During our stay in Chiang Mai we took the opportunity to take a tour out into the surrounding area and view a number of the Hill Tribes that still live in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
First stop on the trip was a rather uninspiring Orchid farm where they cross-pollinated and grew large quantities of Orchids. After a quick blast through the farm we were on our way to visit the fist of the hill tribes. We were informed by our tour guide that this tribe is responsible for crafting the infamous croaking frog that plagues many parts of Thailand. Sure enough, as so0n as we stepped off the bus we were immediately greeted by about 15 tribes-women running down the hill trying to sell us their handy-craft and croaking frogs (anyone that’s been to Bangkok will recognise these women immediately). After fighting our way through the craft-mob we were then shown around the village by our guide. The guide explained that the reason there were only women and kids in the village was because the men were all out working in the surrounding areas. The women were left to look after the kids and make handy-crafts that they could sell to the tourists.
The next couple of stops included a trip to see another hill tribe and then to a cave system that was used in the past as a shortcut for the hill tribes to enter Thailand and escape the fighting in Burma. These were all reasonably interesting but they felt like filler stops before the main stop…the Long Neck Tribe (Kayan tribe).
There is a strong possibility that you have seen or read about the Long Next Tribe at some point and it was something I was fascinated in seeing for myself in upon finding out that you could visit the tribe in Northern Thailand. The name basically says it all, its a tribe in which many of the women wear many coils of brass around their neck with sole purpose of making their neck look longer. The a small amount of coils are added when the girls are 4 or 5 and more coils are added as they grow older. Upon first entering the camp it felt a bit strange as there were a large number of tourist strolling around the village taking pictures. The tour guide explained that the tribe invite tourism to the camp as it gives them an extra form of income through the sales of their souvenirs and crafts.
It was fasinating seeing all the women with the brass coils around their neck seemingly going about their everyday lives, making craft and cooling meals. Some of the women had many coils and super long neck, others opted to stop adding any more coils once they married. I couldn’t help but think that the coils were extremely restrictive to their movements as many of them looked a little uncomfortable.