Place: A Ponpet Village
This is the area of the world where long neck ladies come from! There are 5 small villages that make up the region, about 200 families / 1200 people live here. Less and less people follow the long neck traditions now. Only about half within the younger generations continue it.
To get the long necks, the girls get metal rings tightened around their necks, and more and more rungs are added on over time. After your neck’s been extended enough, you can’t even take the rings off anymore, as your neck can no longer support the weight of your head on its own.
At the tourist spots you can probably find one or two of the ladies, basically there intentionally to attract tourists, but our guide was able to bring us here to see them in their daily lives.
They showed us how they make jewelry and textiles for a living, and we listened to their music and shared their food.
The locals here speak in their own native tongue, Kaya, and our guide had a guide to help translate for him from their language to Myanmar. Then he translated for us from Myanmar to English, and Tommy translated from English to Mandarin for his mom! It was quite a hilarious chain of communication.
Food: Millet wine
Millet wine is an integral part of their life here. All the ladies here learn how to make it. We were told girls are actually measured as a potential mate based on the quality of their wine! And kids supposedly start drinking it as part of their breastfeeding (we saw the host’s 2 year old daughter drinking it). As expected the taste is similar to other grain-based drinks like soju and sake, but I found it to be a bit harsher yet sweeter.
We were also fed a pumpkin based soup, some sort of pork dish wrapped in banana leaf, and one of my favorites was a spicy peanut curry, made from tomato puree and peanuts. The roasted peanuts give it a great aroma, and the tomatoes layers on the umami, the spice adding a tingly after taste that made it pair well with rice.