From the Nimman to the Kayan: Big Contrasts in the “Land of Smile”

About 1 mile from our current apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand is the pricy Nimman area. There you will find exclusive high rise condominiums, architecturally modern town houses, fancy restaurants and trendy coffee houses. This area is home to young, wealthy Thais, entrepreneurs, digital nomads and students from around the world.
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Nimman is also home to the Maya Mall. Maya rivals any mall I’ve been to in the U.S. It’s full of high end stores. Like most malls Maya is an orgy of conspicuous consumption.
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There is also a beautiful, state of the art multi-screen theater at Maya Mall. It is there that we saw a submission to the ASEAN Film Festival from Myanmar, Kayan Beauties
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The Kayan are an ancient and proud people with a beautiful and distinct culture. We were privileged to learn more about them from this beautiful film. But we don’t have to go to Myanmar to meet the Kayan. In every tourist section in Chiang Mai touts and drivers offer to take you to see elephants, snake farms, the Tiger Kingdom and “long-neck women”. In the same breath and manner that they speak of animals they are referring to people, the Kayan women.
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As the result of civil war, human trafficking, and economic insecurity Kayan women are on display in mock villages all along the Thailand -Myanmar border. Kathy and I have never had any desire to go to what are essentially human zoos. We would love to visit the Kayan one day, to be of service not for photo ops and cheap souvenirs.
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This gulf of disparity between the very rich and the exploited poor are of course not unique to Thailand. Things are changing, the Kayan are standing up for their rights. Kayan Beauties, the film is doing much to educate and inform. If you can find it I encourage you to view it. It is a beautifully made, thought provoking film.
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