LONG NECK VILLAGE
Visiting a one of the numerous Karen Long Neck villages in Thailand is one of the most exotic experiences on the planet. The mystery and beauty that sound the tradition of using brass rings for exaggerated jewelry is something better seen in person than in a book. We had ethical questions on if it these hill tribe villages would feel like human zoos, but thankfully we decided to visit anyway. It is a real life National Geographic Magazine to have to see to believe.
Who Are The Karen People?
The Karen are a tribal group who have historically lived in the hills on the Myanmar (formerly Burma) side of the Thai border. Best recognized for their elongated necks, the Karen women wear heavy brass rings around their necks, forearms, and shins. While the Karen men are mainly field workers and farmers, the women have a rich history of crafting from wood carving to weaving. Overall the Long Tribes live a rugged, tedious, and simple lifestyle, but the fruits of their labor are colorful and very lively.
There are still around 40,000 Karen members today, but thousands have had to flee Burma over the decades due to political unrest. Fleeing to Thailand was a very safe choice for many, but the ones that came are largely illegal immigrants and do not have options for gaining Thai citizenship. While things are much better for the Karen that have fled from Burma, the lack of opportunity for the Long Necks has confined the groups to small pockets separate from most of modern Thailand.