Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Tour - Part IV

Visiting native settlements always leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I really enjoy getting to know a new people and culture. On the other hand, by visiting them I know that they have been changed forever. Our selfish side would like them to preserve their culture and lifestyle - to remain essentially as they are, but at the same time we cannot deny them their quest to have a better life just like the rest of us. Change is inevitable - but is it a change for the better ? Is tourism hastening the demise of their culture - making superficial what used to be deeply rooted and meaningful, or helping them to preserve what is left? I don't have the answers.

Visiting the Long Neck Karen (Pa-Dong) village was an especially strange experience. Are we visiting a human zoo ? A freak show put up for the benefit of tourists ? The Long Neck Karen women have this tradition of wearing heavy brass neck rings since young, which weigh down their collar bones and lengthen their necks. It is a considered a sign of great beauty to wear these heavy adornments - and they are heavy, commonly more then 10 kg and can be up to 15 kg. The women really do look very beautiful with their neck rings, but it can't be comfortable wearing these heavy rings all their life. But - if they take off their rings, will tourists continue to visit them ? That is the dilemma.

The village here is not actually a "village", but more like a tourist bazaar where the Pa-Dongs sell their products. They are very skillful weavers and the hand-woven fabric make great gifts.

The Long Neck Karen weavers.

The Pa-Dongs look beautiful with their neck rings.

Besides the Pa-Dongs, there are also Big Ear Karens who instead of wearing neck rings, wear ear ornaments which stretch their ear lobes.

Where ever there are tourists, there are bound to be Akhas. These Akha ladies have set up shop outside the Pa-Dong Village. Their beautiful head gears and ready smiles always make them a welcome sight.


Thomas Watts said…
The photography are beautiful & full of colour. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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