Trekking - Kyaukme
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Foreword: We met Joy on the train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw. We didn't have time to do a trek with him ourselves but when we've had questions about trekking in Kyaukme, we have passed his details on. And on each occasion we've had a grateful email back after another happy traveller has enjoyed his guidance. The following is written by Joy with no editing. Let that be testament to his English language skills.
Disclaimer: All pictures have been posted with the authority of Joy and all words are his.
Joy Smith Guide
Trekking and motorbiking around Kyaukme
Kyaukme is a small town with excellent trekking among the mountains and villages. The local ethnic groups called the Palaung and Lisu live among these mountains outside of Kyaukme and inhabit the local villages. Many tourists choose to travel to Hsipaw and Kalaw for trekking but Kyaukme offers a unique experience and proves to be less touristy. Outside of Kyaukme the mountainous region and the villages are quiet, peaceful, and beautiful to photograph or just enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape.
Treks begin to the village where the Palaung people live. Originally the Palaung descended from the mountains in the South of China thousands of years ago. Only two groups of Palaung reside in this area; Shwe Palaung (Gold Palaung), and Ngwe Palaung (Silver Palaung). The Palaung cultivate and trade tea, wood, and herbal plants for a living. As you trek into this region you will see Palaung people pick tea leaves along the hillside, steam the tea leaves, and scatter them on hand made mats for drying in the sun. Three types of teas are produced; green, pickled, and tea powder.
When you enter the villages you will be invited to join them for a cup of hot tea, always a nice refreshing break from the heat and the trekking. The Palaung are happy and friendly to meet tourists and are always curious about Western life. Outside of their village, life is unknown to the Palaung since traveling only entails an occasional trip to Kyaukme for supplies such as salt, cooking oil, and candles. The Gold Palaung and the Silver Palaung wear belts made of bamboo and the long grass
designates if they belong to either the Gold or Silver Palaung groups. Traditional dress is worn daily and is designed in beautiful, bright, shiny fabric with many colors. If you like, local women will dress women tourists in local attire and show you how to dance their traditional dance. This makes for great fun and good photography.
The Palaung culture and religion is very interesting. They continue to live in houses made of bamboo and thatch with several small gardens neatly placed among the homes. Buddhism is practiced but the Palaung follow spiritual believes. Each village has a Nat Shrine called Zhao Main meaning King of Nat. Nat is believed to have supernatural powers that assist the Palaung with business, protect them from health problems, and protect the village from disasters. There are many stories to be told about their spiritual beliefs.
Motorbike options are available if trekking from Kyaukme seems too strenuous. The trekking begins one hour outside of Kyaukme. Once you exit Kyaukme life is quiet and pleasant with beautiful scenery and locals to greet and visit. The roads can be challenging with rocky footing but the trekking is worth this adventure for the scenery and to experience the village way of life. All tourists appear pleased with this experience.
Trekkers do not need to bring sleeping bags as blankets are provided. The floor is hard so a sleeping pad might be needed for comfort. Meals are arranged in advance and are prepared within the home and eaten at a table while sitting on the floor. The food is traditionally prepared and includes rice.
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