Originating in Myanmar, specifically in Shan State, Kayin State, and Kayah State, the Pa-O Tribe constitutes the second largest ethnic group within the country, second only to the Shan people. Settling in Mae Hong Son province over an extended period, the Pa-O people primarily construct bamboo or raised-board homes amidst remote forested mountains. Their livelihood centers around agricultural pursuits akin to other ethnic communities, encompassing rice, corn, bean, and sesame cultivation, as well as animal husbandry. Deeply rooted in Buddhism and associated ghost rituals, the Pa-O people share cultural ties with the Shan people due to their prolonged coexistence and close relationship in Shan State, Myanmar. While cultural similarities abound, the Pa-O tribe retains its unique linguistic accents and distinct dress code.
Traditional Pa-O attire involves handmade cotton fabric garments, predominantly dyed black using Diospyros mollis Griff. Weaving techniques mirror those of the Karen tribe, employing a back strap loom instead of a conventional loom. Men’s clothing echoes that of the Shan people, characterized by jogger-style pants and ringer T-shirts featuring tube-shaped sleeves, open chests, and Chinese knot buttons. Women opt for black long sarongs paired with short-sleeve V-neck T-shirts, akin to Karen attire. Overgarments comprise long-sleeved cropped tank tops with an open chest and mandarin collar, adorned with red stripes along the legs bound at the shins, reminiscent of Lahu women’s attire. Pa-O accessories encompass silver bracelets, necklaces, and vibrant fabric turbans. During rituals, traditions, or festivals, every Pa-O individual adheres to their distinctive ethnic dress code, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. The Pa-O community’s allure to tourists emanates from its unchanging, authentic way of life, renowned hospitality, and captivating rituals and traditions, creating a compelling draw for visitors to explore and experience the Pa-O village firsthand.