Our group of 10-tourists from Australia, Japan, China, New Zealand and the Philippines (who’s currently based in Malaysia) learned that these coils were traditionally worn only by Padaung women as young as 5 or 6 years old. The long coils on the neck are an alloy of brass, silver and gold. It was noted that Kayan tribe women wear them not only to symbolize beauty like that of dragons and swans but as a protective measures from tigers, which are known to attack their preys on the neck.
I had no idea about the National Geographic’s feature on these Kayan-Padaung women. I only read about it on the comment-thread of my facebook friends under the photo I posted on fb. It was the team of NatGeo who subjected one of the Padaung women to cervical X-ray to medically determine if the neck bones were really stretched. Roentgenographic report showed that the seven vertebral bones on the neck remained the same in size, although the intervertebral disks absorbed additional fluid, it is their clavicles or collar bones that were compressed, lowered and collapsed by years of wearing those metallic neck rings, creating an illusion that the neck is elongated.
I don’t know about you but after spending almost an hour with them, these women earned my respect for they continue to practice their customs and traditions amidst the digital age and beyond being refugees to Thailand from Burma now called, Myanmar. It’s simply depressing that despite Thailand’s Tourism boosts with the visits of the tourists to see them, the Padaung women with their families still remain aliens with no papers in Thailand. And because of this, they’re not allowed (as of this blogging) to go down the city and sell their commodities.
By Padaung women’s tradition, girls born on a Wednesday of a full moon are required to wear the metal coils on their necks.
I found out by talking to them that these two are sisters but it saddened me to know that the elder sister stopped schooling to give way for the young one. Something that’s very common too in some Filipino rural settings.
I bought fridge magnets from them; they didn’t only smile but said, “Thank you!” which I appreciated because simple gratitude is a rarity nowadays.
The village also houses other tribes. This lady belongs to the so-called Akha. These women originally came from Yunnan province of China, Laos, and Myanmar who also migrated to Northen parts of Thailand -Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Their spectacular and elaborate headdresses made them pretty remarkable than the other hill tribes plus the fact that unlike the Kayan Long Neck Women, Akha people were granted legal papers to Thailand so they’re all free to roam around the city and sell their stuffs at night markets and everywhere without restrictions.
A refugee from China…
Of all the hill tribe women I met in that village, this particular one who chews betel nut, which probably unknown to her and her tribe, is carcinogenic or cancer-causing (Nasopharyngeal Cancer), greeted us in a very light and cheerful mood. Despite living the simplest life of no-gadgets and free from expensive possessions, she remain happy and carefree. Something I am reminded of. Something we all need to reflect on.
Joy in simple things. Contentment sans modern lifestyle.
From these young lady, I bought Gabby’s souvenir vibrant tribal hat, which my son wore in welcoming New Year at home.
Meeting these women even only for brief chat and photo-ops reminded me of some of the most important things in life.
People with strong principles can really stand on their personal beliefs, can fight for their own traditions and can go against the dictate of others.
It was an unforgettable opportunity for me to briefly interact with these women in Chiang Mai. I considered myself blessed as I met, talked and sat beside one of the most beautiful dragons in the world.
- Padaung / Long Neck Women & Other Hill Tribes in Thailand
- Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple
- Elephant Show, Elephant Ride, Ox-Cart Ride, Bamboo Raft Ride, Orchid Farm
- Chiang Mai Zoo : Pandas, Koalas And More!
- Beyond Boundaries : Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok-Chiang Mai
- Anusarn Market, Tha Phae Gate Night Market and lots of Thai Food!