Everything You Need to Know About the Long Neck Karen Tribe Before You Go
When I first saw the photos of the Long Neck Karen Tribe in the Nat Geo Channel one day, I was one of the “curious ones” audiences. I wanted to see them on my own and ask questions like “How heavy it is? Are you still breathing well? Are you taking it off at night?” UNTIL I GET THERE and I REGRETTED being curious in the first place.
Walking to the Karen Hill Tribe Village, there is a silent awkwardness – feeling like I’m walking into a Human Zoo. Our Tourist Guide has shown photos of them how they sleep in sideways, how they enjoy their free time in the villages singing and dancing and even how they take a shower while wearing this ring on their neck. FYI: They only take them off when adding rings.
The Karen Hill Tribe is originally from Burma (Myanmar), they came to Thailand as “economic migrant” (not refugees) to escape the longtime conflict between the government and the people. Thailand Government has accepted them – without any real legal status – but for a SPECIAL PURPOSE. According to our Tour Guide, they are under the care of the Thailand Government for TOURISM in the north.
The Realities of Wearing Those Neck Rings
The tourist trade is encouraging more girls to wear neck rings, which severely limits their freedom to live their lives the way that they want to. Furthermore, Thai authorities REFUSE to allow people to resettle outside tourist villages. They have very limited access to electricity, health care, education and roads. In the end, they aren’t a citizen in any country
The heavy neck rings weigh up to 25 pounds, it’s like carrying an average watermelon! The coils don’t actually stretch the neck out, but the weight of them depress the collar bones and shoulder blades causing permanent physical damage. If they take them off, their shoulder couldn’t be back to its normal length and it will be a long process of recovery to get use to not wearing them.
After a point, the extensive damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. Our Tour Guide
In ancient times, they wear these rings to protect their neck by being attacked by the Tigers (since tigers attac directly to the neck) while the men from their village are hunting. Also, in the ancient Karen Hilltribe, the more rings they wear, they are more beautiful. But it’s 2019 – and there are teenagers inside that village, who adore Taylor Swift and couldn’t even make
Should You Go?
They say an estimated 40,000 tourists per year pay 300 BAHT to stop by these hill tribe villages to gaze upon the women’s unusual appearance and take pictures.
No one is to be blamed. Thai Government is fair enough to accept them for whatever purposes. I just hope that they will allow the young generations to get a proper education and health system. While some says Karen Hilltribe are paid for the opportunity to retain their culture, others condemn this arrangement for exploiting stateless women and children in exchange for tourist dollars.
Travel is about connecting relationships with people from different cultures. You can buy their product but it’s better to give the money to the Chief Village or directly to the women.
Check your intentions. Do your research. The goal of travel shouldn’t be taking pictures of exotic things to brag about.
Reflect and Appreciate. This trip will definitely change you and the way you look at your freedom. Do you appreciate a genuine smile and your choice of foods?
Any thought about this? Thanks a lot for dropping by. See you in Bangkok, next!