My sister-in-law and I went on an epic day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle – right up in the top corner of Thailand near the border with Burma and Laos. It was an extremely packed day and we did a lot – but it was a fantastic trip!
We started off pretty early…
Sunrise over the gate in Chiang Mai
We stopped off at some other hot springs, but it was pretty busy!
Then we arrived at Chiang Rai and the White Temple
The entrance was a bit scary and creepy!
This roof was made entirely of prayers…
Then we went on to the Golden Triangle – a place where the river joins up Laos, Thailand and Burma, and so called because it’s where people would swap opium for gold (weight for weight) out in the waters of no-man’s land.
Instead of the boat tour we had a fascinating time at the House of Opium Museum
The view across the river to Laos
Then on to the Burmese border
And even more incredible markets! If my bags weren’t already maxed out, I literally would have bought everything…
Onwards to the Karen Long-Neck village
In addition to the long-necks, there were several other tribes who lived in the area – many of them originally from Mongolia or Tibet, and their traditional costumes reflect their heritage
The Karen long neck tribe are originally from Burma, but are now refugees who have settled in Thailand. In the past, men, women, and children would all wear wooden or bamboo protectors around their necks, to protect them from tiger attacks. Big cats always go for the jugular in the first pounce, so if you can survive the first attack, then your hunting group might have time to kill or chase away the tiger.
Once metal was discovered, they thought it would be even better protection than wood, but the men found it too restrictive for hunting, as it was difficult to run and move quickly, so they continued to wear wooden ones and the women wore metal ones to protect them in the village.
Later, once the threat of tigers was no longer an issue, the men stopped wearing them, but it had become a form of fashion or decoration for the women so they continued to wear them.
The rings are made from one continuous piece of brass, which is wound around the neck in coils by an expert (there are very few people left in the world who have the skills to do this). Wearing the rings is optional nowadays, but many women still do, either for fashion or cultural heritage, as well as to attract tourists I suspect. But not all the women in the village wear them. If you choose to wear them, they start at 5, and have them removed and replaced with new ones every few years as you grow. For the older women who have worn them their whole lives, it can be difficult to have them removed, as the neck muscles have grown too weak to hold up their head anymore, and they would need to lie down a lot until their neck muscles regain strength.
Phew! Heading home at sunset after a seriously long day!