Myanmar is an enigmatic and gorgeous destination, owning many gilded and consecrated pagodas, picturesque nature, and interesting hill-tribe culture for the whole world to cherish. If you are the culture fanciers, then it’s great to travel to Myanmar and meet both the Kayan and the Chin hill tribes someday.
The Kayan Tribe (or Padaung) with Long-necked Women
First, the Kayan women are famous for their long necks due to wearing many necklaces from the young ages. This hill tribe lives in the remote Karen Hills, in the east of Myanmar. Living separated to the outside world, the women follow the custom of wearing many brass collars around their necks, hands, and legs.
In the past, the metal neck rings were the valuable jewelry only for the girls and ladies from the prestigious families. Hence, the more necklaces a woman had, the richer her family was. The metal neck rings were the key indicators of the families’ wealth and status. That is one of the most common theories to explain the Kayan custom. Besides, according to the locals, they believe that wearing the necklaces could help them to avoid being beaten in the necks by the tigers. Moreover, some locals explain that the full-of-necklace appearance protects them from human trafficking. Another belief says that the beautiful women must have the necklaces, and the more they have, the more beautiful they are. The men in this hill tribe are likely to be attracted to the long-necked partners, and the one with the longest neck is the most fabulous. In that sense, a tribal woman can wear up to 16kg necklaces, and her neck can be as long as 40cm. And, the female adults can possess up to 35 neck rings.
However, this custom has been steadily disappeared because of the modern influences from the Western visitors, according to Channel News Asia. Some women there keep the necklaces to attract the tourists, and only the old ladies value the jewelry on their necks. To the old Kayan women, removing the neck rings is the bad thing, so they feel happy with their jewelry, related to the ideal of beauty: the elongated neck. They are delightful when stretching their necks with the brass rings, and there is no reason to remove them.
In particular, Pan Pet in Myanmar is the secluded village with more than 1000 inhabitants who keep this custom. Located in one of the most remote areas of the country, Pan Pet offers the pristine and beautiful sceneries to appeal to the international tourists. And especially, many people come there to meet the Kayan women and see how their necks can be as long as that. The cultural discovery makes holidays to Myanmar highly enjoyable.
The Kayan tribe or popularly called Padaung is inhabiting in the area of Inle Lake. Padaung is one of the oldest hill tribes in Myanmar, and they follow the habit of living in harmony with Nature and wearing the brass collars from the young age (start at 2 or 5 years old). The little Kayan girls with the brass neck rings at the age of twelve will begin their competition for the boys’ attention. And the winners often have the impressive number of neck rings. Also, with the friendly nature, these ladies often smile with the guests, creating the beautiful traits of culture. Many tourists have visited this hill-tribe village and take pictures with the long-necked ladies alongside.
The Chin Tribe with Tattoo-faced Women
The Chin women are well-known for the custom of having tattoo patterns on their faces. The more tattoos they have, the more gorgeous they are. The Chin Hill Tribes in Myanmar live on the Victoria Mountain, in the west of Myanmar. They consider the tattoos on the faces as the symbols of maturity and beauty, which every female adult should have. Inhabiting on the mountain ranges of Chin state, the women of this tribe take the facial tattoos for the beauty techniques, and keep this practice from generation to generation. In general, the old women have the full facial tattoos with some black dots while the girls might follow the different tattoo styles. In the common thought, the teen girls (at the age of 12-14) are known to be mature enough to get the tattoos – the symbol of maturity. While some women have the tattoos on the whole faces, the others only get several spots.
That said, the tattoos are created by using the thorn to draw on the face with the ink made from ox gall, pig fat, and some kinds of herbs. Particularly, the women of Munn tribe in the Chin state have the facial circle tattoos making up the semicircle from the chin to the neck. Historically, this custom was derived from the 11th century when the girls put the facial tattoos to avoid becoming the slaves of the Lords. In the former concept, the tattoos made women ugly so that they would escape the slavery. But as time passes, the concept of beauty changed, and the women would feel proud when getting the facial tattoos in front of the men.
Nowadays, some of the girls in this hill tribe do not follow this custom, but none can deny the fact that the women of the Chin state are very friendly and generous. Some of the chummiest and most sincere women are living there. What’s more, the interesting trait of the ladies of the Chin is that they usually hold the tobacco pipes in the hands. In particular, the meeting and communication with the Chin tribe in the Rakhine State give you the deeper insights into the tattoo patterns on the women’s faces plus the unique necklaces. And if you spend more time in this peaceful region, you can even discover the exceptional Chin dancing and their musical flutes.
The cultural experiences in Myanmar are praiseworthy and engaging. You come to know the Kayan (Padaung or long-necked women) and the Chin tribe (the tattoo-faced women) who contribute to the colorful pictures of tribes in Burma. Let’s come to see how beautiful that pictures of culture can be.