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Chiang Mai Tours
Visiting the Karen Long Neck (Paduang)
An entrance fee is charged at all the villages. The entrance fee goes to the Thai business or company which brought the Karen Long Neck there. A proportion of the fee is paid to the Long Neck people themselves (We at Curious Gecko do not know in what proportions) also a percentage is paid to the tour company which brought the visitor there.
Some visitors do feel a little uncomfortable about paying an entrance fee to view people, there has been one or two villages where a fence has been put around their small settlement, but this is definitely to keep non paying tourists out and not the Karen people in (The villages which feature on Curious Gecko trips do not have a fence).
Allowing the visitors to observe them provides a valuable source of income for these refugees. These people are not Thai and are not allowed to work legally in Thailand, so the sale of home produced crafts, fabrics and other nik-naks to tourists does provide a valuable source of income. For the men folk, they will often find employment in the nearby cities (usually Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai) which is also a valuable source of income.
On our numerous visits to the Long Neck people the children and women folk we encounter seem to be contented and happy. These people are refugees and are probably living a better quality of life than remaining in the refugee settlements on the border. On most occasions they are happy to talk about their lives and lifestyles (some Paduang speak some Thai and you can communicate through your guide)
At Curious Gecko we do understand that some of our guests will be uncomfortable visiting The Long Neck under such conditions and where the Karen Long Neck do feature on our tours we do leave this as an option for the customer to choose whether they want to visit.
If you are intending on visiting The Karen Long Neck anywhere in northern Thailand outside of their original refugee camps in Mae Hong Son province then you will be visiting them in an exhibition village rather than a naturally placed village. As these villages are not naturally placed we at Curious Gecko refer to them as "Exhibition villages" There are no naturally placed Paduang (Karen Long Neck) villages in the north of Thailand. Where they have been moved outside of Mae Hong Province they have been moved for the purposes of tourism usually persuaded and offered incentives by tour companies who will charge visitors a fee to visit them. Some of the villages do look quite natural where others do not. Many tour companies will try to pass these villages off as real settlements but they are not. Here are a few general points you should be aware of before you choose to visit.
At Curious Gecko we aim to bring you real authentic experiences.
If you want to see some of the famous sites that Chiang Mai and northern Thailand has to offer then of course we will be visiting some places well visited by other tourists, however we will often depart the main tourist routes and get you to places that many other tours do not go. In our tour operations we do endeavour to offer the following:
1. If we are visiting hill tribes we will only take you to real villages and will not take you to exhibition villages or villages set up specifically for tourists, however we do make an exception for the Paduang (Karen Long Neck) please read " Visiting the Karen Long Neck" below
2. We can be flexible in the use of lunch and meal venues and if you have a preference for authentic eating establishments (rather than those set up to cater to the tastes of foreign visitors) this can usually be arranged.
3. We will not take you to elephant shows or offer you rides on elephants. If elephants do feature on our tours we will offer an activity which offers more interaction and a more positive experience for both you and the elephant - see our elephant policy here
4. Curious Gecko will not take you on any forced shopping trips. We will not stop at any shops or any commission paying craft houses or craft demonstrations which are combined with a shopping element.
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