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Chiang Mai Thailand - Karen Long Neck Tribe, Temples, and more


Chiang Mai,Thailand

May 2014


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These photos were taken at Baan Tong Luang, an eco-agricultural hill tribe village that opened in 2005.  Established by the Thai government, this village was created to help educate tourists, to help preserve the traditional ways of the people, and to provide an income for these groups.  It is more than just an attraction as people actually live and work here (farming is thier main staple).  There is even a school and a church.



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"Hill tribe" is used to describe a group of people, usually closely related and typically migrants of another country, that live in the hills or mountains.  There have been hill tribe people living in the northern border of Thailand for two hundred years with their origins going back two thousand years to Tibet.

The five main hill tribes in Thailand are: Karen, Akha, Lisu, Hmong, Lahu.  Each tribe is divided into clans or sub-groups, which have their own distinct customs, rituals, clothing and languages.



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We were a bit hesitant to visit the village, as it seemed contrived, but we actually had a lovely visit and were glad we did.  We arrived early in the morning with no other visitors for nearly an hour.  Most of residents were very open to us photographing them, never asking for money. 



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The Karen Tribe


In Thailand, the Karen are the largest "hill tribe" group with over 400 thousand.  The Padaung are a sub-group of the Karen tribe.  It is traditional for Padaung women to wear brass rings around their necks, starting when they are around five years old and adding to them each year placing up to twenty or more rings around their neck.  They are often referred to as the longneck women.



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This one was just so sassy, yet adorable -  I could have taken her home!  She was not making the face to be nasty - she was just being silly.



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A beautiful little girl.




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And her mom - happy and open to us photographing her and her children.  I purchased an elephant necklace from her.




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I purchased the scarf the woman is holding below.  She said it takes her three days to make one.  I love the colors in the scarf.  I paid around $7 USD - I did not negotiate like I normally do.  Actually seeing her make the scarf gave me a different perspective and respect.



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Her husband, preparing her yarn.



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Their daughter - isn't she pretty?



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She decided D needed a bracelet.  I did not think he did - I bought scarves instead :  )



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 The Akha Tribe


The Akha are from the mountains of Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Yunnan Province in China.  Civil war in Burma and Laos resulted in an increased flow of Akha immigrants into Thailand and there are now 80,000 living in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai (where we were).



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They were selling hats from their tribe.



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This woman is designing batik fabric - which she dyes at her home using natural plant extracts.  I bought the table runner she made, shown below. 



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 The Lahu Shi Bala Tribe



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In the Lahu Shi Bala tribe, women insert big metal earrings into their earlobes.  If you notice, neither the daughter (in the photo above) or the granddaughter (photo below with the cat) carried on this tradition.



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So many beautiful little girls.



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 I love the colorful costumes they wear.



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Anohter grandmother in the tribe.



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The Kayaw Tribe


The Kayaw are another subgroup of the Karen tribe. Like the long-necked Padaung subgroup, their legs are encircled with brass rings. However, their necks are adorned with loose necklaces instead of rings.






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Some additonal photos we took of the girls/ladies in the tribes.



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And the boys - they do not have work - they get to play.  Some things are the same no matter what culture!



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As I mentioned earlier, these tribes actually live here so they go about their daily routines like doing the laundry.



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Chiang Mai, over 700 years old, has many beautiful ancient temples.  The temples display a mixture of architectural styles that reflect a mix of Cambodian, Burmese, and Indian culture and style.


Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai.  The construction of the temple started in the 14th century but was not finished until the mid-15th century.  In 1545, Chiang Mai suffered a series of severe earthquakes and the top of the temple was badly damaged.




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Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

The temple was founded in 1383 when the first chedi (stupa) was built.  Legends says, that the buiding site was selected by sending an elephant to roam the mountainside.  When the elephant reached this spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, and knelt down indicating this was an auspicious site.




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Temple collage



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Chiang Mai has many monks living and working throughout the various temples.  Most Thai males serve as monks, even if it’s just for three months. Poorer families send their sons to the monastery at a young age for training, as it may be their only opportunity for an education.



Young monks




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Love this donation box - care to give to the oldsters?



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There was a festival taking place at one of the temples we visited.  I asked this young girl's mother if I could take her photo....



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And the mother asked to take one of me with her - sweet.



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Our Hotel

The shared area of our hotel was like a museum - absolutely stunning!





Hotel halls


the pool...



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A lovely breakfast on the porch including a perfectly set table with white linen and blue china. 






And the pool at night - so peaceful.



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Just for fun!



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Shopping - always fun... well, for one of us!






Safety first!  This may have been one of the youngest babies I have ever seen on the front of a motorcycle.  Usually they are held by mom in the back.



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We flew on a new airline (new to us) Nok Air, which translates to Bird Air.  I thought the plane was so fun.



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While we were there - Thailand was in the middle of a coop d'etat.  This is the first time we have been in a country during a coop.  All TV channels were taken off the air and this sign below was on the screen.  We did see military, but the environment was peaceful.  Unfortunately the weekend night market that Chiang Mai is known for was closed due to the coop.



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Chiang Mai is a great getaway for a long weekend... if you live in Asia that is!





Shane Hayes - Expat in China & World Traveler

Beautiful Photo's, been there also and am curious did they also ask for money or did you avoid the scams?


You have talked about the neck rigs before and how they actually push down the collarbone. What is the idea with the legs rings? I have never seen or heard of those.


Such beautiful women and children! You are so very good at capturing the essence of people ~


AMAZING photos and stories. I just love your posts & appreciate the time and care that goes into them. Thank you so much!

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