Thailand Travelogue: The Tribal Women of Padaung Village
Earlier this year the Tourism Authority of Thailand invited me to come visit the country and create our first ever Asian guide for GayCities. The phenomenal travel connoisseur Carlos Melia took me, YouTuber Davey Wavey and colleagues from Pink Triangle Press, Passport magazine and dot429 around Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle region showing us the shiniest gems Thailand has to offer. The following travelogue retraces even more highlights from my seventh day there.
Another side trip we took while in the Chiang Mai region was visiting the Padaung Village, commonly referred to as the long neck village because of the women’s coiled neck gear. Although it seems that their necks are being stretched out by the spring-like coils, it’s actually their collar bones that are being crushed down under the weight of the neck brace. Eek!
The women were all very friendly and seemed quite used to seeing foreign visitors snapping photos of them. It felt a little awkward snooping into these women’s huts especially after spending the week in various luxury hotels… But I tried not to let that foreign, privileged perspective cloud the way I viewed these women, their traditions and the culture they were brought up in.
I did a little bit of research afterwards and came across this great article by a Washington Post scribe who visited the same village in 2009. “A Village or a Zoo?” tackles the moral issue of these women’s entrapment in these for-profit villages for tourists and the torturous procedures their culture has brought upon them.
Although I strongly lean towards believing that human rights are universal, I also understand that it’s pointless to try and impose my belief system on a foreign culture without coming off as utterly naive as to their experience and self-righteous, bathing in Western priviledge. After all, what do I know?