Karen Village : Long Neck Village
Chiang Rai Thailand
This was an experience in which I felt very indifferent about. I was glad that I went and got to see the way these women lived as it opened my eyes to a different culture. Yet it was definitely a controversial experience, where some have a hard time grasping the concept that comes with the atmosphere and women who live within the Karen village.
(I look very crazy in this photo. I purchased some jewelry from one of the Karen women. When asking for a picture, she handed me the golden rings to put on. Trust me I felt so weird doing this. But I wanted to be respectful as the women handed me the golden rings. I gained soooo much respect for the women by wearing this though. It was extremely heavy! I don’t know how these women do it! )
The Karen tribe aka the Long Neck tribe is originally from Burma and came to Thailand when escaping violence within their country. The Long Neck village is located in Chiang Rai Thailand between pineapple farms.
These women are well known for wearing golden rings around their necks.The women start wearing the golden rings from the time that they are 5 years old up until their 21st birthdays and each year one ring is added. The Karen women believe that the longer the neck, the more beautiful the woman. Many people know these women for being called “long necks” or the “dragon ladies.” These women keep the golden rings on at all times except for a special ceremony once a year that only the Karen women attend in which they take the rings off for 3-4 hours.
When these women came from Burma the Thai government didn’t know what to do, but they believed it would be a good business opportunity. They gave the Karen women visas and let them work in turn for giving them land to live and making their village a popular tourist attraction. In order to enter the Long Neck village you must first pay 300 baht which gives you access to their village. This money provides the Karen women with a place to live.
From learning about these women in my history classes in high school I had to take the opportunity to experience this for myself. It was very interesting to see the way these women lived. At all times I didn’t want to take too many photos as I felt disrespectful, taking photos in essentially someone’s home. The Karen women are not allowed to leave their villages, or even go to local doctors, hospitals or attend school.
(This one little girl struck up a conversation with me as she spoke only very little English. She seemed a bit scared and intimidated by some of the people passing by. She told me she loved my blonde hair and kept touching it. I asked her a few questions because she was very shy but seemed to like me. She told me she went to school and liked drawing a lot. I felt very awkward taking pictures but she was intrigued by my phone and the picture. )
The Karen women make money on the tourists that come to visit their village. They mainly sell little trinkets such as wallets, jewelry, magnets, etc. But their main skill is weaving on a wooden loom. This was so interesting to me because the weaving process looked extremely hard and time consuming. They make shirts, skirts and scarfs through this wooden loom.