I asked her why she did not wear the costume.
"I am part of a new generation, and I do not like it. It is hot and
uncomfortable," she said. But she noted that she might have to because
the chief is considering forcing everyone to wear the costume. "If the
chief orders us, we will do it." The chief of the village, a
52-year-old named Nanta Asung, told me that Thaijun was the only woman
in the village who did not wear traditional dress and that her choice
was unacceptable. "If you are Palaung, you have to wear the costume of
the Palaung," he said while chopping pork for dinner. "This is a must.
Asung said they must wear the dress because of tradition, but he
also spoke excitedly about its appeal to tourists and noted that half
of the village's income of $30,000 a year comes from tourism. That
night an Australian family was paying $15 to sleep in his hut. "He is
very worried that visitors will stop coming," my guide, who served as
my interpreter, told me as we left and headed to our own hut.
As we walked across the village, Asung began broadcasting over
loudspeakers: "This is a reminder that all women should wear
traditional dress. Some foreigners just came to complain that some
women were not wearing their costumes." (We quickly returned to explain
to the tribal chief that I was asking questions, not complaining, but,
unsurprisingly, he did not issue a correction over the village
Here is the full story, which is interesting throughout. A debate is raging as to whether it is ethical to visit villages that stacks rings on the necks of their women or elongate their earlobes.