The Long Neck Girl and the Tiger

I spent last week in total solitude, except for the rare visit from the tiny old man who takes care of my dogs when we’re not there. There’s a big difference in being lonely and being alone.

I have a small place where I go to finish a manuscript or prepare a book for publishing. It’s by itself and surrounded by rice fields, cows and beautiful birds of every size and description. I often walk with the dogs during the day to take a break from writing and editing and I always have my bamboo walking stick to chase away other dogs, snakes and giant lizards. Through the growing season rice changes to every color of green until it turns golden when ripe. It’s very pleasing to the eyes. As I walk my mind wanders to the wonders that surround me.

My wife, daughter and I went to the far north in Thailand on one of the visits my daughter makes to see us. I had told her about the Long Neck women from the hilltribes and she wanted to meet them.

Northern Thailand is mountainous and covered in massive Teak trees and fields of beauty. On one of our stops there were sunflowers that are grown for seeds and oil. It was true beauty to see rai (a rai is about 2 acres) after rai of giant flowering sunbeams.

We stopped in Chaing Mai, a large city along the Ping River, nestled in a valley bordered by giant mountains. Chaing Mai is a beautiful city and well worth the visit.

The next day we took to the mountains and went through 1864 curves to Mea Hong Son. I know that’s how many curves there are because I have a tee shirt to prove it. Each winding turn along the way was filled with birds, trees, rivers flowing through valleys and steep mountains. It’s also dangerous because Thai still drive crazy no matter the terrain. I spent over six hour on the edge of my seat trying to avoid making us all hood ornaments so by the time we arrive in the sleepy town I was exhausted. I recharged quickly as I looked around. We were completely surrounded by lush green mountains and the people were so friendly. In Mea Hong Son we slept in small bungalows to the quite sounds of the mountains.

I love north Thailand. They speak a different dialect but also speak traditional Thai with an accent. These were my kind of people. Their slow drawl was easy for me to understand and they overlooked my tonal mistakes. I love them.

It was so cold at night, me and all the Thai’s were bundled up with whatever we could find. My daughter looked at me like I was crazy. It was 58 degrees—something I never thought possible in Thailand.

I got direction to a Karen hilltribe village—not one that all the tourist go to but a ‘real’ village. For once the directions were quite good and we arrived far back in the mountains at a quaint village. There were tourists there but not in great numbers so we walked the few narrow streets and visited with the people selling their wares. I had seen a few pictures of the Long Neck women and thought there would be a couple on display and everyone else would be ‘normal’. I was wrong. Now not every woman had those brass rings but many did. Me being me- I jumped right in to talk to them. Julee hung back in case spears started flying or in the case of the Karen, crossbow bolts, but everyone was so nice. I talked to one young girl who spoke English, German, French, Thai and of course Karen. She and other women had traveled all over Europe for cultural events.

I spoke Thai because I just couldn’t get over so many people understanding me. She had a child of about 6 months who was a delight. She let me look at her neck thingy and even brought one out for me to hold. To my surprise it was a solid piece of brass that hinged in the back and very heavy. She showed different lengths which were changed out to increase the length of one’s neck.

I was shocked to find out that after increasing the length so much the older women couldn’t take theirs off because their necks wouldn’t support their head.

The young lady had a cloth stuffed inside the fixture because of the cold. I ask why they wore them. She said it was a sign of beauty, part of their culture and for the tourist money from taking pictures and buying trinkets. I had read that originally these brass pieces had been used to protect the young girls and women from tigers. Tigers go for the neck when they attack prey. She said it was true but there hadn’t been any tigers around for a long, long time. I must say this young woman and others I met that day were some very delightful people.

If ever you get a chance to visit Thailand and go to the north you really should make the trip to Mea Hong Son. You could spent a long time in north Thailand and not see all it has to offer, but the people are the true wonders there.

I hope you enjoyed this little encounter with some of the reasons I am a writer in Thailand. I will write more of my visits to the north.

23 responses to “The Long Neck Girl and the Tiger

  1. Simply delightful post, Dannie! The young girl is gorgeous. I’m always amazed at how different cultures perceive “beauty,” and what they will do to achieve it, but I had no idea the brass rings were also to protect girls from tigers. I love that piece of trivia!

