Neck Rings ; Thailand is home to many unique tourist attractions that are well worth a visit. However, it’s always good to be aware of the fact if visiting a certain attraction supports a good cause, like in the case of visiting the Long Neck Tribe villages. Sometimes unintentionally it can be just the opposite.
One of such controversial attractions is the Kayan Long Neck Tribe village in Northern Thailand. Have you thought about how ethical it actually is to go there to admire these long neck people?
It’s a village nearby border of Myanmar where the Karen tribe lives. These long neck women (also known as giraffe women) are one of the most visited attractions in Thailand. However, the story of these Karen hill tribe people is quite sad.
That makes it questionable, should people even visit the Long Neck Tribe as a tourist attraction?
I had seen pictures of longneck women in National Geographic magazine. From that moment I was kinda intrigued to see them. However, finding out more about their story made me feel uncomfortable to visit this place.
My expectation at the Karen long neck village pretty much was to see repressed people or in other words – visiting a human zoo. It didn’t feel right at all. But we decided to go and see the real people, learn about their story and feelings, instead of having just picture images in our heads.
The story of the Kayan Long Neck Tribe
The origins of the Kayan Long Neck Tribe, which is a sub-group of the Red Karen people, are in Myanmar, where thousands of these people live in the mountains just across the Thai border.
Many of them have chosen to flee to Thailand in search of a safer life, as there’s been a brutal military conflict in their home country for years.
The Kayan Long Neck tribes live in Northern Thailand as refugees. They also serve as one of the most profitable tourist attractions in the Thai tourism industry.
Unfortunately, their lives in Thailand are difficult and it’s quite visible to any tourist, who visits the village and dares to think, what it must be like to live there.
There is a lot of conflicting information about the lives of the Karen people of the Kayan tribe in Thailand.
Thai tour guides are willing to explain to curious tourists about the living arrangements of the tribe in Thailand, making them seem quite acceptable, whereas the Karen women are sharing a whole different story.
Also with United Nations Refugee Agency encouraging tourists to boycott the attraction, which they refer to as a “human zoo”, makes really rethink the ethics of visiting this place.
Who are the women of Long Neck Tribe?
The Karen long neck tribe is unique by the fact that their women are wearing heavy neck rings around their necks for most of their lives.
Some women also wear these heavy rings around their forearms and shins, but that’s different from neck rings and is up to their own choice. Some longneck women have it more like a style element.
In real life, these women don’t naturally have extra long necks though. The heavy brass rings are a neck stretcher, smashing their rib cage and shoulders down over the years. That gives the illusion that their necks are unusually long.
Why do the long neck women wear neck rings?
Some women wear the brass neck rings around their necks respecting their ancestor traditions, while nowadays some are encouraged to do it because of tourists.
The tradition or neck rigs actually started as protection from tigers. Several Karen tribe women were killed by tigers far back in the past. So the leader of the tribe decided to have women wear these brass neck rings to protect their tribe from extinction.
As per tradition, the more neck rings a woman carries on her neck, the more beautiful she is. Later the tradition evolved so that only girls who were born at a particular time of a month were destined to wear the neck rings.