Karen Hill Tribe
Visiting one of the numerous Karen Long Neck Villages (Karen’s Tribe) in Thailand is one of the most exotic experiences on the planet. The beauty and mystery that sound the tradition of using those brass rings for exaggerated jewelry is something better seen in real person than in a book. A typically ethical question has been asked. “Would these hill tribe villages feel like human zoos?”
The Karen are considered as a tribal group of people who have historically lived in the hills in Myanmar (formerly Burma) – a side of the Thai border. After having acknowledged elongated necks, the Karen women tend to wear heavy brass rings around their forearms, necks and shins. The women have a rich history of crafting from wood carving to weaving while the Karen men are mainly field workers and farmers. Overall the Long Neck Tribes live a tedious, rugged and simple lifestyle, but the fruits of their labor are very fresh and colorful.
Karen long neck children
Nowadays, there are still around 40,000 Karen members but thousands of them have had to flee Burma over the decades because of political unrest. Immigrating to Thailand was a rather safe choice for many. However, the ones that came are largely illegal immigrants and do not have options for gaining Thai citizenship. Up to now, the groups to small pockets separate from most of modern Thailand still lack of opportunity for the Long Necks.
Hopefully, these people have been able to keep their traditions alive but it is a struggle to balance the new world with the old. Whether you are visiting the Karen Long Necks or other Hill Tribes, there is an ethical part is bound to come up. When we first arrived this village, each woman was stationed by her own hut ferociously. She is working on knitting looms and it initially felt a little bit like a staged atmosphere. Things changed quickly so people is suggested to set their cameras down and started directly interacting with the Karen women. It was amazing how quickly it transformed from feeling like we were gawking to actually being able to connect with the locals. When we later found out an interesting fact that most tourists just snap some photos, buy a couple of things and leave. In conclusion, it will be only seemed a human zoo if you make it feel like one. Talk to the women and ask about the goods they are selling, because the second that you can overcome gawker mode you will start to feel really happy you made the visit.
Karen hill tribe women
If you are in Chiang Mai, it is undeniable that the Baan Tong Luang Village is the easiest place to visit and features a 5 Hill Tribe exhibition village. The exhibition village is not as authentic as the more rural stand - alone villages but it will give you a great opportunity to learn about the different Tribes. Excitingly, you can get there by taxi. Three of the most interesting Tribes to visit here are the Hmong (Meo), Big Earring (Akha) and the Karen Long Necks (Paduang). You will be able to take photos with the women and then buy unique souvenirs from them.
Take photo with Karen Hill Tribe women
While the basic exhibition village near Chiang Mai can be reached by taxi, you will need to join an organized tour to visit the other Karen Long Neck villages in Northern Thailand. Many of the large permanent villages are really far off the beaten tourist track. Moreover, the smaller satellite villages can move from time to time so you will want a local guide that can get you to the correct place. Normally, a good guide will not only know where to find the Karen, but will have preferred visit times to get you in with fewer tourists, and give a portion of their profits directly to the village if you pay an admission fee. The tour guide that most of the visitors recommend is Chiang Mai Travel Hub because they were pretty good although they try to cram too many things into each day trip.
A tourist tries long neck experience
It is suggested that traveler should have their own private tour and do not let them talk you out of skipping any parts of the tour for more time at another stop, instead, try to see everything by yourself. The private tour will free up 30 - 60 minutes of time compared to the public group tour as you will not be waiting on strangers and will have plenty of time to see everything.
If you really want to feel truly comfortable with visiting the Karen Long Necks, an hour of walking through the village will not cut it and you really should consider staying overnight. The ultimate experience is to book with a company that allows you stay overnight in an authentic village instead of just stopping by the staged marketplace village.
Karen Hill Tribe Map
Questions & Answers (2)
Since Baan Tong Luang is closed where do you go to see Karen Tribe? Is it still near Chiang Mai? We are staying in Chiang Mai and do not want to travel for many hours.
I want details for long neck village tour