The Karen Long Neck Hilltribe Settlement, Chiang Mai
I came here, wherever it was, as part of a long-necked tribe daytrip I did from Chiang Mai. We arrived after visiting an orchid farm and riding elephant at the Chok Chai Elephant Camp but things just seemed to be very touristy with lots of souvenir stalls selling tribal arts and crafts and jewellery items. The girls here come from several different tribes but the main one is the famous long-necked Karen tribe so we did the obligatory photo opportunities and I bought a hand-made wooden women figure. Behind the stalls are a few wooden/bamboo houses which were being lived in and indeed the girls were busy doing daily jobs whilst being dressed in traditional tribal clothes but it still seemed to me to be a show for tourists.
After our half day activities at the Chiang Dao elephant camp and lunch, we were bought to this Karen Paduang Longneck & Big Ear village which was about 15 min ride further up Chiang Dao elephant camp.
We were told by our tour guide that we were allowed to take as many photos as we like but in return we should respect their culture as they were... Basically i think this village was built by some proprietors and they find some longneck and big ear hilltribe peoples to live in it. Then in return, they are require to sell the merchandise which bring profit to themselves and also the proprietors. Althought the some part of the village looked like a market place selling the merchandises, but i can still see the rest of the village where built for them to live in.
Our tour guide help us to chat with a young longneck girl who was part of the merchandise seller. She said she was bought to this village a few years ago from somewhere else. She claimed she has a few bro & sis and sadly she can't even remember their face, nor her parents anymore. It was quite a sad story to hear. Most of the longneck people are like refugees with no residenship... they might be born in Thailand, but the government doesn't recognise them, and they have nowhere else to go... The only place they can go is within the village set up by the proprietors... without the ID, they might be caught by the authorities and face the risk of being sent back to Myanmar which they don't really belong to...
The trip to the Long-neck village was high point of our trip. It's not for the elderly or handicapped though. It is a very narrow path winding its way into a valley where the long neck people live. Then, there is the even more difficult trek back out of the valley. Definitely a difficult trek for those out of shape. Well worth it if you're up to it. Great photo ops with long neck women and children. Of course, lots of souvenirs to be bought too.
Mae Hong Son, Thailand's northern border city, hiding itself in between the towering mountains with densely forested slopes, stretching to the Burmese border. Mae hong son is known for its charm of scenery and culture. The people of Mae Hong Son consists of the Shans who live in the city and the hilltribe people who live in remote villages on mountain tops where elements of lifestyle have changed little in hundreds of years. The city is covered with the mist all year long. Mae Hong son gains its nickname of "the City of Three Mists" from the fact that it has dewy mist in the winter, forest fire mist in the summer and rainy mist in the rainy season.
Then continue to "long-neck" or "giraffe tribe”. But the women who wear these brass rings on their neck belong to a sub-group of the Karen known as the Padaung. There are other sub-groups who do not and never have practiced this custom. A further myth is that these rings act to elongate the wearer's neck. Any chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon will tell you that this would lead to paralysis or death. In fact the appearance of a longer neck is a visual illusion. The weight of the rings pushes down the collar bone, as well as the upper ribs, to such an angle that the collar bone actually appears to be a part of the neck!
They look exotic regardless of their Puma sweatshirts and Diesel flip flops.
Ask before you take pictures.
Bring gum or crayons for the kids - they will smile on your pictures.
Save your money and buy your souvenirs here. Help the locals a little.
Story goes.... a long time ago when they were still many tigers alive, they ate people.
Men were given guns and woman were given neck rings so the tiger doesn't have such an easy time biting their head off.
A lot of theories exist about the use of necklaces by Karen longneck women. Some say it was to protect of tigers attacks when they were still in Burma others say they continues using it just to continue to win a change (only middle of survival that they possess) in detriment of their health, because to prolongate the neck, the bones of the thorax go down harming their health.
They say that if tourists don't visit them anymore, they would be forced to remove the necklace and to stop with that mutilation. But what would happen to that tribe? Would they suffer without government help?
The answer still is not known, nor what is right or wrong.
It fits to you to decide if you should go there or not.
I read some reviews talking about give to the children some gifts when visiting the tribe.
I though it would be many childrens so I bought some stickers and gave it to them.
They didnt know what to do with it, and sometime later whem I look back, I could saw this image.
You can visit a hill tribes village where there are several different types of minorities living together. It is a rather touristy, and expensive place to go, but if you can’t make out to see the real thing than this is your only option. The most exciting thing here is the long necks. Entrance price is 500 bath. Be weary of most goods that are for sale in the shops inside the village. Some or non authentic, poor quality or made from inferior material.
We travelled all the way from Mai Sai to Pa Dong to visit the Karen Long Neck Women. Our tour guide said that this is a real Long Neck Women Village. There were 2 other tribes residing in the same area.
