Posts Tagged ‘Kyaukme’

After Mandalay it was definitely time to experience some country-life and some more traditional regions far away from the big cities. So I went on a 10 hour long very bumpy and very uncomfortable (though very scenic) train ride to Kyaukme. As I decided to save the $2 for the more expensive first class ticket ($5 instead of $3) I had to sit on wooden benches for the whole period of time while being tossed around more than your average baseball. But hey, who said backpacking was gonna be good for your bum 😉

Train from Mandalay to Kyaukme

Train from Mandalay to Kyaukme

Kyaukme was an insider tip by a fellow traveler who said that it was far less touristy than Hsipaw, which is a little bit further up the road, and indeed, we didn’t really meet any other travelers and there was only one licensed guest house in town. The latter was quite unfortunate as they took advantage of their position and charged quite horrendous room rates. However, the trip was still well worth it. We met Joy, a 23 year old native who spoke Burmese, Shan, English and Mandarin and who started showing tourists around at the age of 16. He is an excellent example how education paired with motivation can be a way to make a decent living. He probably makes much more money during one day by showing a couple of tourists around than most farmers make during one week. Before we left on a two day trip into the mountains we went to visit his English class went for dinner with his students. It’s nice to see young people so eager so speak English and it’s a pity that this kind of motivation is often lacking in European countries (yes, I’ve been one of the lazy unmotivated ones myself).

Traditional Clothing

Traditional Clothing

Family at home

Family at home

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The day after, we were heading into the mountains to the north. We went on a couple of scooters in order to get further into the rural areas and walked around some villages from time to time. This is actually one of the times where it makes sense to get a guide as there are no maps of that area (except for a roughly correct hand drawn map) and as locals don’t speak English whatsoever. The landscape was just stunning; we went through forests and fields and along many tea plantations as most locals in the northern Shan state live from growing tea. We got invited into houses for tea, met some traditionally dressed local women and slept in a small mountain village.

How many chairs can you fit?

How many chairs can you fit?

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

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It was very interesting to see how traditional the village life still is in these mountain regions. Most houses are

made of wood and have a small stone square in the middle of the room which is intended as a fireplace and for cooking. The houses we’ve been to consisted of 2 or a maximum of 3 rooms and accommodated up to 10 people and if the village was big enough they even had some electricity from a turbine in the river, at least for the 6 months of the year when there is enough water to run it. Some of the smaller villages didn’t have any electricity at all. We’ve been invited for tea by a Nepalese family which basically didn’t own anything except for the wooden shack it lived in and the few pumpkins and tea plants on their fields. They asked us to stay over-night but Joy turned down the offer and told me later that he wasn’t sure if they even had enough blankets for the whole family and a couple of guests. But despite all the poverty it is still always nice to experience the great amount of hospitality from those people and how gladly they usually share food with you even though they have so little.

 

All those villages are quite isolated by the way; the “roads” leading there looked sometimes like a random accumulation of rocks rather than an actual road and getting up there on a motorbike felt more like a roller-coaster ride than anything else. I am actually surprised that all of us survived without severe injuries 😉

I am glad I went on this tour with Joy and if I had more time in this country I would love to discover more regions like this, far off the beaten track. Instead I am heading off to Inle Lake to visit the only 2 wineries of Myanmar.

So stay tuned and keep on reading (if you have any questions regarding this beautiful country drop me some lines), Rock’n Roll, Nico

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