Travelling Turtle

A Journey Among the Long Necked Women of Mae Hong Son

In the hearts of curious travellers, Asia reveals its wonders, and Thailand shines like a gem in this extraordinary region. Among the most fascinating experiences that the country has to offer, there is one stage that stands out in particular: the meeting with the Long Necked Women in the Mae Hong Son region. These women, belonging to the Kayan ethnic group, proudly wear brass rings around their necks which create a unique and surprising appearance. In the context of a tour in Thailand, this experience offers a deep immersion in local culture and traditions, revealing centuries-old stories and cultural connections. In this article, we will delve into the history, traditional clothing, customs and magic of this place, also providing useful information on how to reach the village of the Long Necked Women.

History and Cultural Identity of Giraffe Women

Originating from the mountainous regions of Myanmar (Burma), these women gracefully wear brass rings that create the illusion of an elongated neck. This tradition is passed down from generation to generation, and each added ring is a symbol of prestige and respect for the culture.

Brass rings are just part of the traditional attire of Kayan women. Their clothes, colorful and adorned with geometric patterns, enhance the beauty of a past steeped in culture and meaning. Customs, such as the practice of adding rings from a young age, are a tribute to the cultural heritage that these women carry forward with pride and love.

Custom and meaning

The brass rings around the necks of Kayan women do not actually lengthen the neck, but push the collarbones and ribs down, creating the illusion of a longer neck. The use of rings begins at the age of five and continues with the addition of additional rings as girls grow. Rings become an integral part of women’s identity, symbolizing beauty, social prestige and cultural ties.

The practice of rings is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Kayan women believe that wearing the rings makes them more attractive to evil spirits, which supposedly can enter the body through the neck. The rings serve as protection against these spirits and also symbolize women’s strength and devotion to their culture. Probably, in ancient times, these rings also had the purpose of protecting the neck from attacks by ferocious animals.

Migration from Burma to Thailand

The migration of the giraffe women tribe from Burma to Thailand was influenced by several historical, social and political factors. This migration occurred primarily due to the political instabilities and armed conflicts that plagued the region of the former Shan State, Burma, where the long necked women originally lived.

During the post-World War II period and the Burmese civil war, many minority ethnic groups, including the tribe of long necked women, suffered persecution, violence and abuse by the central government and military groups. These communities found themselves embroiled in ethnic and territorial conflicts that jeopardized their lives and security.

Due to these difficult circumstances, many families of the Giraffe Women tribe have chosen to flee Burma in search of refuge and stability. This has led many of them to seek asylum in the northern regions of Thailand, especially in Mae Hong Son province. Here, Thai authorities have allowed displaced communities to settle even though their social status is still that of nomads without citizenship.

In Thailand, long necked women have continued to preserve their cultural traditions and unique lifestyle. Despite their migration, they retained their customs, distinctive clothing and the practice of wearing brass rings.

Where is the village of long necked women located?

Long necked women’s village, also known as giraffe women’s village, is located in Mae Hong Son province in northwestern Thailand. This province is located near the border with Burma (Myanmar). The most famous and accessible village of long necked women is called “Huai Pu Keng” or “Huay Pu Keng” and is located in the mountainous region of Mae Hong Son. Here, travelers can immerse themselves in the very fabric of Kayan culture, meeting the women, listening to their stories and learning about customs passed down for centuries.

To reach the Long necked Women’s Village, you need to take a road that leads through the beautiful hills and rural landscapes of Mae Hong Son Province. The road to the village can be winding and adventurous, passing through breathtaking scenery and unspoiled natural landscapes. Visitors often immerse themselves in the pristine nature and culture of local tribes along the route.

Because the Longneck Women’s Village is located in a remote, mountainous area, access may vary depending on weather and road conditions. We recommend that you arrange your trip with a guided tour or reliable transportation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

There are also other places in Thailand where you can meet long necked women. I personally also visited the Long Neck Tribe Village in Mae Taeng District. However, it is an extremely tourist destination where you can take some photos and visit the stalls. This village is the place where organized tours generally stop but you probably don’t feel the true tribal atmosphere as it seems more like a museum prepared to welcome groups of foreign tourists.

Giraffe Woman

Responsible tourism

In recent decades, tourism has brought global attention to long necked women. However, the situation is controversial as some Kayan women live in resorts, where they are often considered attractions. This has raised concerns about the ethics of tourism and respecting their culture. It is vital that visitors engage in responsible tourism, respecting the traditions and well-being of Kayan women.

Local and international organizations are working to ensure that women can maintain their cultural identity without being exploited for tourism purposes. Through education and support, we seek to ensure that Kayan women can make informed decisions regarding their future and the preservation of their culture.

Advice for visitors

  • When visiting the village it is essential to demonstrate respect and cultural sensitivity. Always ask permission before taking photos and respect local traditions.
  • Interact with Kayan women authentically, asking them questions and listening to their stories.
  • Support ethical tourism by choosing guided tours that respect cultural values and contribute to the sustainability of local communities.

Long necked women are a fascinating and precious part of Thai and Burmese culture. Their history, customs, traditional clothing and courage in preserving their identity are a reminder of the diversity and richness of human traditions. When visiting Thailand, it is important to remember that behind the unique and fascinating appearance of Kayan women lies a rich and complex history, and that respect for their culture is essential. That’s why long necked women are an extraordinary expression of the richness of human culture, an opportunity for us to learn, respect and celebrate the diversity of the world around us.