Karen Long Neck Hill Tribes around Chiang Mai

One of the largest hill tribes living in Thailand

Ancient drawing of the Paduang tribe

Mostly situated near the Thailand/Myanmar border, the Paduang Karen are one of the largest hill tribes living in Thailand since around the 17th century. They are easily confused with the “Red Karen” (Karenni) coming from the Kayah tribe in Myanmar, the Paduang Karen is a subgroup of the Karenni and are popularly known under the name “Long Neck” for the distinctive coils of rings around the neck, forearms and shins of the women.

It is, however, a myth that Paduang women have longer necks, actually, it’s the brass coils that go lower on the shoulders so it visually appears to look like a longer neck. This tradition began back in the old days for protection against for example tigers, but it is also said that it is a sign of great beauty and wealth and to attract a new husband, adultery, however, is punished by removal of the rings that will in some cases obligate woman to spend the rest of their lives lying down, because the muscles in the neck are weakened over the years and no longer help for support.

A rotation method for farming

Old members of the Paduang tribe

Whilst the women are spending their time and skills weaving, (each section has its own style of dress) wood carving or making music, the men of the tribe are likely to spend their time farming on the fields. The Paduang created a rotation method for farming as to not use the same land too much and save cutting down trees, they also are the only group that is planting wet rice on terraces.

A mixture of Buddhism, Christianity and Animism

karen women of the paduang tribe in Thailand

The houses mostly build on stilts are giving a home to the whole family, children and grandparents alike whilst underneath the house there is room for domestic animals like chickens, pigs and buffaloes.

Being a mixture of Buddhism, Christianity and Animism, (some tribes are more Buddhist or Christian than others) the Paduang as with most indigenous cultures are regarding the balance and harmony between nature and spirits very important and like to live in harmony with “the lord of land and water” and the rocks, trees, water and mountains surrounding them.


Take your time to interact with the people

young member of the paduang tribe in Thailand

To avoid not having the feeling of going to a zoo when visiting a Karen Hill tribe, take your time to interact with the people instead of just taking some pictures and buy some souvenirs. You will be surprised to see how friendly and open the Karen become. If you feel the need to give something to the tribe, best buy fruit since it’s more expensive instead of candy and hand it over to the village headman, everything is communal and this way you can avoid complications in between tribe families.


Celebrate Songkran festival in Chiang Mai 5

Celebrate Songkran festival in Chiang Mai

The traditional Thai New Year Songkran, otherwise known as the Water Festival, is the traditional Thai New Year that takes place on the 13th of April and last for about three days. In the Buddhist calendar this correlates with the beginning...

Read More
Elephant Trekking and Parks in Chiang Mai 2

Elephant Parks: Playing with Elephants

Witness the traditional mahout lifestyle Elephants and Chiang Mai inhabitants are going hand in trunk for centuries, army's in the past have won battles on the back of these giants and elephants have been connected with Thailand for like well ......

Read More
Sustainable Tea from Araksa Tea Plantation 1

Sustainable Tea from Araksa Tea Plantation

Growing sustainable tea in Chiang Mai Are you one of those people that prefer tea over coffee and maybe you are looking to kill some time outside the city meanwhile learning more or everything about this ancient (tea has been...

Read More
Meditate at Wat Umong 4

Meditate at Wat Umong

One of the oldest and unique temples Build in the late 13th century probably by King Mengrai, Wat Umong or otherwise known as the "tunnel temple" is one of the most unusual, oldest and unique temples in the region and...

Read More

You must be logged in to post a comment Login