Myanmar is an unspoiled paradise for trekkers. Whilst the hill tribe villages of Thailand attract hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, very few travellers make it to the friendly, colourful villages of Myanmar’s hinterland. The most popular trekking area is around the colonial hill station of Kalaw, where day treks take you to the villages and longhouses of the Palaung people. Overnight treks visit the plantations and villages of the Danu, and Pa-O, where you can stay in village homes and local monasteries. A famous 3 Day trek takes you all the way from Kalaw, to the ASEAN Heritage site of Inle Lake.
Nearby Pindaya is an undiscovered alternative to Kalaw, with overnight treks visiting Danu and Palaung villages that see few visitors. It is even possible to trek from Pindaya to Kalaw, another fascinating 3 Day experience. The villages surrounding the Kengtung Valley are quite different. The tribal people here are from the Lahu, Akha, Loi, Wa and Eng tribes - more closely bonded to their brethren in Thailand and China, than the people of Lower Myanmar. And finally, the ultimate trekking destination – Putao, and far North Kachin State. This area sees only around 500 foreign visitors a year and is the last word in remote, undiscovered trekking destinations. Visit villagers who see almost no outsiders at all, cross river gorges on spectacular suspension bridges, climb mountains on the Indian border – even trek to the base-camp of mainland South East Asia’s highest mountain. This is the last frontier in Asian tourism.
The town of Putao, population 10,000, sits in the picturesque Putao valley at an altitude of 1,320 feet in far northern Kachin State. The population of the region is a mixture of tribal peoples; Lisu, Rawan, Khamti-Shan, Kachin and the few remaining Tarong, the only pygmy race in Asia. Most people are farmers and live a very simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.
On the western edge of the Shan Hills at an elevation of 4,356 feet, Kalaw was built as a hill station during the British colonial period. The focal point of the town is the central market. Once every 5 days the local market cycle brings hill tribe villagers here to sell their produce.
One of our favourite places in all Myanmar, Kengtung (or Kyaing Tong) lies in a broad, beautiful valley in remote Eastern Shan State, midway between the borders of Thailand and China. The people of this area are predominately Shan, or ‘Tai Khun’, and speak a language very similar to Thai.
Set in a fertile valley amongst the western Shan hills, Pindaya is a small town set around a lake amidst the farmland of the Danu and Pa-O hill tribes. On a ridge above the lake is the town’s most famous attraction, the impressive Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda.