After breakfast at the Areeya Phuree Resort, Thaton, Mai Ai, we set off for Chiang Khong….we planned to try to stop off to visit one or two Karen long Neck (Paduang) Hill Tribes along the way, as I was intrigued to learn more about my namesakes that I first encountered at Lake Inle (Myanmar), at a weaving place.
I had done a bit of research, and the information I had said that it was free to visit the village as they hoped tourists would purchase their handicrafts ……which is how they make a living, basically being illegal immigrants from Myanmar! Several things I read said it did seem a bit exploitive, but was like something out of National Geographic and tourism supported the community. When we arrived we were immediately hit up for 300THB each to go down into the village. Whilst we did not visit the actual Akha village there were many of them with stalls as we entered the Karen Long Neck Village…..mostly with wares that were mass produced and we had seen in Chiang Mai markets!
The Akha are an indigenous Hill Tribe who live in small villages in the mountains of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) and are famous for weaving and embroidery, much like the Karen People. They came from China originally in the early 20th Century but due to civil unrest in Laos and Myanmar there are now over 80,000 Akha living in Thailand in the North (Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai). The headdresses worn by the women were quite ornate and spectacular. Akha women define their age or marital status with the style of headdress worn. Girls wear a child’s cap until around 12 years old when they change to a girl’s cap. After puberty they will start to wear the “jejaw”…..a heavily beaded sash that hangs over the front of her skirt so it doesn’t fly up when windy. Around 15 or 16 they begin to wear an adult headdress. Each Headdress is unique and decorated by their owner using items such as silver coins or beads, monkey fur, dyed chicken feathers and colourful threads …..very creative!
Moving on to the Karen Village, it was not really a village at all, but a series of stalls each one housing an individual Karen Long Neck child, girl or woman…..Vince said it reminded him of the “Starting Stalls” in Kalgoorlie which he had seen on a school tour. The girls and women seemed sad and few smiled, some just sat, others weaved or wound cotton threads for weaving. I admired their weaving and complimented them own their handiwork as I spoke with them individually….one girl did eventually smile….but I was hard pressed…..not even when I bought a scarf from an older woman was there a smile! Vince and I both felt so uncomfortable that we cut the visit short and went back to the ANIMAL. Mike and Aad (Art) had abstained, they wanted to try the next village ….thinking it may be the one I had read about…..so we rode there…..Vince and I stayed with the the bikes this time and Mike went to check it out….it was even more commercialised than the previous one, so none of us went in.
Traditionally, the Karen People live in bamboo houses up on stilts, Animals such as pigs, chickens, and buffaloes live underneath.They are skilled farmers who practice crop rotation, hunt for game with spears and crossbows, and use tame elephants to help them clear land. Karen women are skilled in sewing and dyeing, Chiang Mai Karen long neck & Chiang Dao Cave Tour like to settle in foothills, and live in bamboo houses raised on stilts, beneath which live their domestic animals: pigs, chickens, and elephants.
The Paduang are a subgroup of the Karen People and sometimes Calle the Long Necks or Giraffe Tribe, other subgroups doesn’t wear the rings. It is a myth That the rings actipually elongate the wearer’s neck…..if this was true they would be paralysed or die. It is just a visual illusion. Their mythology says it prevents tigers from biting them! Some say it is to make them unattractive to slave traders, other that it is a sign of beauty to attract a husband.
We set of this morning around 9.00am and arrived at Sawadee Homestay (550 THB including breakfast) around 2.30pm. After a brisk shower (no hot water) we went for a walk looking for a suitable place to eat, or purchase items to cook. In the end we opted for cooking and poor Vince had to cook and clean up due to my broken arm…..I did what little I safely could, handing him things etc….but the Dragonfly can be a bit dangerous with its open naked flame so he was pretty much left too it! It makes me feel useless….I always like to pull my own weight so my broken arm is quite burdensome. After dinner we caught up on chores ( downloading photos, video, answering emails, blogging etc).
Tomorrow is a big day for us….we intend to cross the border into Laos….Vince loved it when he was there last time and is excited to share the places with me now……we can’t wait! Laos….we’re coming for you!!!!