Near the border of Myanmar and Thailand lives a mysterious minority group. The neck of the women there can be 20 to 25 cm in height. They are Padaung, also be called as “Kayan” people. There are around 30.000 people live in the region of Kayah State. Their very unique and interesting culture makes a journey to Kayah State and visiting Padaung people is top of things to do in Myanmar,.
The language of Padaung people is a group of Kenmic language – the same group of Tibet language. Their customs have been conserved for thousand years and one attractive customs of Padaung culture is wearing diverse jewelries as a way to respecting beauty. Padaung women usually wear many copper bracelets. A normal woman wears 20 or more bracelets. Some people even wear bracelets and some chains made of silver coins. The jewelries press on the spine and vertebrae of the neck, so they make the neck become “longer”.
At the age of 5 to 10 years old, every girl joins in a special ritual to wear the first bracelet. Wearing a bracelet is not only a custom of making up, but also a belief of the minority group. In Padaung legend, a long time ago, women made the gods angry, so the gods asked tiger to go to the Earth to punish them. The women had no way to fight against tiger but wear the bracelets to protect themselves. Since then, every girl and woman of Padaung group wear bracelet when they reach puberty.
According to the custom of Padaung people, the period of puberty is when girls start to add one new bracelet each year, until the weight of the bracelets reaches 5 kilograms. A long time ago, only the girl who was born in the fourth night of full moon had to wear the bracelet. But until now, every girl wears them. The more bracelets the girls wear, the more the people in the village respect them.
The culture of Padaung amuses visitors in Myanmar itineraries by the shifting cultivation. They grow rice on both dry and wet land. Padaung people always change their living place, so right after going to a new region, they burn tree to make new shifting cultivation. To celebrate a bumper crop, the people have many festivals in rainy season. The festivals aim to worship departed people and pray gods for the next crop.
Almost of Myanmar people are Buddhists, but only 10% of Padaung people worship the Buddha, others are animists. The difference in religion and culture of the people makes the journey to visiting them fascinating among many things to do in Myanmar.