The brass ring on the neck is not individual accumulated rings on the neck but a brass spiral coil that goes around the neck. The coil on the neck can be taken out and the life of the women will not be die immediately once they remove the coil.
Two ladies have their coil remove and examined and x-ray by doctors and they did not die and has proven the myth wrong.
The brass coil are indeed very heavy. I had them on for a min and will not choose to wear it for the rest of my life.
On a day trip we did the usual tourist thing of visiting a hill tribe village. Of course the long neck women and girls were there putting on a weaving display for us.
I found it a little bit sad to see these people on display to the world, but then I guess it's become a way of life for them. I believe the men have been assimilated into the local area and have some sort of work to occupy themselves during the day.
One little girl was able to speak a little bit of English and told me that the rings around her neck made her very hot. I was HOT without the rings!!
We were interested, as most people are, to see the famed "giraffe neck women" tribe near Chiang Mai. We did a "hilltribe tour", which was extremely long and bumpy, with very little actual "guiding" along the way. The tour guide had very good English, but slept a good way to the destination - a long trip which would have been improved significantly with some commentary.
When we got there, it was really little short of a circus -we kind of walked our way through a "display" of people standing in front of market stalls which could have been almost anywhere in the country. The pushy, tourist savvy Akha women came first - and what was left of you stumbled down to the big earring people, and finally to the long necked girls. These were a forlorn little bunch, sitting inside little market stalls, selling all the things you can buy anywhere. The only "novelty" was them. We felt quite uncomfortable for them, and there was a sense of exploitation - probably of them and us!
There was nothing natural about the environment - such as seeing how a natural hilltribe would live - some of the girls sat on the porch of little houses, and television could be seen in the background. Some of the little kids were fun to watch, and were quite mischievous! The little one at the corrugated door is actually imprisoning a little friend in the toilet! She was lively and cheeky - the other girls were very docile, and looked totally miserable.
One of the saving graces for this tour was that we stopped at a Hmong village on the way home - where there was no people circus display - but they were having a festival, and were dressed traditionally, and having what amounted to a fair.
Visitors should take some time and visit the wonderful people of the Karen tribe in Chiang Mai. They live near the border of Burma, and the time taken to reach their village would be about 4 hours or so from town. Do NOT liken seeing these indigeneous people as seeing the animals in the zoo. They have a rich culture, and as they do speak a spattering of the English language, you can also ask them about their lifestyle.
Traditionally the women who could afford it would start wearing brass coils on their necks, arms and legs from the time they're 5 years old. The coils would be polished daily so that'd they'd have a high sheen. They'll upgrade their coils whenever they can afford it. The average weight of a coil on an adult woman's neck is about 3 - 5 kg!!! You can buy nice hand-woven cloth at the village. It'll help improve their way of life.
The Akha village is situated right next to the Karen's. Women of the Akha tribe chew betel nut leaves which will leave an unsightly reddish-blackish stain on their teeth. The Akhas are known for thier toolwork and you can buy wood carvings and silverware at their village.
During my trip to Chiangmai, I made a visit to the Karen tribal village. This tribal village, home to the long neck tribe, is actually a village for tourists. The Karen women are accomodated in this village by the Thai authorities and they earn money by selling handicraft and trinklets and receiving tips from tourists for photo-taking. The women put on these copper rings around their necks from young. The copper rings are worn throughout the day, even during sleep. The purpose of wearing the copper rings is to protect their necks from being bitten by wild animal predators like lions and tigers. The only time when the rings are taken off is during pregnancy or when they are sick.
Originally, the women would don a set of rings around their necks to protect them from tigers that would go for the kill. Now, more decorative than anything, over the course of their lifetime, these women will slowly add ring after ring until their necks are 4~5 times longer.
One of the highlights of my trip to Northern Thailand was definitely visiting this hill tribe village. We found this place on the recommendation of our guide, and it turned out to be far less commercialized and artificial than the other "villages" we visited, where we were bombarded by tribe members shamelessly hawking touristy knickknacks.
In contrast, the Union of Hill Tribes offered a much more authentic experience. We were the only tourists there, and the Karen (long neck) women were very warm and friendly.... They even invited us into one of their huts to chat for a little bit about their life (using our Thai guide as an interpreter of course). Afterwards, they just went on with life as usual: gathering water, tending the crops, and mending the thatched roofs of their huts.
In addition to the Karen, there were several other tribes at this village, each with their own distinct (and often colorful) attire.
While there is a certain aspect of commercialization here (after all, they have a website), our guide told us the people of this village don't let the tourists dramatically influence their way of life. As they can't reap the benefits of a normal Thai citizen, the additional income generally goes towards subsistence measures; not wide screen TVs or pick-up trucks.
Bottom-line: We had a very moving experience visiting the people of this village. I would highly recommend spending an afternoon here.... you probably won't be able to find a more authentic view of hill tribe life without trekking deep into the jungle.