Tarzan: King of the Jungle
Favorite thing: While making the arduous hike up to the village of Wan Seng, I saw that there were a number of heavy vines hanging down along the path.
Since opportunities to play Tarzan in the backwaters of Burma dont like arise often in a lifetime, I felt it was my duty to seize the day.
So here you go: AHH AHAHAHAHAAHA AHAHAHAHAHAH!!! (Kenmerk: King of the Jungle, swinging from tree to tree....)
A as in Apple
Favorite thing: As we walked down the path between the villages of Wan Nyet and Wan Seng, ahead I could hear the voice of young children singing. (in that sing-sing tonal kind of way...)
Up ahead was a small wooden structure, which we found to be a small Burmese school house that was used to teach the local hill tribe children Burmese.
As fortune would have it the teacher was a young Burmese lady who was quite friendly and was nice enough to invite us in the small class room to watch for a while.
It was quite cute to watch the young kids learning their Burmese ABC's. They all have their arms folded and were sitting upright at attention singing the local equivalent of something like: "A as in Apple, B as in Bear, C as in Cat, D as in Dog...."
I'm told the Burmese Government provides this service to try and assimilate the hill tribers more closely into Burmese society. (Typically most hill tribe people do not speak Burmese, but that is slowly changing I'm told...)
Favorite thing: The living arrangements for the Loi (Lwe) tribe are somewhat different that the other hill tribe people in this region.
The Loi tend to live in "long houses" which are a larger wooden/thatched hut type structure that houses as many as six families together. Most of the other tribes around here, (Akha, Lisu, Lahu...) tend to build individual huts for each family...
Long and Winding Road
Favorite thing: The road to Wan Seng from Kengtung heads north, going as far as Mongla which is right on the Chinese (Yunnan Province) Border.
It is quite a twisting road that winds and turns its way through the mountains up here. That said, this road is 1000% better than it was just a couple years ago.
When I first headed up this way in 2001, the road was not sealed and was a four hour pot holed, dirty, dusty, rear end bruising affair. Now its 2 hours in relative comfort on a smooth paved surface.
Also, the mountains up here are beautiful. Enjoy the ride !
Favorite thing: Along this road, you will come across a few other hill tribe villages before reaching the trailhead for Wan Seng.
The road cuts right through two Akha villages, and there are a number of other villages that are visible along the mountain ridges an down in the valleys.
Some of the villages are on the trekking circuit for people hiking around in the Shan state, while others are not. Seek out the ones that don't usually get foreign visitors. I promise that the reaction the villagers will give you will be more rewarding.
Big Brother is Watching...
Favorite thing: As with most everywhere in Burma, (but especially in the "troubled" regions like the Shan State), you can't go too far without running into police check points and heavy security.
The trip to Wan Seng is no exception. Before heading up here, you must get approval from the local immigration office in Kengtung to travel on this road. (your guest house can likely help you with this) You then have to give a copy of the approval form to each guard check point that you pass. (and likely have to wait around for 20 minutes, while they decide it you are deemed worthy of continuing onward...)
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: As you walk around the villages during the daytime you will find that for the most part, only the children and older people are about.
Most of the men and women are out in the surrounding areas, doing their daily rounds of hunting and gathering and the like.
The Loi (Lwe) kids that we came aross here seemed pretty reserved at first, although they quickly warmed up to us. I found that they really got a kick out of seeing their picture on the LCD screen of my digital camera after taking their photo.
After showing them this once, they were all jumping up and down and arguing with each other over who gets to have their picture taken next...
Carry the Load
Favorite thing: You can certainly see that the people out here have to work hard to subsist out here. I saw one young girl with probably a 30 kg load of bananas on her back hiking up a steep goat path that I think I would have trouble keeping my footing on.
Here you can see that neither the young or the old are spared their share of the burden. An elderly lady carrying a large pile of wood back to the village, and a 5 year old boy carrying his 2 year old sister on his back.
Favorite thing: There are actually two separate Loi (Lwe) villages along this path. The first is called Wan Nyet and is about an hours hike up hill from the trailhead. The second village is called Wan Seng and is another hours hike uphill.
Here is a colourful Buddhist monastery that is in the first village. Note the architecture of this building is more reminiscent of Tibet than of either Burmese or Shan temples that you normally find in the Shan State of Burma.
Tune in, Turn on, Drop out...
Favorite thing: Hmmmm... Clean air, Beautiful Mountains, Hungry: Go gather some bananas, Cold: Go gather some wood to burn. In all I have to say that I found the Loi way of life to be a lot more comprehensible than my own...
Thats it !!! F*ck it, I quit !!!! SELL THE CAR !!! SELL THE KIDS !!! SELL THE WIFE !!!! BURN THE HOUSE !!!! I'm never coming home.
I am a hunter/gatherer now.... If you're ever on your way from Kengtung to Mongla, be sure to stop by and say hi... I'll be up here with my new found hunter/gatherer friends....
Favorite thing: Some local ladies doing the laundry in a stream which is nearby Wan Seng. Note how they have cut down a tree and laid it horizontal to kind of serve as a clothes hanger.
It is kind of funny, we were up high above them on a bridge and the ladies down in the river gorge could see we had given some candy to the kids on the bridge.
The ladies started waiving their arms like they wanted some too, so I tied four bags together and heaved it down to them. You should have seen them scrambling over one another to get at it....
Inside the Long House
Favorite thing: A look inside the long house you will see that each family has their own little compartment complete with beds and a fireplace for cooking and warmth. In the rafters are baskets, and foodstuff hanging.
As you can imagine with no electricity (and with the indoors fireplaces right in the middle of the room) it is a rather dark and smokey place...
Favorite thing: The second and larger village, Wan Seng, is about an hour's walk past Wan Nyet. The monastery complex at this village is larger and more ornate that the one at Wan Nyet.
There also seemed to be a bit more activity here. There were a number of young monks outside of the monastery painting a redecorating it. Again the archtectiture style here appears to be more Tibetan than what you would typically find in a Burmese or Shan Buddhist temple.
Favorite thing: I saw quite a few young Loi girls dressed like this:
Burlap skirt, burlap leg wraps, Long sleeved coloured arm bands, thick silver wrist bands, beaded neckaces, and maybe some spots or lines of red makeup on their cheeks. Also, more often they would be wearing a head scarf.
Run Away !!!
Favorite thing: Well there all were pretty excited about the photo ops, till the one little guy suddenly realized that he didn't have any trousers on.
Run away... Run away !!!