In the highlands of northern Vietnam, a Black Tai woman in traditional dress and hairstyle walks quickly towards a photographer.
Black Tai language, literature and culture are the focus of a website at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in the US (See site).
Read an academic paper on a Black Thai historical chronicle (PDF).
Read previous articles on photos of hilltribes in Thailand (Read #1, #2, #3).
Click button to listen to Black Tai and rightclick to download
FACES & PLACES: Black tai occasion by Peerawat Jariyasombat
When my colleague and I were taking pictures in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, we were glad to get a special photo opportunity when a number of Black Tai or Tai Dam ladies in their traditional attire and hairstyles walked towards us.
For centuries, Dien Bien Phu has been the home of the Black Tai, the ethnic Tai group found living in large numbers between the Black River and the Red River in Northern Vietnam. The Black Tai are named for the colour of their women's clothing.
They were friendly, polite, sympathetic and full of humour. Although we could not understand their language, we found them friendly like Thai people.
But this time these ladies were unusually affable and polite because they saw us as their customers. They tried to reach us as fast as possible to offer us handicrafts, like hand-woven hair covers and other souvenirs.
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(Source: Bangkok Post, Life section, FACES & PLACES, Black tai occasion, 24/01/2011, Peerawat Jariyasombat, link)
Black Tai - (or "Tai Dam") an ethnic group in the mountainous northern areas of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand bordering on China ไทดำ (See Wikipedia)
Black tai occasion - a play on words using the phrase "black tie occasion"
black tie occasion - a dress code for formal evening events such as dinner parties, in which the men wear a tuxedo (See Wikipedia)
dress code - a set of rules about what clothes a person can wear in a certain situation such as work or at a special event such as a party (See Wikipedia)
play on words - changing the words of a text so that there is more than one meaning, for humorous or artistic effect (See Wikipedia)
colleague - someone who works in the same organisation or department as you do เพื่อนร่วมงาน
Dien Bien Phu - city in the far north of Vietnam on its mountainous border with Laos, located in an area with many ethnic groups including Tai and Hmong, in 1954 the Siege of Dien Bien Phu and the French defeat signalled the end of French involvement in Vietnam (See Wikipedia)
border - the line that separates two countries (when you cross the line, you enter another country) เขตแดน
borderlands - the area between two countries or states
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
photo opportunity - (short form: "photo op") an opportunity to take a good photo (interesting subject, good composition, good lighting)
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
attire - clothes
ethnic group - a group of people with the same culture and language, longer: "a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, consisting of a common language, a common culture (often including a shared religion) and a tradition of common ancestry" กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์, กลุ่มชนที่มีเชื้อชาติเดียวกัน, เผ่าพันธุ์ (See Wikipedia)
Tai - a set of different ethnic groups with different languages (related to the Thai of Thailand) that are spread over the northern borderlands between China and Southeast Asia (See Wikipedia and language and literature website and Dr. John Hartmann at NIU)
Red River - a long river that begins in Yunnan, China, flowing through China and then Northern Vietnam where it is of major importance for rice cultivation: "The reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water gives the river its name. The Red River is notorious for its violent floods with its seasonally wide volume fluctuations. The delta is a major agricultural area of Vietnam with vast area devoted to rice. The land is protected by an elaborate network of dykes and levees" (See Wikipedia)
tributary - a smaller river that flows into a larger river แคว, ลำน้ำที่ไหลมาลงลำน้ำอีกสายหนึ่ง
Black River - a tributary of the Red River (See Wikipedia)
sympathetic - showing a natural feeling of kindness and understanding that you have for someone who is experiencing something very unpleasant เห็นอกเห็นใจ
humour - the ability to find things funny, the way in which people see that some things are funny or the quality of being funny ความตลกขบขัน
affable - friendly
handicrafts - a type of work (or traditional "craft") in which things are made by hand or using only simple tools (See Wikipedia)
woven - a cloth made by weaving (See Wikipedia) เสื้อผ้าที่ลวดลายถักทอ
hand-woven - cloth made by weaving using the hands and not a machine
souvenir - an object that reminds you of some place you have been to or travelled to, a memento, a token ของที่ระลึก, สิ่งเตือนใจ
locals - people who live in a particular place ชาวบ้าน
memorable - likely to be remembered or worth remembering ซึ่งมีค่าน่าจดจำ, โดดเด่น
experience - something that happens to you, a situation that you are involved in ประสบการณ์
share - to have or use something at the same time as someone else ใช้ร่วมกัน
document - a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type เอกสาร
reserves - keep something for a particular purpose or time in the future สงวน