You may have heard about the women of the Long Neck Tribe in Thailand that wear brass rings to elongate their neck, but do you know the fascinating background behind why they do it? The Kayan women (also known as giraffe women) wear these brass coil neck rings to form their own individual identity and beauty. Girls start wearing these rings around the age of 5 and as the years go on, more rings are added onto the neck. It appears that the neck elongates, but the weight of the brass rings actually pushes the collar bone down so the neck length is actually the same. I am not surprised, as these coils can weigh up to 25 pounds!
The Kayan people set up refugee camps in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to a conflict with the military regime in Burma. These refugee camps in the Northern part of Thailand and Chiang Mai eventually became a popular tourist site. They are self-sufficient on the revenue that they get from tourists by selling hand-made scarves, clothes and other hand-crafted souvenirs. Almost everything takes days to make, as they do not use electricity or any other machines to make the products so the items are as authentic as possible.
During my visit, everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. The women and children posed for photos and interacted with you, they even let you try on their neck rings. It was so heavy, I really don’t know how they do it!
I fell in love with the beautiful garments and ended up buying a bunch of scarves, I couldn’t resist! Purchasing something during your visit helps them immensely since it is their only income. Plus, if you are looking for a cheap, authentic Thailand souvenir, you can’t really beat a hand-made scarf from the Long Neck Tribe. I suggest you take the time to learn about the culture and people, instead of just snapping photos and leaving, it truly adds to the experience.