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Travel with author Martin Schacht in Myanmar

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Gossips & Travel Stories

Near the Land of the Golden Triangle
A visit to a remote area of Myanmar

"Are you sure that you want to travel to this place?" a lot of people asked us. Since long ago we have been curious to explore the hill tribes in the "nearby" villages of the ancient city of Khentung, one of the most scenic spots in Myanmar. From Yangon it took us a round trip via Mandalay, Heho and Tachileik, where we picked up our friends from Sode Tour in Laos to finally reach Khentung. Although dark, gray clouds were hanging in the deep green valley of the former Shan capital, we immediately fell in love to this sleepy town, far away from the busy cities. The lively market, offering a mixture of local products, handicraft wares of the tribal folk and merchandise from Thailand and China; a young policeman very seriously regulating the traffic - consisting of a few cars - and stopping motorcyclists wearing no helmets, telling them to first buy one before continuing their journey...

Pin tauk area, golden triangle, myanmar

From left to right: ko win Oo, paul, sayasouk, sanya (in the golden triangle)

Akha villagers, myanmar

We continued our journey not by cycle, but hiked into the Pintauk area, walking through lush mixed monsoon forest, left from us the valley of plain rice fields - like a huge, green patchwork blanket shimmering in the water of the flooded paddy fields. White and yellow butterflies "showed us the way" to one of the villages of the baptized Aka, where a medicine man invited us to his house.

While we were drinking his delicious rice wine, he showed us his collection of roots, with which he had already healed 6 cases of open TB. Alas - at least some "medical treatment", for we soon found out that most of the baptized villagers were quite neglected by medical help…

Old akhu lady, golden triangle, myanmar Ann hilltribe girl, myanmar Ann hilltribe ladies, myanmar

Thanks to Paul, our local station guide who was brought up in a missionary school and not only was able to speak all the different languages of the tribes, but also had a sincere feeling to the tribes of his Shan State. He always gently introduced us to the villagers and slowly taught us their way of life. About the Aka girls, going into the forest having there their first "experiences" before going into marriage life... (Probably the forest provides the only privacy they will ever have, as in married life they have to share the bedroom with their mothers and sisters, while the husbands stay with their fathers and brothers); the Ann people, known to be the kindest tribe, as until nowadays there has never been a case of an Ann member being violent...;the Loi tribe, preferring to live in huge houses, including at least 5 families; the Palaung women with their silver belts on their colourful costumes, never taking off the belts - even during pregnancy - as they can easily adjust the size of the silver rings around their waist...; the Akhu villagers, still considering dog meat to be a delicacy and preparing this tasty meal for special ceremonies; the Wa people, formerly being headhunters - nowadays the most powerful as well as business minded people in this area…

After spending 8 days in this fascinating area we felt deeply touched, not only by the friendly and helpful people of the Eastern Shan State, but also by the various ethnical groups reminding us of other values in life. Thanks to the bumpy road condition it is not easy for travellers to visit those remote villages miles away from Khentung, the midway between the Thai and Chinese border, Loimwe, the former British colonial hill station and Moingla, the "Tinsel Town" of modern Myanmar. Our farewell was sad; with tears in the eyes it was time to say good-bye to our new friend Paul. We learned a lot from each other, all of us being from different cultures - Myanmar, Shan, Laos and Western - in an area, which for all of us was totally different from our ways of life, showing us that accepting different cultures is the only way to peaceful communication. Palaung lady, golden triangle

Travel stories:

A Glimpse into the World's most secretive Country
(October 2008)

Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal   (August 2007)
My favourite place in the Golden Triangle  (June 2007)
Finding the Touch of the OC in a tiny Burmese Village (OC Metro) (March 2005)
EU's Hollow Lectures on Human Rights (IHT) (June 2004)
"Pass the Nyapi, Please!" (February 2004)
Travel Report from International Travel News (ITN) (June 2003)
Adventures with the Tuesday Club (March 2003)
About Myanmar Rumours and Unspoilt Beaches (October 2002)
Service in the Tourism Industry here and there - Still a long Way to go... (Summer 2002)
Near the Land of the Golden Triangle (May 2000)
A Heavenly Journey to Mt. Victoria (April 1999)
Shin Pyu Ceremony (April 1999)

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1999 Myriam Grest Thein