Behind the scenes in Myanmar – Chapter 3
The Khiri Travel Myanmar team is giving a behind- the- scenes glimpse on their recent inspections around the country. This new series will be covering the experiences of our team members while exploring some new and some better known destinations.
Find Chapter 1: Overland from Mandalay to Yandabo here
Find Chapter 2: On the road to Hpa-An here
Chapter 3: Trekking into the World of the Kayan
Everyone has their own reason for travelling! I do it to find out about new cultures in places where people are less likely to travel – it turns the trip into more of an exciting adventure!
Among the trips I have undertaken, one of the most unforgettable was my trip to visit the Kayan people in Kayah State. It was really fascinating for me to meet and chat with the Kayan ladies who wear the brass coil neck rings; taste Kayan sausage and experience the fresh aroma of Kayan liquor.
Kayah State is Myanmar’s smallest, tucked away between the southern part of Inle Lake in Shan State and the northern part of Kayin State. It’s a fascinating place with a diverse number of different people and different beliefs.
From Yangon, it’s possible to fly to Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, but preferring to be more adventurous, my friend and I decided to take an overnight bus from Yangon to Kalaw, a hill town in southern Shan State. We arrived in Kalaw at around 4.00 am and checked into a hotel to get some rest.
Our next destination was the town of Pinlaung about two hours from Kalaw. We set out with our driver at 9.00 am and arrived there at 11.00 am where we were met by a local family, who took us to see the wooden ruins of a former palace that once belonged to the last Pinlaung Saopha, or local lord of the Pinlaung region. We even got to meet the former lady or wife of the Saopha – a woman of over 80 years of age, who told us about the history of the region.
We then had a simple lunch at the host family’s home and then headed for Pinlaung train station for our journey to Saung Byaung. For me, this was my favourite part of the trip, because of the beautiful scenery we passed through and the fresh, cool breeze that was so invigorating. We arrived in Saung Byaung town at about 3.00pm and met up with the driver who was taking us to Loikaw.
It was evening by the time we arrived in Loikaw and we went straight to a local house for a delicious home-cooked dinner. Of all the local dishes we enjoyed, the best one for me was the peanut paste, a blend of baked tomatoes and peanuts, mixed with some salt and chilli powder – really delicious and easy to make!
After dinner, we checked into the Kan Thar Yar Hotel situated on the banks of Kayay Lake, a small man-made body of water in the center town. The rooms at this hotel were very comfortable and clean with all the mod-cons. In the evening I relaxed with a coffee by the lake and thought excitedly about our trip in the morning to visit the Kayan people. A cool refreshing breeze was blowing in from across the water.
The next morning the air was cool and fresh as we prepared for our trek to the Kayan villages. We drove for about an hour to get to Pemsong village, the starting point of our trek. Our guide was a local Kayan man who talked to us about the history of his ancestors, including their beliefs in spirits, and the importance of totem poles and herbal medicines. We stopped for a tasty picnic lunch at a spectacular viewpoint overlooking a valley with the rolling blue hills of the jungle beyond.
After lunch, we descended to Kasae Kum village where we were able to observe Kayan villagers making local handicrafts, including bracelets, bamboo cups, weavings and sculptures. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to some of the locals and learn about their customs and the practice the women have of wearing bronze rings around their necks.
From here, we continued by car for about 45 minutes to Hta Nee La Leh, a traditional Kayan village, where we met some of the community members who explained their shrines to us and their animist traditions that are still practiced today.
We then drove back to Loikaw and on to Moe Bye Dam where we enjoyed drinking sundowners, local Kayan liquor and eating Kayan sausage! The sausage was delicious, nothing like I had tasted before, and it was matched only by the beautiful setting overlooking the dam where we sat back and watched the sun sink behind the lake.
The next morning we transferred to Loikaw airport and flew back to Yangon. Even though it was only a short adventure, it was a real opportunity to learn about a completely different culture. I really enjoyed it and will always have some unforgettable memories of my time with the Kayan.
Blogged by Mr. Bo Saw, Sales Supervisor at Khiri Travel Myanmar