The longneck village wasn’t more than a sad tourist trap. Five different tribal communities were all placed in the same area north of Chiang Mai. A few new friends and I rented motorbikes for the day and stumbled upon the camp-like setting on accident. I was the only one who went in, paying close to $20 to see the tribe that I had first been introduced to in a National Geographic article as a young girl.
The beetle nut stained the woman’s
Mouth in a way I had not seen before,
Coating just the teeth dark black,
With hardly any redness on the gums.
As I made my way deeper in from the parking lot I soon came upon the first small hut where a young girl of two or three, already her neck encircled by golden bands, sat swinging her baby sister in a miniature hammock. Along the dirt path many open air palm and bamboo huts stood side by side. Hanging from each palm-frond roof were the same wall hangings and scarves, varying only in color. On each bamboo floor a young girl sat, ranging in age from eight to twenty one, each situated with a loom pulled down onto their lap, gold rings wound round their necks and/or earlobes stretched wide. The girls were all shy, knew only a little English and not a smile to be seen apart from the face of a young mother with her son. No young men wandered the village and no elderly. A few of the girls had cell phones but the place felt like a ghost town.
The longneck people are originally from Burma and I wonder what has drawn them here [Chiang Mai and Thailand]…tourism (or the prospect of?), unrest in Burma? No one looks happy, a sadness hangs over the village and I wonder if the people are ever allowed to leave…