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Thailand forum

Long neck tribe

Posted by bjojan on 4/5/2008 at 05:55

We are a couple planning to visit Chiang Mai before we head over to Cambodia, and we would like to visit the long neck hill tribes. Have anyone any experience with this ?

Any hints / tips about which tour company to use, and what trip to take ? Which tribe to visit ? Stay a night over or do everything from Chiang Mai ? We only want a daytrip to the village, no 2 or 3 days trek.. And we are on a budget so we are not the priciest alternatives if we can help it :-)

Would love some feedback

Jan & Kjersti

#1 bjojan has been a member since 4/5/2008. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/5/2008 at 05:53 admin

All tours go to the same "village", so it's just a matter of comparing tour prices on the ground.

Note the village is a very long way from Chiang Mai (it's instead quite close to Mae Hong Son ) so I'm not sure that you'd actually be able to visit it on a daytrip from Chiang Mai.

Here's what we have to say on visiting the camp:

"Visiting the Kayan (Long-neck) people - A personal decision

A scattering of camps in the surrounding area

The Long Neck women are one of the main reasons why tourists come to Mae Hong Son. Often called Long Neck Karen, the women (and their male family members) are actually refugees from Karenni State, located just over the border from Mae Hong Son.

Long Neck Karen is therefore a misnomer and not only because it over-simplifies the rich and complex culture and history of this ethnic group. In Burmese they are called Padaung, but this is also an inappropriate name because the Burmese are an occupying army in Karenni State. In their own language, this ethnic group is called Kayan.

The price for visiting these villages is 250 baht (plus the cost of taking a boat in the case of Huay Phu Keang). Half of this money goes to the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP, which is the main opposition force to Burmese control in Karenni State). Half of the money goes to the Thai Ministry of the Interior. The women receive 500 baht each month for wearing the rings as children and 1,500 baht when they reach adulthood. It is a level of financial security unheard of for the average refugee family.

The decision about whether or not to visit the village can be a difficult one. Many people believe that paying to see and take pictures of women physically disfigure themselves is wrong. The tradition of donning the neck rings is largely dying out in the Kayan areas of Karenni State.

If you talk to many of the Kayan people, however, you will find that despite the difficulties they face in Thailand, for now, their prospects in tourist villages are better than their prospects inside Karenni State. At the same time, most of them would like to return home to Karenni State when there is peace or a cease-fire.

The refugees in these villages represent only a small handful of the 20,000 living in the refugee camp on the other side of the mountain. They are allowed a great deal of freedom compared to the non-Kayan refugees and some of the money that they earn goes to help all the refugees. Some people believe that it is the tourist money that these women attract that allows all the Karenni refugees to stay in Thailand. A lot rests on those neck-rings.

If you do decide to visit this or other local villages, you may find that it feels like you are visiting a human zoo. This feeling is only exacerbated if you are in or near a large tour group, snapping and taping away with little or no regard for the fact that the village is somebody's home.

If this human zoo feeling bothers you, then try to not encourage it. Plan to spend a day or a few days in one village and actually sit down and talk to people and learn about their lives. Take pictures only after you've asked, ask for an address, and send copies to the person in the picture. Buy locally-made products. Donate to the school (but don't interrupt the lessons).

Don't hand-out sweets to the children (you probably wouldn't walk around handing out sweets to children on the streets of your own country).

If you want to make a donation, bring books, paper, pencils, crayons, soap, toothpaste, and other stationary or toiletries in bulk to the Head Teacher at the school or the village leader (ask around the village, everyone knows each other). All the villages also have monetary donation boxes."

Mae Hong Son sights and attractions

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,937
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