During my most recent visit to Thailand, I managed to head North, and visit a tribe that I first read about a few years ago and have wanted to visit ever since. I was in Chiang Mai, and had the chance visit the tribe, which were based near Chiang Rai, near the border of Laos and Myanmar (Burma), around a 2 hour drive from Chiang Mai. Here are some images from the day that I captured.
We had to pay 300 baht (around £7) to get into the village and meet the tribe. Some may argue it’s wrong to pay to visit them and unethical, as they aren’t an attraction, they’re people. But this is how they make their money, and once visiting the village, you’ll see how basic their living is and how much your money is helping them. As much as I agree they’re people, once visiting and talking to the tribe, it’s easy to see how grateful they are for tourism, and how much they like to learn about your culture too.
It was all women and young children at the tribe, no men or young boys were to be seen. They were based near the hills, and there were lots of farming land around the village, so the men and young boys would have all been out farming, earning and getting food for their family.
Around the village, they were selling hand made gifts, and one of the things were scarfs. They were some of the most beautiful delicate scarfs I had ever seen and as we were walking around the village, you could see some of the women weaving and making some more.
The tribe originated from Myanmar on the hills of the Thai Border, but some fled to Thailand as refugees, after political unrest in their country. Many don’t have a Thai citizenship or will ever be able to. The women only, wear heavy brass rings around their necks, forearms and shins. They handed us some brass rings, as an example of what you would wear on your neck. I could hardly pick it up, never mind walk around wearing it on my neck all day!
There’s no specific reason why the tribe wear the brass rings, other than tradition. Women start to wear the rings from early childhood, around the age of four or five. They add more rings, annually, once they are acclimate to the increased weight.
Despite popular belief, the rings don’t actually stretch the neck. It just pushes down on the shoulder blades, making the neck appear longer.
Some people may be against visiting the tribes, calling them a “human zoo.” Personally, I felt comfortable as none of the people felt forced or “performing.” They were all sat, working, or talking to tourists, learning about their culture. My advice is if you want to visit the tribe, do some research first, learn about them, and make the decision yourself. Go with a reputable company, or a private tour guide.
All photos taken by myself and are copyrighted, and must not be used without my permission.