After 2 nights in Pai, a small town full of mostly European 20 something hipsters, I was ready to move on. I was still looking for that elusive place where I could settle for a while, to meditate and write. In Mae Hong Son, about 3 hours through winding mountain roads from Pai, I found a lovely quiet town and the Piya Guesthouse. The whole scene was my kind of place. There’s a small lake with a grand temple on one side, and a night market every night with street food, clothes, trinkets and entertainment. The Thai pop music, offered by live performers, reminded me a little of Mount Shasta. Not big city quality, perhaps, but full of heart.
From MHS, I took a motorbike ride with a guide named Johnny to the “long neck” village. The hill tribe’s women and girls wear brass rings around their necks, stretching the neck by extending the rings as the years pass. Johnny said not every girl wears them. They are put on certain young girls depending upon their birthdates and other signs and portents. The neck (and also knee) decor is meant to protect them from weak health and evil spirits.
After hanging out with Johnny for a while, I have no idea whether anything he told me was accurate. He told me about getting very drunk and losing his shoes, and also how a Swiss woman paid him well to be her guide for 2 weeks, and desired to sleep with him, so he obliged. I asked if his wife was also free to take lovers if she chose…he said she wouldn’t want to. Hummpff.
I found the long neck village to be a bit depressing. They, like so many tribes worldwide, are losing their culture and livelihoods, and must sell to tourists to make enough to eat. In the middle of their tiny village is a huge cell tower. They have no idea of the radiation it is putting out. (There are cell towers everywhere here in Thailand. I try to sleep as far away from them as I can.) My camera was full so I dont have photos of the village. One woman put a faux brass ring-thing around my neck so I could pose with her for a photo (which didnt work out, oh well). Those things are heavy! And the girls and women NEVER take them off. What an interesting world we live in…
I didn’t take this photo but this is what the women of the village look like.