A brotherhood of man
Longneck Karen belong to one of two Karenni subgroups, the Kayan or the Kayaw. They are also called Pa Dong, and are refugees who have been living in Thailand since 1985 due to political problems in their country, Myanmar.
They refer to themselves as Kayan, which means they wear brass rings. Kayan is a subgroup of the 10 Karen people group. They were moved to Baan Huai Pu Kaeng at the first village and then split up and moved to another two villages for population reasons.
One group moved to the biggest refugee camp at Baan Nai Soi and is living with other refugees from the same tribe, and another group moved to a new location for tourists that can be reached by road at Baan Huai Seau Tao.
1. Baan Huai Pu Kaeng
It is located near the Thai-Myanmar border on the river bank of the Pai River. So, we will visit them by a long-tail boat trip from Baan Huai Dua Tourist Port [Map: https://goo.gl/maps/rATCoTFUrJEsj7ab6] where the boat landing is and also provide the boat ride along the beautiful Pai River. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the village and another 40 minutes to return to the boat station.
You will have free time to visit this village for about an hour or more. Experiencing the charm and friendliness of an exotic tribe. Visit a village school and contribute some gifts to the children. Go to see their church and live their lifestyle.
You may also visit another bordering small village at Ban Nam Piang Din. Simply take a 20-minute boat ride and pay an additional fee of 200 THB.
Huai Dua Boat Service
- Boat hour service: 8.00 am–3.00 pm daily
- Boat Capacity: Max 8 people for Asia size or 6 people for EU size.
- Cost: 600 THB to Baan Huai Pu Kaeng and return
- Extra charge: 200 THB to Baan Nam Piang Din and return
NOTE: Rates are subject to change at any time and without notice. We will keep you up to date if it’s available.
2. Baan Huai Seau Tao
This village is for those who would like to spend a shorter time traveling to visit Longneck Karen. Baan Huai Seau Tao is the nearest one to town, and it is a good choice.
It is about 12 kilometers from the town center. You will cross several streams along the local road.
NOTES: There is a stream that runs across the road; you will cross the stream 12 times on a concrete overflow weir. But it’s not far, just a 20-minute drive from town.
This village was made for the convenience of budget-friendly Thai tourists coming by van to promote tourism. On the way, there is also an elephant riding activity. [Currently, all elephants have moved to Chiang Mai.]
Many people may see it as a human zoo. It depends on who has any ideas. Everyone is doing it for life and to survive. Open your mind and let’s go sightseeing, and perhaps you’ll be able to inspire them.
My friend is a trekking tour guide, and she frequently starts and ends her treks here. Please contact us for more information on a one-day trekking program with her.
3. Baan Nai Soi
One of three villages located outside of town that can only be reached by truck 4wd. It was Mae Hong Son’s largest longneck karen village, with beautiful scenery from local communities along the road to Baan Nai Soi. Especially in the rainy season when locals are planting rice in the terrace rice fields.
But we’re not recommended to go because the journey is not convenient. The last 2 kilometers are on a gravel road that has been damaged and has not been maintained. You also have to drive across the creek.
You definitely cannot go by yourself. And because this route is time consuming and expensive, only a few travel agencies offer it.
This village can connect to a large refugee camp on the border. I have worked with the UNHCR before and they do not allow you to enter without permission from the Thai government.
Most of the long-necked Karen in this village received asylum and relocated to a third country. As a result, only two villages, as mentioned above, continue to live voluntarily.
Where Longneck Karen Tribe were they from
Originally, they were farmers in Burma. They had their own homes, villages, and farms, and they lived in peace. They live in the deep jungle where nobody knows the location.
The long-necked Karen are a sub-tribe of the Karen species in Burma. It has its own spoken and written language and is similar.
Women will begin wearing hoops at the age of 5, starting with 2.5 kilograms and increasing every 5 years until the age of 45, when they will stop increasing the number.
There are 2 sets of brass rings. The first 5 rings are on the bottom, and the second is about 20–22 rings around the neck. The brass rings total on her body weighed 15 kg, about 6000 THB per head.
When she died will bury her body in the ground with a loop of her neck because it is considered a private property.
Are Longneck Karen their necks really long?
Let’s look for the answers and talk about why they did it. If you travel on your own and are interested in seeing them, please pay an entrance fee of 250 THB per person at the tourist service center. This fee supports their daily needs.
You can read her biography early. Get it from wikipedia here.
Tips to support their lives
The people are used to visitors and are happy to pose for photos, but please ask if it is allowed first. It would be good to purchase from their shop in return.
They are often happy to speak to a few visitors to the best of their ability. Please use discretion when it comes to asking personal questions.
- Traveling by boat to Baan Huai Pu Kaeng is a good idea. You will appreciate spending time along the Pai River.
- If you’re driving a car to Mae Hong Son on your own and your schedule is too tight, go to Baan Huai Seau Tao and travel by road.