So let’s talk about Thailand. It’s pretty rad, there’s no doubting that. I told you about my experience with the Ping-Pongs in Bangkok so now let’s focus on something equally as enthralling and exotic but less, well, naughty.
Outside of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand resides a long neck village. In case that’s not clear, that’s a village where women stretch their necks to disturbing proportions. The Karen Hill tribes that live here are originally from Myanmar (Burma) and they immigrated through the boundary of Chiang Rai to live in the Chiang Mai area for agricultural work, holding alien labor cards.
I made it to the village after visiting an elephant camp and it really was awe-inspiring. There’s just a little road with huts that line the street. Women sit out front and work on their weaving looms making beautiful scarves, hand bags and other colorful objects that I would assume they send into the cities to be sold at markets.
These women start stretching their necks at a very early age and rarely take off the gold bar that is so delicately wrapped around their necks. When they feel they’re ready, they add more metal to stretch their necks longer. So, you might be wondering if this is a religious tactic. Nope. There was a Christian chapel at the end of the road (assuming that this tribe was converted during colonization). Is it a traditional cultural element that has transitioned to a spectacle for the tourists? Perhaps. It was relatively expensive to visit this village (in Thai baht terms) so it may be something they continue to do as a source of income. But stretching a part of your body to earn money?! I suppose worse has happened.
Regardless, aside from the spectacle of white people entering the village and glancing around nervously, it seemed to be a normal mountain village. Children played with a homemade jump rope. A woman nursed her new born. Women worked. And I learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.