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Thu 30 Mar 2017
The Long-necked Hilltribe
Written by Gor   
Tuesday, 21 May 2002 00:00

Have you ever been in a car for a long time when you have gone somewhere far? I am sure most people have and I don’t think anyone likes it. For me, I don‘t just dislike it, I would say that I "hate" it. But now, after I went on a trip from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand, I would say that I prefer being in a car all day on a straight road than being in a car for five or six hours on a windy road.

We set off from the guesthouse in Chiang Mai early, hoping to get to Mae Hong Son before lunchtime. I wanted to be able to take a break before taking pictures for my web site (www.thaistudents.com/guidebook). It was only 300 kilometres from Chiang Mai so we thought it wouldn’t take long to get there — but we were wrong. We forgot that we were in the north and that there are lots of mountains. The road to Mae Hong Son is very windy and hilly. In fact, there are 1,894 bends in the road. So, we couldn’t drive fast. However, along the way the views were very beautiful and we stopped many times to take pictures. By the time we reached Mae Hong Son the sun was about to set.

Early the next morning we went to visit the Karen hilltribe people in Nai Soi village. It wasn’t very easy to get there and we had to stop and ask directions many times. When we arrived there, Richard went to pay the fee by the entrance. I couldn’t believe it cost 250 baht for foreigners but was FREE for Thai people. Why did they do that? Can’t it be the same or a little different? Even though tourists don’t pay tax I still think that it shouldn’t be this expensive. I felt sorry for Richard as he is a teacher and pays the same taxes as other teachers at my school. He told me not to complain as he knew that at least some of the money went to the hilltribe people.

We went in and walked around. While I was looking at the souvenirs, a long necked girl came out and showed me more souvenirs. She was cute with beautiful, long black hair. She looked about my age and could easily have been a student at my school if she didn’t have the ring on her neck. I bought some postcards there and then asked her some questions about the ring. She told me it is one long ring like a spring and it is made from brass. Hers weighs about five kilograms and some people she knows had brass rings weighing as much as twenty kilograms!!! I asked her if her neck really got longer and she said that the ring pushes her collarbone down which makes it look longer. God!!! It would hurt for sure. I could see that she was making every movement very slowly.

I had been really excited about going to see a real famous long necked hilltribe for a long time. But after I had walked around for a while, I started to have second thoughts. How would I feel if some people walked down my road to take pictures of my mum doing the washing or me cleaning my motorcycle? They are human too, not some animals in the zoo. I did hear that a few years ago they had stopped wearing the rings around their necks but they started to wear them again because they realized that they could get money from tourists. I read somewhere that in the past they wore the ring on their necks to protect them from tigers but now they wear them to attract tourists.

I know they were inviting us into the village but should we really go? Are we really doing them a favour? Somehow, I don’t think I will be returning.