Monday, June 8, 2015

The long neck Kayan tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand



How long can you wear a choker? If you ask me, I can’t think of carrying it for more than 2 hours.  Meet Kayan women from the tribal village in North Thailand. They wear not just a choker but  coil of rings which weighs 12 kgs and length of 40 cm.  It is not just fashion to them but it is their tradition, it is their livelihood.
Kayan long necked women.She is 58. But loooks much older
 The tribal village is located in the border between North Thailand and Burma(Myanmar). These tribal women have the tradition of wearing coiled rings around their neck from their childhood, to increase the length of the neck. They are also called as Giraffe women.
Kayans are the refugees from Burma living in Thailand. The Thailand Government has given them place for their settlement as it improves their tourism. I visited the tribal camp during my Chiang Mai travel. This camp has many tribal refugees each one different in their culture, clothes and ornaments they wear. But women with rings attract tourists more than any other tribes.
Young Kayan girl busy in weaving, Thailand

 
 As per their tradition, they initiate girl child to wear the rings as early as 3 years. There were women of different age from 3 year to 65 years. All their necks were bejeweled with rings. I was told that the actual length of the neck doesn’t increase but it gives an optical illusion by pushing the collar bone down due to the weight of these rings. 12 kgs of weight on the shoulder is not  a joke!

It is believed that the  long stretched  neck adds beauty. However, some say that Kayans started wearing rings as a protection from tiger when they lived in woods. My guide told me a different story. When these tribes were living in the forest they wore bark of a tree as ornaments around their necks and legs. When someone brought them to the civilized world and they were asked to continue the same practice,  by wearing brass rings instead of bark of the tree so that they can attract tourists.
Kayan kid playing with tourist kid
All the women were engaged in selling shawls hand made by them and some were busy in weaving the shawls. Their little ones  were silently sitting next to them. Honestly, the whole walk through this small settlement left me with a sad feeling especially looking at the pretty young girls who were obliging to pose with the tourists with a bright smiling face. I didn’t find anyone of them saying No for pictures. They were ready to pose the moment cameras were aiming at them. My guide explained that tribals are paid by tourist agencies to amuse the tourists. I thought how would they be feeling every time as they were treated as show pieces! 
Shopping area for Kayan's handmade works

Later, my discussions with my guide revealed that they are confined to this settlement and not supposed to step out. Though they wear rings as a mark of tradition, young generation is willing to come out and lead a normal life. But their elders stop them from removing the rings as it might stop their income. 
Look at the innocent face and the rings. This girl stole my heart

 They live in houses built in bamboos. My heart went for those tiny tots who at the age of 3  were wearing the weight of the rings and sitting next to their moms instead of playing. By the way I didn’t see a single man in the settlement. My guide said that they were in the farms taking siesta. They need not have to work hard as  their women earn for them.

2 comments:

  1. I have also heard very painful stories of them. I feel they are caged. So sad, we live in today's world where there are women still a showpiece.

    There are similar stories from Africa also.
    Lovely post, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Nisha. I heard that though they got paper work ready for moving out of the country as a refugees with good facilities in NZ , they were denied to go out of the country. Very sad

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