The Padaung are found in a 150-square-mile area of Kayah State and Shan State, west of the Salween river and around the Pekon hills, which rise to 5,000 feet. For centuries they have been objects of curiosity and were once brought to the palace of the King of Mandalay for inspection. They are part of the Kayan subgroup of Karens. Although known in the world as Padaung, they call themselves Ka-Kaung, which means people who live on top of the hill.
The Padaungs are often nicknamed ‘giraffe women’ or the ‘long-necked Karens’ because of the custom of encasing the neck in brass coils. The practice is fast disappearing, and today can only be found in a few villages. When a girl is aged between five and nine, her neck is rubbed with ointment said to be made of dog fat, coconut milk and royal jelly, and the first neck ring is fitted. After two years, the next set of coils is added and every year therefore she gains a new set until she marries.