Trekking and Discovery of Hill Tribes and Traditions of Myanmar

 

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” 
― John MuirJohn of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

This is a journey along   Myanmar’s back roads, through verdant green rolling hills and plains, small villages, local markets where traditions and family units are still strong amongst the hill tribes. We start off in the picturesque mountain valley of Kentung, historic center of the Khun culture, surrounded by the Wa, Shan, Akha and Lahu villages and  complete  our trip at beautiful Inle Lake.

Day 1, Yangon – Kengtung       

At midday your guide and driver will transfer you to the Yangon airport for yourKengtung Trek flight to Kengtung. Upon arrival in the early afternoon a local guide will meet and take you on a short orientation tour of Kengtung. The town is in a lush valley and most of the city’s buildings reflect the traditional architectural styles of the Shan people, such as wooden houses with balconies. Explore the city streets and the Maha Myat Muni pagoda before continuing to your hotel. 
Overnight in Kengtung.

Day 2, Kengtung Trek    

After breakfast visit Kengtung’s market, buzzing with local farmers and hill tribes, selling, bartering, and buying fresh local produce and livestock. Then depart by road to the Hokyin area (around 45 minutes drive) to the trailhead.  The trek begins with a 1.5-2 hour walk to an Akha village. Most of the members of the communities we trek through welcome visitors and love encounters with travelers and are happy to talk about their unique customs and daily lifestyles.

Resume trekking to Na Phi Phank village, home to the Lahu hill tribe, famous for their blacksmithing. Return to the trailhead, possibly passing a Wa village en route. During the trek a picnic lunch will be served in a scenic spot or village. Return to Kengtung by car this afternoon.
Overnight in Kengtung. (Breakfast/Lunch included)

Day 3, Kengtung Trek                    

After breakfast, you, your guide and driver will start on a 2 hour drive towards the trailhead. This journey offers wonderful views of mountains dotted with tribal villages. The first hour of the trek features rolling and hilly terrain.  In the middle of this natural landscape is a breathtakingly beautiful wooden monastery, which is thought to be more than 300 years old. There are wood carvings on the doors and paintings on both the interior and exterior walls. Inside the Buddha room, there are paintings of Jakata stories, ancient Buddha images and other impressive religious figures and furniture.Akha Hill Tribe

The next two villages you visit (in Wan Nyat and Wang Seng)  belong to the Loi tribes, unique with their long houses, culture and traditions. Wang Seng village is off the beaten track, and features an impressive and even larger monastery. A picnic lunch will be served along the way. After your visits, return along the trekking trail to your car and drive back to Kengtung, arriving in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Kengtung. (Breakfast/lunch included) 

Day 4, Kengtung – Heho – Pindaya          

After breakfast at the hotel, visit a traditional Shan lacquerware workshop and the water buffalo market which is held twice a week in Kengtung before transferring  to the Kengtung airport for your onward flight to Heho. You will be met by your new guide and driver on arrival and will proceed to Pindaya.
Overnight in Pindaya. (Breakfast)

Day 5, Pindaya Exploration          

Today’s exploration of  Pindaya and surroundings starts with a short hike to See Kya Inn village, passing other villages inhabited by Palaung and Danu tribes, ethnic minority groups residing in the area who grow crops such as ginger, chilies, cauliflower and cheroot leaves. Encounter along Trek

After lunch in See Kya Inn return to Pindaya for a short drive to a nearby village. Daily village activities vary with the season.  During the dry season you may see the drying of cheroot leaves or weaving of cotton. In the rainy season you may see activities such as the weaving of wood or bamboo mats and making of brooms. Continue on to the famous Pindaya Caves popular with local pilgrims. Multiple chambers of these caves are filled with hundreds of Buddha statues. Finally visit a local workshop making umbrellas and paper from the mulberry tree. This is one of the few areas in Myanmar still practicing this craft.
Overnight in Pindaya. (Breakfast/lunch included) 

Day 6, Pindaya – Kalaw                 

Today, after a leisurely breakfast, drive further into the Shan Hills towards Kalaw. Visit the local market near the Aung Ban junction. There are endless piles of local produce such as garlic, chili, potatoes, cabbages and more. Many traders are dressed in their traditional costumes and few foreign travelers venture to this market. Arrive in Kalaw at midday and after checking in, embark on a walking tour of the market, some small local art galleries, the British-built train station and a local tea shop for snacks and ending with a climb up the stairs to the hilltop monastery for panoramic views over the town.
Overnight in Kalaw. (Breakfast)

Day 7, Kalaw - Excursion to Elephant Camp          

Today’s excursion takes you into the forest for a unique encounter with Myanmar’s wildlife. Begin with a 45-60 minute transfer to a small village, typical of many Shan State villages. The short trek to the elephant camp is with a local guide knowledgeable in local flora, fauna and lifestyles. Your visit here helps to sustain this elephant camp, a refuge for elephants too old or weak to work in the logging industry. Under close supervision you can help with feeding and washing the elephants. A delicious lunch using traditional methods and ingredients from the camp’s organic garden is included. This afternoon return to Kalaw.
Overnight in Kalaw. (Breakfast/lunch included) 

Day 8, Kalaw - Nyaung Shwe                                                                      

Check out after breakfast and drive to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway to Inle Lake, stopping along the way at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images. After reaching Nyaung Shwe and checking in (note: early check in subject to availability) have lunch at a local restaurant. (own account).

The afternoon’s exploration starts with a local trishaw ride down to the bustling canal, gateway for boats from the lake laden with tomatoes and other produce for distribution to the markets around the country. The tightly packed baskets of produce are transferred from boats to trucks and bikes. Continue by trishaw, winding through quiet streets. Stops include the ‘tomato house’, a warehouse-like structure for sorting and grading tomatoes for sale. Then continue past some of the many monasteries and nunneries in the town, stopping for photos as you go.

Return to your hotel in the mid afternoon. If you wish you can also visit Red Mountain Estate, one of Myanmar’s top vineyards (supplement will apply).
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe. (Breakfast)

Day 9, Nyaung Shwe - Inle Lake - Nyaung Shwe                                

After breakfast, head to the jetty for a full day excursion on Inle Lake by private boat.Fishermen, Inle Lake

Inle Lake, surrounded by mountains is not only a spectacular sight, but whole communities depend on it for their livelihood. Visit the “5 Day market’, a local farmer’s market which moves location from village to village on a 5 day cycle. This market is essential to the local community and surrounding hill tribes who come to sell and trade their wares. Pass villages built on stilts over the lake, inhabited by the local Intha people. On the lake itself farmers are tending to floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles, rich with crops of tomatoes, flowers and edible greens. Fishermen in small boats dot the lake, casting nets with both hands, and rowing with one leg. Visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf. 

At midday, stop to prepare your lunch with a local family! This cooking course is a fun and interesting way to learn about the traditional flavors and preparation techniques of Burmese cuisine.  After lunch continue to explore the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.If time permits, there may be time to enjoy a short walk through one of the lakeside villages.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe. (Breakfast/lunch included)    

Day 10, Nyaung Shwe - Heho - departure.

This morning transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
(Breakfast)