Kayan People (Myanmar)
Look how long her neck is! Meet Thiri, my beautiful guide from the Kayan tribe. I’m visiting Myanmar and I just had to meet the beautiful and mysterious Kayans. They’re most known for the brass coils they wear around their incredibly long necks. Turns out the rings are actually one single long spiral. And, I’ve also learned that only a select few women and girls wear these coils. They supposedly wear them to look younger.
Kayan Lahwi Tribes
The Kayan people are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, an ethnic minority native to Burma (now Myanmar). In the late 1980s and early 1990s some Kayan Lahwi tribes fled to Thailand in the face of hostility from the Burmese military regime. Thus, most of the Kayans now live in these refugee camps that are inaccessible to tourists like myself. However, there are a couple of villages open to tourists, with an entry fee. But of course. I had to see them, so I didn’t mind shelling out the cash. And I’m glad I did! It gave me a chance to meet my beautiful guide.
Kayan Tribe Culture
You learn a lot when your guide is a local. Plus, locals are amazing myth busters! Before I got here, I had heard a lot of rumours, such as “taking off the rings causes the women to suffocate” or “the rings support the Kayan women’s necks.” Total nonsense, I’m told. The rings push the shoulders down, giving the lovely ladies a more youthful appearance, and they do take them off, without losing balance at their necks. Their necks look rather normal without the rings. In fact, very few Kayan women even wear these rings these days! And those who do, wear it by choice. Nobody forces them to do it.
Thiri also tells me that Kayan women work in the forest and they love Chilli Peppers, and she was also kind enough to give me some as souvenirs. She also told me of legends that tell of the Kayan ring wearing women being descendants of the Mother Dragon! Super interesting!
Sadly, the culture is kept alive only by tourism, as many of these people do not have a permanent id or residence. But it’s a beautiful culture of kind, welcoming people. And I’m happy to have had the chance to visit and partake in their culture.