Most hilltribe houses are raised on stilts, as in the Lahu village and this Lisu dwelling. An obvious advantage of this method of construction is that it is easy to level the floor of the house even on a steep slope, but another immediately apparent advantage in the rainy season is that it raises the living area above the inevitable mud.
The under floor area becomes a general work space for pounding rice and other activities, and a shelter for domesticated animals.
Kitchen refuse is received with gusto by thefrmily pigs which patrol the ground for anything dropped through the split-bamboo floor. The Hmong, Mien and some Lisu, however, build directly on the ground.
A packed earth floor like that in the Hmong household is typical of that kind of house, and tends to be warmer at higher, cooler altitudes. Verandas, play an important role in daily life; as in this Akha house. The veranda becomes a focus for all kinds of activities, and a place to dry both food and washed clothing.
The materials used in budding a hilltribe village are garnered from the surrounding forests: bamboo, wood, and grasses. These, and the exposed earth create the typically warm, brown earth tones of hill settlements.
In the dark interiors of the houses, more forest products hang from walls and rafters; gourds, brooms, wicker baskets, and more. A good deal of village life is conducted in the open; while most people spend the days in the fields, some women prepare roofing materials.