Behind the scenes in Myanmar – Chapter 4
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
Find Chapter 3: Trekking into the World of the Kayan here
Chapter 4: Trekking to the Paluang in northern Shan State
Myanmar comprises seven states with more than 135 different ethnic groups, but its biggest state with one of the largest ethnic groups is Shan State, home to the Shan people. Much of Shan State is made up of the hilly Shan Plateau and mountains to the north and south, which together form the Shan Hill system. It’s a place of diverse cultures, many sights of interest and unspoiled natural beauty.
One fascinating part that we visited on a recent trekking adventure included the Hsipaw and Kyaukme regions in northern Shan State – famous for the ancient culture of the Palaung people. We also enjoyed a boat trip up the Duthawadi River and a train ride across the famous Goteik viaduct, the highest bridge in Myanmar!
When trekking in this rugged region it’s worth remembering to bring a few useful items including a first aid kit, a torch, energy snacks (like bananas) and some colored pencils and paper to present as gifts to local children that you are bound to meet along the way.
Day one: Yangon to Hsipaw by public bus
We took a bus to Hsipaw – one that usually operates between Yangon and Lashio – which departed at 5:30 pm from Yangon bus station. There are at least two types of bus, the regular service and the VIP service that also serves snacks.
After driving for about 185 km, the bus pulled over for a break. We were able to buy all sorts of snacks at the stop, including tea and coffee. We then continued driving towards Hsipaw and made one more stop for about 20 minutes in the scenic hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin.
At around 5:30 am, we arrived at Nawnghkio and breakfasted there. We ate delicious Shan noodles, a tofu salad and several other local snacks. Just 1500 kyat (about US$1.00) per person is enough for breakfast!
We arrived in Hsipaw’s central market at about 8:00 am and then took a tuk tuk to the Mr. Charles Hotel, a 3-star hotel with clean, elegant rooms in a good location.
At 12:00 pm, we met in the hotel lobby for our first day of trekking! We had a delicious lunch at a local monastery, and then took a 45-minute boat ride down the Duthawadi River to the village where we would start our trek.
During the walked we passed through some amazing countryside dotted with paddy fields and tobacco plantations. We also visited a local snack-making operation.
At around 5:30 am, we walked back to Hsipaw town to overnight at the Mr. Charles Hotel.
We had nice breakfast at the hotel – Shan noodles, coffee, tea and some shacks.
At 8:30 am we left the hotel and drove to the starting point of our trek – about a 30-minute ride by tuk tuk. The first part of the walk was all uphill, so the guide served us seasonal fruits and snacks to keep our energy up!
When we reach the top we stopped off at a local house for some tea and rice crackers. From then on the walk followed trails and roads on almost flat terrain. At 2.00 pm, we arrived in a small local village and enjoyed a home-cooked lunch at a local house. It was simple vegetarian food, but the fresh vegetables were really tasty!
After lunch, we said goodbye to the family and walked for another hour to arrive at the pickup point where a car was waiting for us. We arrived back in Hsipaw town at about 2:30 pm.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3: Hsipaw to Kyaukme by local bus, trekking in Kyaukme
At 08:00 in the morning, we took a tuk tuk to the bus station for an hour’s drive to Kyaukme on the local bus. It was the most fun part of the trip – being with local people; observing their way of life and marvelling at the variety of produce they were selling!
In Kyaukme we met up with our local guide Mr. ‘99’, who took us to our hotel. Rooms were basic and comfortable and service was good. After settling into our rooms we prepared for another day of trekking. This time our starting point was a Palaung village 30 minutes from the hotel.
The first part of the walk took about 2.5 hours, passing through some beautiful Palaung villages. At about 2.00pm after ascending a number of hills, we arrived in a local Palaung village full of people with beautiful smiles! We stopped at a big wooden house belonging to a local family and Mr 99 served us Shan noodles and fried rice for lunch. It was a great meal and gave us enough energy for the rest of our walk – a two-hour descent to our pickup point!
We arrive back at our hotel in Kyaukme at about 6.00 pm in the evening, ready for a good night’s sleep!
Day four: Kyaukme to Nyaung Cho by train, continue to Mandalay by private car, night bus to Yangon
At 8.00 pm we transferred to the train station by tuk tuk and took the train to Nyaung. We had first class tickets which cost about 5,000 kyat (US$3.70) for both locals and tourists. It takes about two hours to get to the Goteik viaduct, which spans a valley between the towns of Pyin Oo Lwin and Lashio. It was a great opportunity to get some photos of this amazing feat of engineering, completed in 1900! We enjoyed a packed lunch on the train and arrived in Nyaung Cho at around 2.00 pm. At the station we met up with the private car that would take us on the two-hour journey to Mandalay.
We arrived in Mandalay at around 5.00 pm, had dinner at local restaurant and then headed to the bus station for an overnight bus trip back to Yangon. Our amazing adventure was sadly over!
Blogged by Lei Lei Minn, Sales Manager at Khiri Travel Myanmar