I’ve seen pictures of the ladies of the Karen Long Neck village since I was young. I’ve always been so curious about the necklaces they wear around their necks. There were so many questions that would pop up. Are they uncomfortable? Do they actually hold up their heads? Why do they do this?
The Karen Long Neck people are so beautiful and vibrant. It turns out that their necks are not in fact elongated, but instead the gold necklaces lower their shoulders creating an optical illusion. When they do take off the necklaces, if they do, their necks are normal length and, yes, can still hold up the weight of their heads, contrary to popular myths.
A visit to their village is a bit touristy, yes, but I’m glad that I did get to see their culture in person. They are amazing artisans and sell their woven scarfs, jewelry and other goods to tourists. I really only think it will feel like these women are an exhibit if you make it feel like that. If you interact with them, they are all full of such life. I will never forget one of the little girls I met. She had the most beautiful smile and laugh (see picture right below). So, put the camera down (for a little) and get to know them, buy some of their goods to support them and soak in their culture.
You can even try on their traditional brass necklace. I gained so much respect for these women for their commitment to their heritage after trying on their necklaces. Granted, they are cut in half for tourists so that it only appears you’re wearing them but don’t actually wrap all the way around your neck. They are surprisingly pretty heavy. Imagine a cold, metal neck brace. Although, I said that it was cold and the woman let me feel hers. It was warm!
I feel like by visiting the Karen Long Neck village, I was able to step into a bit of a time warp. A village preserving ancient traditions and a culture that might have been swept up in the chaos of the world if it wasn’t for them. So, while it may seem a little gimmicky, remember these women have committed their life to wearing heavy metal necklaces around their necks because that is what they believe in and how much respect that deserves. I really enjoyed my visit and I hope you can, too.
Yours Truly // Shannon