Located only five minutes away from the Sib-San Resort is a place deeply rooted in ancient customs and traditions. This unique destination is known as the Seven Tribes Village of Chiang Mai. This village is home to the seven colorful ethnic minorities commonly referred to as “hill tribes”. These tribes are broken down into seven major groups: Lahu, Lisu, Hmong, Akha, Mien, Padaung, and the most famous of all, the Karen “longneck” tribe.
The Karen tribe originates from high in the hills of Burma. Many members of the tribe fled Burma due to political unrest and settled in the hills of Northern Thailand. The tribe in the village is mostly made up of women, as the men are working in the fields as farmers.
Dubbed the “giraffe women” by a famous Polish explorer, members of this tribe are known for their long, elongated necks. It is this feature that makes the one of the most popular hill tribes in all of SE Asia.
The women’s necks are “elongated” by the use of large, spiral brass neck rings that weigh around 10 lbs. The rings are one long brass tube that is wrapped snuggly around their neck. Some of the women also wear up to thirty pounds of addition brass around their arms and legs.
Legend states that the brass rings were first worn around the necks of the tribe members in order to protect them from tiger bites, but in modern times, the rings are used to distinguish their cultural identity.
These rings are worn almost all of the time except when a new ring is added or during a cleaning. After the brass rings are worn for many years at a time, the women’s neck muscles become too weak to support the weight of their own head and the rings are used as vital support.
There are several myths surrounding the elongated necks of the tribe. In fact, their necks, despite wearing the large brass rings, are not elongated at all. It is simply an optical illusion since the rings actually press down on the collar bone and ribs, making the neck appear longer.
The village itself is over 20 years old and there are around 200 villagers living on the hill. Due to the great crafting skills of the local hill tribes, visitors can get authentic hand-woven scarves, handmade jewelry, and plenty of other amazing trinkets that are perfect souvenirs to take back home at very reasonable prices.
The local tribes only speak in their local dialects, but they are extremely friendly and always come with a big smile on their faces. Language never becomes a problem because the women punch the price of the chosen item into a calculator, making the transactions very easy to process.
Taking a trip to the Seven tribes Village is a remarkable experience. Visitor get a beautiful glimpse into the life of an authentic hill tribe, and also gather a greater understanding of how their traditions still play an intricate role in their lives today.