The Chin tattooed women live in the Chin, Rakhine and Arakan states in the country’s north west.

The origin of facial tattoos in the region is unknown but some believe that the practice began during the reigns of Kings long ago.

The royalty used to come to the villages to capture young women and the men from the tribe may have tattooed their women to make them ‘ugly’, thereby saving them from a life of slavery.

The Chin tattooed women live in the Chin, Rakhine and Arakan states in the country’s north west(Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)
Only about 700 tourists visit the area in which the tattooed women of Burma live each year (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)

For years, access to the tribal Mindat area was restricted by the Burmese government and was only opened two years ago with about 700 tourists visiting each year.

Most of them only visit the bucolic Mount Victoria by bus, never meeting the tattooed women who remain isolated, hours away by foot.

The women have a few different face tattoo patterns.

For years, access to the tribal Mindat area was restricted by the Burmese government (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)
Long ago, when the girls refused to be tattooed, they were thrown into the pig sty kept under the family house (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)

The spiderweb tattoo is popular in the Mrauk U region. It is usually accompanied by a circle in the center of the forehead which represents the sun or lines under the nose symbolizing tiger whiskers.

Another design, known as the bee pattern, is common in the Mindat area. It is composed of dots, lines and occasionally circles. It is worn by the Muun tribe who inhabit the hills of the Arakan state.

The Magan tribeswomen wear huge earrings made of beads and calabashes. They can also play the flute with their noses.

Women of the U Pu tribe have the incredibly rare whole face tattoo, thought to be inked on just two women.

The tattoo needles are usually made using bamboo or thorns (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)

The tribes make the tattoo needles by either tying three pieces of bamboo together or using thorns.

They then make an ink by mixing cow bile, soot, plants, and pig fat.

It usually takes a day to complete the standard tattoo and two or three days to complete the entirely black inkings.

Infection is a common problem as the girls are often left covered in blood with everything, including the eyelids, tattooed.

Many women say the neck is the most painful area.

Ugly becomes beautiful, the tattooed women of Burma (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)
The ink is usually made using a paste comprising of cow bile as well as other ingredients (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)
The tattoos can take days to complete (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)

Ma Aung Seim, one of the tattoed women, said: “I was 10 years old. The day before the tattoo ceremony, I only ate sugarcane and drank tea. It was forbidden to eat meat or peanuts.

“During the tattoo session, I cried a lot, but I could not move at all. After the session, my face bled for 3 days. It was very painful.

“My mother put fresh bean leaves on my face to alleviate the pain. I had no choice if i wanted to get married. Men wanted women with tattoos at this time.

“My mother told me that without a tattoo on my face I would look like… a man! The web drawn on my face attracted the men like a spiderweb catches insects!”

One tattooed woman said her face had bled for three days after getting the tattoo (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)
The government has banned the practise but many women continue to have their faces inked (Photo: Eric Lafforgue / Exclusivepix Media)

Long ago, when the girls refused to be tattooed, they were thrown into a pig sty kept under the family house until they changed their minds.

Many of the women also chew betel nuts that make their teeth black.

The military junta has forbidden the tattoos with the government imposing a fine of half a cow if caught.