Kayan people , or long neck, are supposed to wear the brass wound
spiral for 1000 years.
A full set of neck rings weighs about 8-10 kilos and is made from 3 separate coils, the main neck coil and a wider coil near the shoulders with a small coil wrapped around it . I saw few women wearing the full set, apart very old ones.Brass coils are also worn around the legs; under the knees. Despite what you may think, the neck is not stretched by the rings. The rings push down on the muscles around the collarbone, giving the impression of a longer neck.
Girls from the age of 5 can wear the rings; some decide to put the rings on later and some who wear the rings later remove them. All the girls i met had the rings, apart one who just had a baby.
I had read so negative things about the Long Neck places in Thailand that i thought i was going to enter a kind of zoo. I've been in 3 villages, 2 are in fact shopping alleys where burma refugees long neck (Kayan) sell souvenirs and clothes to tourists.
The good thing is that many teenagers speak english as they learn it in their local school.
All told me that the famous necklace ring was not an obligation from the parents, they wear it as they feel more beautiful with it. As you 'll see later, many kids and teens wear "modern" clothes but keep the rings.
All those people are karen refugees from Myanmar and live in villages or in refugees camps.
Many prefer to live in "tourists" vlllages as they earn more money than in camps, even if they must pay the rent to the land owner and taxers to Thai gov.
© Eric Lafforgue