Long Neck Women: Read about them in magazines, watched them in some documentaries and heard about, but I never thought I would be that close, face to face with them.
We were driving in “Chiang Mai" when we stumbled on a map that would lead us to the " Long Neck Village."
The village is not easy to find as it is so hidden.
We had an ethical question on whether we would visit the “Long Neck Village “ or not. Thankfully, I decided to visit as I wanted to see and explore more on why women would do such a thing? And how can they live this way?
The village was surrounded by a fence and a quite expensive ticket had to be bought in order to get in. We were told that the government of Thailand governs this community with the prime purpose of preserving & showcase this unique culture & tradition to the world. Importantly, to provide work for the refugees.
Refugees? I asked.
The answer came later.
As we were traveling deep into Thailand, we didn't expect people to speak English so when I was given an English map upon entering the village I was exhilarated. It gave me freedom to roam around, explore and locate each tribe, find out what they are famous for, all on my own.
I went into the village on a late afternoon. The weather was a bit hot and the air was stagnant. The village was surrounded by beautiful rice fields. Villagers live in stilt houses modestly built from bamboo to protect the shakes from water during the rainy season. The village itself was surrounded by beautiful green hills.
Walking around the village from one tribe to the other, I passed by the beautiful rice fields. I got the chance to walk freely hearing the crickets and frogs in the late afternoon. The village itself is ringed by beautiful green hills. Chicken run freely everywhere and so are the weak dogs. Have to mention that dogs are found every where in the village but you can't miss how fragile and skinny.
Upon entering the village, exceptional handyman craftsmen ship were in display all over the place. Each household had different products to sell.The long neck women set up stalls to sell their local handicrafts which were beautiful and reasonably priced.They made gorgeous silk scarves and pocketbooks, rugs, table cloths, purses and more. Their artwork were incredible. No hard selling at all, which was great.
The women were wearing their traditional dress and heavy brass necklaces. And men in their traditional costume. In some tribes, women wear heavy earrings and brass on their legs and different parts of their bodies too.
All of them didn't mind me taking pictures or asking them questions while they work before my eyes. I noticed that they were shy, yet they were willing to show how they are living and working.
Apparently, long neck tradition begins when girls are about three years old. Decorating themselves is a symbol of beauty within their community, I was told.
Today many of the young women are breaking with tradition, and it is estimated that the neck lengthening practice only has a few generations of life left.
I found out that these indigenous people originally came from Burma as "Refugees." They had a hard life as they were forced to leave their homes and live in another country with no citizenship.
I’ve also learned that there are only 120,000 of them still in their home country and about 600 residing in Thailand in small refugee villages.
Visiting one of the Long Neck villages in Thailand is one of the most exotic experiences of my life. The mystery and beauty that sound the tradition of using brass rings for jewelry is something better seen in person than reading about.
I am so grateful that I was able to visit this village as it makes you wonder who starts traditions in any culture?And how long people carries and holds to it for ?
Few things you need to know before visiting:
- Make sure you wear proper outfit and shoes. You will need to do a short trek down the valley. High heels definitely won't work.
- A lot of sites will urge you to go with a guide.
It is really up to your preference. While guides can give onsite information, I went on my own as I wanted to take my time exploring.
- Bring CASH along, as villagers can only accept cash.Workmanship is irresistibly beautiful. You will also be supporting so many of them.
- Buy drinks from the local coffee shop, it is an excellent support for the community.
- The washrooms are tip top clean. I never thought that this would be the case.
- Always drink water to dehydrate yourself.Have fun and write back if you ever make your way to these villages.
Oh, if you want to read more blogs on Switzerland, Egypt, Paris,Niagara Falls, Toronto,How to pack light, and Expat life, you can read all about it here.
I had to wear the neck bracelet to get a taste of what the women go throughout their lives to decorate themselves or carry on their cultural life style.
The young girls were so happy to pose for pictures.
A woman is weaving in front of her home.
Once I entered the village, I was surrounded by exceptional craftsmanship displays.
An amazing artist; She was spotted drawing on a pattern, later showing me her work.
Road signs in the Village.
Long neck village women with no Bracelets.
Walking thru the rice fields on a hot afternoon.