(Cover illustration: A Phunoi woman with her hair braided and fixed with beads. Click image to enlarge.)
When I picked it up from my friend's place, I was surprised by how small the book is. But don't let its minor dimensions fool you. What it lacks in bulk is more than compensated for with the wealth of fascinating information contained between its covers. I am really going to enjoy reading it.
The back of the book provides an overview about what lies within its pages. It states (and I quote):
The highly distinctive cultures and ethnic diversity of the Lao hill tribes, and the fact that so little has been written on them, make these groups and their fragile micro-cultures some of the most fascinating minorities left in the world, and the habitats of tribes living in the remoter regions of Laos, some of the least explored.
Because of decades of war and unfavourable political circumstances, Lao hill tribes have been relatively sheltered from foreign encroachments. However, as Laos begins to open up, visitors are increasingly given the opportunity to observe even the least publicized of these groups. Thus, though the semi-nomadic patterns of existence and the interminable wanderings of many hill tribes continue today, at no time in their history have they been so threatened, their way of life so vulnerable to extinction.