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Meeting the Padaung in Burma

The Padaung people of Burma, more commonly known as the ‘Long-Neck Karen’, live in Kayah State in northeastern Burma and though the provincial capital Loikaw is now offically open for tourism it’s still very difficult to get to so your most likely contact with them would be at one of their lakeside souvenir stalls at Inle. The pros and cons of visiting the Padaung could fill a lengthy post but for now suffice to say all the women we’ve met at Inle are there of their own accord,¬† can come and go freely and welcome the extra revenue gained through the tourist trade. (Which is more than you can say for the Paduang¬† refugees stuck in Northern Thailand.)

Traditional weaving methods
Traditional weaving methods

Pros and cons aside just turning up and sticking large camera lenses in their faces is just plain rude and to get more natural photos anyway it’s far better to have some kind of interaction with them beforehand. Some of the girls speak some English or you can commmunicate through a local guide and these hill-tribe girls are generally more than happy to chat and explain a bit about their culture as well as to pose for photos.

"That must be really uncomfortable!?"
“That piercing must be really uncomfortable!?”

Don’t worry, if the Padaung see something they consider unsual they’ll have their smart phones out straight away as I noticed recently when turning up with a group of tourists one day – one of whom had a pierced tongue and lip. The Padaung women were fascinated and asked to take photos themselves with the funniest moment of this excellent interaction being when an elderly Paduang matriach with several kilos of brass around her neck looked at the pierced lip and said “Oh my, that must be really uncomfortable”!!!

Stunning young Padaung girl at Inle
Stunning young Padaung girl at Inle

Cheers!