Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sticking Their Necks Out

Another border, another country. This month we're bringing you Laos (don't pronounce the s). Actually I would have liked to have stayed in Thailand a few days more as I really liked Chiang Mai and would have liked to have done some trekking in the Golden Triangle, but due to the country's ridiculous visa extension rules (you get a free 30 day stay upon entry, but if you want to stay a few days longer it costs you 26 pounds) I felt it was time to leave.

To make the most of the time I had left in the country I decided to head north, close to the Myanmar border, and visit some hill-tribes, most notably the long-necked Karen who had fled from the fighting in Myanmar. Though before I went I had a lengthy internal debate as to the rights and wrongs of going. On the one hand visiting hill-tribes reduces them to a sort of human zoo, there to be ogled by us tourists and in the end everybody loses a bit of their dignity. But on the other hand the tourism brings them a good income that makes them less dependant on slash-and-burn agriculture. In fact the term long-necked is a misnomer since the Karen's necks are the same length as ours, instead the weight of the brass coils (not rings), which they wear from an early age, causes the bones of their shoulders to deform and bend downwards (and trust me, the coils are heavy), giving the illusion of a long neck.

As I had predicted, I felt very uncomfortable and voyeuristic and couldn't take more than just a single picture, even though the Karen women seemed to take everything with good grace, and, despite their poor living standards and the tourists, seemed to maintain their dignity and beauty.

1 comment:

Yann said...

hé bien c'est impressionnant !