One of the must-visits when you go to Chiang Mai is apparently to see the Karen Tribe or “Long Neck” people there. I definitely wanted to see them as well since well, I’ve never seen one before. We were brought to this village where it is like a cultural village of sorts except all the different tribes of Chiang Mai live within that area.
We saw a few of them and they were happy to let us go crazy with our camera. Since I was on film, I couldn’t go all that crazy.
The legend has it that the women wore the brass rings to protect them from tigers. After a while, the king thought they looked beautiful and since then, they wore the brass rings from a very young age. They add one ring for each year and well, once they add more rings, the neck grows longer.
It is said that if you remove the rings they would most probably die because the neck would snap. Apparently the heavy brass rings is the support so the bone is really soft around the neck area. I tried the ring, and my, it is heavy!
The people will probably give you a smile or two but considering they meet probably tens or hundreds of tourists a day, it can be quite tiring. The souvenirs they sell are also similar to each other so its a real tough choice which family you will be supporting with that little token.
At the end of the day, I chose those that had babies.
While I understand the cultural importance, I often wonder if it is ideal. I personally wouldn’t want to be living like this for the rest of my life while the world goes on with its technological advances. But then again, this people may choose this life because it is simpler and definitely less hectic, not too sure if its less stressful though.
Or are these people being kept in the culture against their will? I imagine the Karen tribe being a big draw for tourists, so if every of these people were given a life like you and mine, then a big attraction of Chiang Mai would go poof. One really wonders if it is their choice to remain a part of the Karen tribe.
It was definitely an interesting visit and on a selfish part, I hope the culture doesn’t die but I am not sure if they will be accepted into a normal workforce. Heck, I am not even sure if they want to, considering our definition of normal may not be the same as theirs.
I am glad to have seen it myself, and you should too if you can.