Long Neck Karen Village
Location: 262 M.6, Ban Paoo | Nanglae Subdistrict, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand
Reason to visit: To understand and appreciate the Long Neck Karen
Our ratings: ★★★★
Entrance fee: 300-500 Baht a person
Karen Long Neck Village came to Thailand from Burma when escaping war and violence in their country. They are world-famous for their women who wear golden rings around their necks. From the age of 5 until they are 25, each year one copper ring is added to their necks. According to Karen people, the longer the neck is, the more beautiful the woman is. The longest neck is up to 70 cm. At the end, their necks get so long that these women are often called "dragon ladies", or just "long necks". When taking a bath, they can only put the straw into the copper ring and difficultly scrub it. In the past, they get long necks because of superstition and customs; today in order to live, they put on this heavy shackle and show the cruel beauty to the world. Please show your greatest respect to them and spread love and smile to them.
History and Current Situations of Karen Long Neck
The Long Necker is the Karen people who have fled from Burma to northern border of Thailand. The reason why it is famous is that the woman's copper ring is wrapped around the neck. The heavy collars press the shoulder blade, so the neck becomes long and long. A woman with a shackle for a lifetime is said to be a symbol of beauty and wealth. This kind of culture is a common thing for Chinese women who are forced to wrap their feet tightly when they are young in order to make their feet stop growing. However, the Chinese women’s three-inch feet abnormal tradition was abolished and began to die out after the Revolution of 1911. However, in the 21st century, the long-necked women still exist.
From the age of 5 until they are 25, each year one copper ring is added to their necks and some even put it on limbs too. After the ceremony was completed for the first time when the girl is 5 years old, the girl's family would invite the whole village to gather together to celebrate and hope the girl become a phoenix one day.
They can't turn over when they sleep and they can’t turn their necks for a lifetime. What kind of physical punishment they are suffering? Even worse than this is that they are refugees but not Thai citizenship, and thus they have become a tool for earning money for Thais.
What to expect?
Firstly, if you are looking for an authentic tribal experience where you will be welcomed into the local homes, learning about their culture and sharing a meal, this will not be it. However, it is still an meaningful visit.
You will see the Karen women making handiwork for sale and taking picture with visitors. However, they are living in a poor condition.
It is a commercial area, and there is a little fear in their eyes. To nicely talk to them even with language barriers and try to empathize their situations are good ways to get close to them.
What's more important to think?
You may have mixed emotions after visiting Longneck Karen Village because you may feel that the tourist industry encourages the practice of placing rings on young girls just for money instead of heritage. And that is really sad. But, if you don’t visit and purchase their goods, they have no income.
However, I think the solution is to pay a visit, purchase their goods and then seek to help with additional support through other organizations that may be able to help them. There are lots of articles and comments on the internet say the village is a Human Zoo, it just breaks my heart. I think tourists could show more respect and have more nice interactions with them. They deserve more respect and love, and, they deserve a better life.