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Kayan Tribe: The Unique Long Neck People Of Thailand

Padong tribe woman | Photo: Everystockphoto_Dave B

As spherical as the earth is and seemingly small when looked at from another planet (if ever you have been on one), it has an abundance of tribes and traditions.

Some of which may remain unknown or unheard of till the end of the human race. One of such tribes is the Kayan of Northern Thailand.

Significantly known for their long necks, the Kayan tribes (also popularly called Padaung) are a part of the Kayan Lahwi tribe in Thailand; some people believe they are called “Karen long neck village Chiang Mai”.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Myanmar, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area. Among the several refugee camps set up, there was a Long Neck section, which over the years became a tourist site.


Women of the Kayan tribes identify themselves by their forms of dress as well as wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Young girls begin to wear rings when they are around 5 years old. Over the years, the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added.

The weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle.

Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested that the rings protected women from becoming slaves; making them less attractive to other tribes or that the coils give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore.

However, the practice is so popular it draws tourists who bring revenue to the tribe and to the local businessmen who run the villages.


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