mar 2008 8:07AM
what an excellent peice of photojournalism; the dissapation of thse tribal people and the consequent errosion of their culture is a really heartbreaking story, great work Alan.
MandsH 14 England
28 Mar 2008 8:29AM
Well captured shot
danbrann 16 640 17
28 Mar 2008 9:40AM
What a lovely warm smile showing the wealth in her teeth. a truly remakable portrair of a remarkable lady.
Portknockie 16 48 Scotland
28 Mar 2008 10:11AM
Hi Alan..that sounds like good news..Hope she is home soon..

The shot is great and I love the beautiful smile and the bright eyes..

AlanBW 15 20 England
28 Mar 2008 11:49AM
Many thanks Andrew, Nicholas, Dan, Mandy and Don - Alan
ginz04 17 281 20 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 12:06PM
hi Alan

what a colourful character - very well captured.


angelamary 15 6 England
28 Mar 2008 12:52PM
A lovely shot... enhanced, as always, by the lovely story to go with it. Well caught!
28 Mar 2008 12:59PM
Great portraiture and informative narrative - Thanks

A Booth 18 11 4 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 2:06PM
superb colour capture - excellent candid portrait.
dianah 14 24.5k 4 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 2:11PM
Brilliant portrait are quite unique in your style and the people you choose. Love this one.
cantona43 15 928 4 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 3:21PM
Alan this is a superb portrait the woman's face is full of happiness
AlanBW 15 20 England
28 Mar 2008 3:45PM
Many thanks Ian, Alan, Angela, Alan, Di and Neil, much appreciated - Alan
KingBee Plus
15 548 2 Scotland
28 Mar 2008 3:49PM
Superb as always - the face tells a story, the story tells a story. All in all - a great story!!

Mikelane 13 1 Wales
28 Mar 2008 3:53PM
Stunning work alan great character and some wonderful detail in the herad dress well captured
AlanBW 15 20 England
28 Mar 2008 4:03PM
Many thanks Bob and Mike - Alan
SandraKay Plus
14 233 4 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2008 5:11PM
Such a fine capture and narrative. So much warmth in her smile... and in the colours.
Hope Trisha's mum get's on ok. We know exactly what you and Trish are going through.
AlanBW 15 20 England
28 Mar 2008 5:17PM
Many thanks Sandra - Alan
wyatturp 15 2 England
28 Mar 2008 7:41PM
I like this a lot well done Alan

Pegon 15 78 1 England
28 Mar 2008 9:28PM
A lovely portrait Alan full of character and colour. It's nice to hear the good news regarding Tricia's Mum, hope all goes well.
Brilane 14 5 12 Wales
29 Mar 2008 1:47AM
A lovely character study, she looks a very happy person.
It's nice to hear that Tricia's mum is at home, it seems that they can help a lot, these days, with this problem.
Jaye 15 3
29 Mar 2008 8:26AM
Recognised her straight away Alan you "captured" her well...Judith
AlanBW 15 20 England
29 Mar 2008 8:59AM
Many thanks Doug, Pete, Brian and Judith - Alan
fentiger 19 920 24 England
29 Mar 2008 9:26AM
Excellent character study Alan.

AlanBW 15 20 England
29 Mar 2008 9:43AM
Cheers Albert, much appreciated - Alan
HUMIE 14 2 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2008 12:15PM
Lovely capture and narrative as always Alan.
Glad to hear your good news of Tricia's Mum.

29 Mar 2008 1:04PM
Beautiful composition.

29 Mar 2008 4:52PM
Hello Alan - Another image, so well displaying the version of human Joy many of us miss. =o) You should write a book and call it "Alan and Tricia's Adventures through joyfulness" . Thank you for sharing!

AlanBW 15 20 England
29 Mar 2008 5:18PM
Many thanks Mike, Christine and Jenn - Alan
29 Mar 2008 5:33PM
What can I say it's great.
myrab 14 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2008 9:39PM
What a wonderful happy lady,
Great image.
thorn 16 124 2 Scotland
29 Mar 2008 10:04PM
Hi Alan,
Your friends portrait is a really good one,excellent detail and i love the beads and colourfulness of it.
Glad your mother in law is coming home and feeling much better.Hope you and Tricia are feeling good too and the weather is not too horrible for you just now.take care,AnnSmile
29 Mar 2008 10:37PM
As usual, first rate and interesting image
Herge88 Plus
14 40 6 England
30 Mar 2008 12:26AM
Wonderful character and a great narrative.

Best Matt
SueTurner 16 81 3 England
30 Mar 2008 12:48AM
ditto to all the above - Sue
AlanBW 15 20 England
30 Mar 2008 8:44AM
Many thanks Harry, Myra, Ann, Graham, Matt and Sue - Alan
daffydill56 17 190 United Kingdom
30 Mar 2008 9:39AM
Such a warm and welcoming smile Alan, a well caight candid.

