Karen Long Neck Hilltribe - Padaung

Karen Long Neck Hilltribe Padaung
karen long neck
Young Long Neck Karen Lady - Padaung Hilltribe - Chiang Dao

About the Karen Long Neck Hilltribe - Padaung
The Padaung are a sub-group of Karen (Bwe Group) living in Kayah state of eastern Burma on the Thailand border. They number less than 40,000 people in total. The Padaung call themselves "Lae Kur" or "Kayan". They have their own language which belongs to the Kenmic group in the Tibeto-Burman language family.

The Karen themseves are not one homogeneous group but rather a loose confederation of heterogeneous and closely related tribes. Among the smallest of the Karen tribes in Thailand are the Karen Padaung.

In Thailand, only a few families of Padaung have settled temporarily as refugees in Muang District of Mae Hong Son Province, near Ban Tha Ton in Chiang Rai Province, and as of June 2005 a small group near Chiang Dao. Generally they live among other hilltribes groups, mostly Karen.

The Padaung escaped from the Kaya State in Burma to Thailand in the mid to late 1900's and are actually refugees of a political turmoil. They belong to the Karenni sub-group of the Karen People, which are still fighting for their independence in Burma.

The Karen-Padaung occupied central Burma before the Burmese arrived from the North and they, together with the ancient Mon, farmed the Irrawaddy and Salween Valleys and built civilizations based on their unique cultures.

The Padaung women famously wear brass rings around their necks. This distorts the growth of their collarbones and make them look as if they have long necks - which they don't. This row of brass rings do not actually stretch their necks but in fact squash the vertebrae and collar bones. A woman generally has about twenty or more rings around her neck. This neck ring adornment is started when the girls are 5 or 6 years old.

The rings on the arms and the legs are not quite as prominent as those on the neck simply because the neck rings are so pronounced. However, these rings are just as important. The rings on the arms are worn on the forearm from the wrist to the elbow. Those on the legs are worn from the ankles to the knees, and cloth coverings are kept over most of these rings, from the shins down to the ankles.

Most of Padaung are animists, but about 10 percent are Buddhists. Now, the number of Christians is increasing because of the Roman Catholic mission. The annual festival for the fertility and prosperity of the whole community is usually held at the beginning of the rainy season. Sacrifices are made to the spirits for good health and bountiful harvests. Rice is the Padaung main crop.

karen long neck
Long Neck Lady Weaving in Chiang Dao

Human Zoo's? Prisons? To visit or not?
cons:
- All the Long Neck "villages" in Thailand are set up for tourists and are not neccessarily managed by the Padaung people themselves.
- There have been allegations of imprisonment, and ill-treatment by management in some villages before.
- Some of the ladies are illegally on Thai soil (not officially granted refugee status) and are vulnerable to exploitation
- Allegations have been made that children are forced to adopt this practice at a young age.
- They see many people and are constantly photographed so it is difficult for some to look anything other than bored.
- The "villages" are basically set up as shopping stalls set up with the Long Neck ladies as the stall holders. The ladies will be keen for you to buy handicrafts in exchange for your photography. Don't expect too much of a traditional village setting.
- There is an entrance fee, which by the nature of it means you are paying to look at these ladies - human zoo?


pro's
- While the villages have been set up, it is where these ladies (and families) live.
- These ladies make a good living from visitors. The average wage for a days hard labouring in the fields is around 150 Baht. These ladies can earn more than that with relatively little effort.
- The Padaung people in Thailand are either refugees or economic migrants depending on who you ask. They need all the help they can get.
- The fact that the number of younger girls wearing rings is showing signs of increasing may well underline the point above.
- As some of these ladies are illegal immigrants their management argue that because of their protection they are not forcibly repatriated to Burma
- The ladies do sell some nice and very cheap souvenirs and handicrafts.
- While it is probably not politically correct, I'm sure there is a relatively natural, if somewhat sick. fascination with the freak-show aspect of seeing people who have willingly distorted their bodies. This is enhanced as it is a culturally based practice.
- The ladies look absolutely stunning, great memories and great photographs.

The Karen Long Neck - Padaung Village in Chiang Dao

The Chiang Dao Karen Long Neck - Padaung Village consists of about 6 families with around 8 ladies with rings on their necks.
Many of the ladies have relocated from a village near Tha Ton, presumably thier management saw the proximity to Chiang Mai as potentially more profitable.
karen long neck They have selected a stunning site, very picturesque with great all round mountain views. This is a really pleasant added bonus. On a clear day it is very beautiful indeed, affording a view of Doi Luang Chiang Dao from a different angle.

Due to the initially precarious nature of this type of village it is far from assured that it will be in its present location for any length of time.

The atmosphere in the Chiang Dao Long Neck Village seems pleasantly relaxed and the "shopping pressure" relatively low. Maybe this will change as more visitors come, but it was certainly nicer than some of the more visited hilltribe villages in the area.

Visiting without a good guide tends to add to the feeling of being a human zoo. A knowledgeable guide should at least be able to facilitate a little interaction beyond just shopping.
At present they do not want people to visit independently but are talking to a few local tour operators - for a tour from Chiang Mai or Chiang Dao please see link below ...


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Chiang Dao Nest Mini Resort
Tours & Trekking
Thai / British Management
Chiang Mai Resort

Chiang Dao Nest Mini Resort is situated in a beautiful, peaceful, mountainous location, 80km North of Chiang Mai. Maybe you can include us on your tour of North Thailand?
Chiang Dao Nest Reviews
"Simply Outstanding."
- Travelfish.org - Online Travel resource for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

"creative, delicious and employ only the highest-quality ingredients available"
- Thailand Tatler Magazine - Thailand's Best Restaurants 2006

 
"excellent forest and mountain views" .. "gourmet restaurant turns out amazingly good European fare"
- 11th Edition Thailand Lonely Planet Published September 2005

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