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Tami and Pat Travel Adventures Tales Tall and Small where we are and have been...

Hill Tribes visit

THAILAND | Tuesday, 2 December 2008 | Views [832] | Comments [1]

Karen tribe village in northern area around Chiang Mai.

Karen tribe village in northern area around Chiang Mai.

Nov. 28  Friday

We've been in Chiang Mai a few days now and so far have been mainly in and around the city.  We've been trying out different Thai spots to eat trying to get authentic Thai food they haven't toned down for the foreigners.  Pat likes to have beads of sweat forming on his head.  If he's sweating profusely above his eyes, I know he's happy with the food.  When we want a break, it's pizza!  Believe it or not, they are a ton of Italian fare to have had.  It seems the next common type of food.  We've been to the night bazaar every night nearly because that's the best people watching and there is stall after stall of goods to browse through.  Knock off Tiffany jewelry, watches, knock off North Face backpacks, pretty much you name it.  I've noticed though, the souvenirs are starting to all look alike and I'll soon start searching for places where the locals buy their wares. 

Today was our first day to get out of the city and do some exploring.  We visited five hillside tribes. The first being Burmese refugees and the others being of Chinese, Tibetan, and more Burmese refuge villages. Though these tours are common and they get many visitors, we were often the only tourists visiting their village at that moment. 

The long neck tribes were the most outwardly different village we visited, and the saddest.  In the other villages, they sure didn't have much, by western standards, but they were happy, smiling, and engaging.  And, I was happy to contribute and buy some souvenirs! 

Let me start by saying, a well-intentioned friend showed me to and article from National Geographic.com about the Paudang tribes, or long-necks, as they're called here.  Starting at age 5 or 6, the girls begin wearing brass rings around their neck and continue to add rings until the age of 30.  The assumption is the longer the neck, and more brass rings they adorn, the more beautiful they are.  The reality is that the rings actually put pressure on the collar bone, sometimes crushing it and the top few ribs.  Pushing the bones on top of one another and thereby creating the 'longer neck' appearance.  So my view of them being sad and unhappy may be stained by my preconceived idea of how they must feel.  While the article also said they partly continued this custom because it brought tourists, and therefore money, to them, I asked and also found out that the government pays them a sum to let tourists tour their village and they keep the money they make from whatever they sell, it is illegal to continue this practice among the children being born etc.  Another assumption that their necks would snap, and their heads flop over onto their body if they removed the rings is not true.  Although their necks and upper chest become extremely vulnerable to even the slightest injury that would cause paralysis or death.  When visiting their village, I felt subdued and it seemed the children were weary of us,and the women shy and maybe guarded.  Again, maybe my perception was clouded, but I would have gone on a tour that didn't visit this tribe if I could have found it.

That's the scoop on that.  We visited an orchid farm, and a tiger kingdom and got to play with 4 month old tigers in their pen.  They are not small.  Don't be fooled by their age.  But they were sweet, soft, and playful like kittens.  It was kind of a long day so we went out for, what else, Thai food and Singha and called it a night.

Tags: hill tribes, karen tribe, long neck tribe




I am so excited for you! Did you take that picture of the cute little boy? Your a regular NatGeo traveler!! I love your websie and will visit often. You have been thought of a lot and prayed for. As soon as Gerry and I saw the news about Thailand we freaked! Thanksgiving was great...we got married! Take care, be safe, live large and be merry!


  Bethany Rouillard Dec 4, 2008 5:12 AM

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