AlanBW 15 20 England
30 Mar 2008 11:28AM
Cheers Fran, much appreciated - Alan
panda 16 5 1 England
30 Mar 2008 2:08PM
Super candid shot Alan, beautifully captured.

Regards Phil
AlanBW 15 20 England
30 Mar 2008 4:10PM
Cheers Phil, much appreciated - Alan
evelen 16 5 England
30 Mar 2008 5:19PM
wonderful shot.great caracter.
derekv 13 3 England
30 Mar 2008 9:25PM
Fantastic portrait, Alan, superb detail and colouring.
AlanBW 15 20 England
31 Mar 2008 6:32AM
Many thanks Eve and Derek - Alan
Paul_cats 15 61 22 Scotland
31 Mar 2008 7:15AM
Amazing expressive capture. I have a lot of catching up to do also so apologies for the fact that comments are short and sweet.
JudeC 14 6 3 England
31 Mar 2008 7:18AM
Super shot Alan - wish we had chance to get around more when we were in Thailand - it was the rainy season!! - Jude.
Rogerex 14 32 12 Australia
31 Mar 2008 11:41PM
After reading your description of her character, I feel you have managed to portray some of these attributes very well in this image.
AlanBW 15 20 England
1 Apr 2008 6:41AM
Many thanks Paul, Jude and Roger - Alan
gary_d 13 576 13 Wales
1 Apr 2008 1:43PM
Sorry i am so far down the list Alan but with my mother being very ill at the moment i don't get on as much as i would like. the image is fantastic she looks such a lovely lady. - gary
AlanBW 15 20 England
1 Apr 2008 3:32PM
Cheers Gary, much appreciated - Alan
Barbaraj 14 450 England
3 Apr 2008 7:51AM
A wonderful smile. Well captured.
AlanBW 15 20 England
3 Apr 2008 8:28AM
Many thanks Barbara - Alan
GlynnisFrith 14 23 3 United Kingdom
3 Apr 2008 2:51PM
Stunning portrait work again Alan
AlanBW 15 20 England
3 Apr 2008 3:55PM
Many thanks Glynnis, much appreciated - Alan
TonyFrith 14 3 6 United Kingdom
3 Apr 2008 8:48PM
A great happy portrait
itinerario 17 42 Netherlands
3 Apr 2008 10:16PM
Lovely portrait. I have found memories of visiting the Akha myself. They are such intriguing people.
AlanBW 15 20 England
4 Apr 2008 7:40AM
Many thanks Tony and Saskia - Alan
4 Apr 2008 12:35PM
Stunning work Alan. helen x
AlanBW 15 20 England
4 Apr 2008 12:53PM
Many thanks Helen - Alan
4 Apr 2008 9:45PM
so sorry to hear about Tricia's mum.
the image of "Oi" is absolutely amazing. You can see her warmth and charming personalilty just radiating through this image.What a joy to you both to be able to meet people like this through your travels. She definitely looks like a happy soul.Enjoyed the information you shared here as well.
4 Apr 2008 9:59PM
Very nicely done.
AlanBW 15 20 England
5 Apr 2008 9:27AM
Many thanks Tina and Edward - Alan
bliba Plus
15 2 Austria
5 Apr 2008 12:58PM
nice portrait and nice write up
AlanBW 15 20 England
5 Apr 2008 6:06PM
Many thanks Ollie - Alan
CaroleA 15 5 3 England
13 Apr 2008 1:40PM
Well worth every 127 - sorry, 128 - votes (and for all the reasons above)!
helena 17 134 United Kingdom
14 Apr 2008 12:17PM
Lovely image Alan. Thank you for the background, Tara x
AlanBW 15 20 England
15 Apr 2008 9:46AM
Many thanks Carole and Tara - Alan
sandrish 17 36 United Kingdom
20 Apr 2008 8:36AM

Bluke 16 303 1 United Kingdom
20 Apr 2008 9:59AM
Hi Alan.... amazing lady.. smashing write up..
AlanBW 15 20 England
20 Apr 2008 11:07AM
Many thanks Sandra and Barb - Alan
Birte 14
23 Apr 2008 4:00PM
Great portrait from a great place.
AlanBW 15 20 England
23 Apr 2008 4:12PM
Many thanks Birte - Alan
Possum 14 148 England
12 May 2008 4:12PM
This image radiates genuine warmth and joy.
AlanBW 15 20 England
13 May 2008 4:58PM
Many thanks Allie - Alan
jondee 12 United Kingdom
30 Oct 2008 12:38PM
super image.
DebbieBMP 12 33 1 United Kingdom
3 Nov 2008 7:15AM
What a beautiful sensitive shot of an amazing woman - your work is superb I cannot say more than has already been said Wonderful image
RTDS 12 Cyprus
22 Nov 2008 9:40AM
Excellent portrait.Awsome lighting and details.
Great smile and very nice lady.
Thanks for the story.

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