    I was also in Chiang Mai and saw some of the Karen tribe many years ago. I trekked there on an elephant and recall some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Reading your post brings back those fabulous memories. Thank you,


  2. Very interesting post, Dannie. I always find your writing both entertaining (Julee hung back in case spears started flying…) and informative. Like Eden stated, I also had no idea that the brass rings were originally to protect the girls from tigers. While I’ve never been to Thailand, reading your posts allows me to visualize a virtual trip there through your descriptive writing.

    Excellent post, my friend.

    • Thank you for your comments, Sharky. It’s a real thrill for me to let people see a little of the place I live. Very different to say the least. Yeah, Julee has always been the smart one, lol.

  3. Hi dear.. That was an amazing story //made me feel like I was there talking to those wonderful women.. thank you .. I want to go there some day.. you made me feel that way in your writings..thanks dear Laura Novak

    • Hi Laura, It’s is always a pleasure when you come and make comments. As a writer it does my heart good to know that people like what I write and that they can visualize what I say.

  4. Hi Dannie, your writing is so beautiful. Your adventure reads like a dream. I love it. I can always count on you to give me something nice to go to sleep with. Rice fields, sun flowers, the sound of the mountains, and the beautiful long-neck girls… so nice. Thank you and please keep writing!

    • Zee, it’s so good to hear from you and read your comment. I still can’t get over the great writers that read my post and make such nice comments. I am really enjoying writing these short post. They help me relive some of the good times I’ve had here and even more getting to hear from wonderful people. Yes, I’ll keep writing them. I may have to write some stories about my kids if they don’t start reading these post, LOL. That should make them read.

  5. Thank you Kathy. I looked forward to your comment each week. I am really happy you liked this week’s post. I have many more stories about my trips to north Thailand. As many of my old friends use to tell me I am full of them– or was that ‘it’ lol.

    I still can’t believe I am blogging and people are enjoying what I have to say.

  6. I was packing my bag half way through. Oh how I long for some isolation, quiet and wild beauty again. You did a fine job of making it so visual. Thanks for tempering my longing, if only for a moment.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Christina. There is a beauty here that I am becoming more aware of as I write these little stories. I must say having read your blog your words mean a great deal to me!

  7. Pingback: White Lightening Will Make You Smile | Dannie C Hill- The writer

  8. The Thais are such beautiful people. A Thai lady lives across the street from us, and has made us some sort of egg rolls that she cooks in her garage. Delicious! I never got to Bangkok, which is probably a good thing. I was a little crazy (crazier?) back then, and might not have gotten out alive. 🙂

    • Thais are great people and I was lucky enough to find the perfect one to be my wife. I visited Bangkok off and on for more than thirty years. Now I enjoy the farm much better. I do love the north and the people up there. There beautiful gentle folks who take life as it comes. Thanks so much for the comment, Tim!

  9. What a delightful post, Dannie. I hope to visit Thailand one day and this is definitely something I”d like to see. I have learned in my travels that if you are honest and kind when you speak to people they accept your questions and welcome you. I really like learning about different cultures and meeting people.

    • Thank you for visiting, Linda. You really would like these people. Yes, they make much of their living from tourist, but they’re so nice. Me being me– I’d talk to a statue if it stands still long enough. I love talking and trying out my second language! The Karen people are so sweet and full of life.

  10. First off I would like to say fantastic blog!
    I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior
    to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to
    15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?

    Many thanks!

    • Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I wish I could give you some great advice on writing, But just sort of happens for me. If it’s a novel I usually have one or two characters with an idea for a story and it takes off by itself. Blogs, ha. I’ve never feel I do a good job with writing a post. I try to let my heart and thoughts be my guide. There are some very good blogs on writing that I often take a look at to see how I’m doing it wrong, lol. I’ll also say that now I’m back in the States writing is very hard to get started. I lived on a small farm in Thailand and had few distractions other than nature– which helped me with my writing.

  11. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog based on the same ideas you
    discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would value
    your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  12. Interesting write. I would have been on the edge of my seat with all those curves to traverse. I especially enjoyed the trivia about the brass rings the women wore on the necks and how it originally was to protect them from tiger attacks. I love these stories of Thailand. Thanks for sharing.

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