Enchanting    
 

Myanmar

 

A Guide to Tourism Destination and Beyond

Vol. 2

No.1

October-December 2002

Home | Contents | A Letter to Our Readers | Two Ancient cities and a sanctuary | Hearts full of charity
Toddy Palms | It's Good to Know | Let's Go Walking | The Kindergarten Teacher | Events Calendar

Let's Go Walking

By: Hpone Thant
Photos: Sonny Nyein

Wan Saing village

Ahki women

"Okay, boots. Let's go walking". That's from a famous song from the late 70s and that suits us fine. For trekking enthusiasts Kyaing Tong and its environs are the best. The routes are not hard treks but more to soft and medium, depending on your destination. Also there are many ethnic groups around the town; Akhas with their distinctive silver head dresses, Engs and their curious philosophy, the Lahu and their beliefs. All these can be seen.

Three Generation of Akhas

Making KyaingTong the hub of your activities it is possible to go trekking into the ethnic villages on day returns. The nearest is Wan Saing village. It is an Akhi village situated near the Kyaing Tong airport.

The signs on the village gate
at an Akha village

Although the villagers had converted to Christianity they had not forgotten their old ways. The village is situated on top of a hill with the small stream at the bottom. Getting there in the evening when the villagers return home from the fields is the best time. "The villagers are either in the fields or in the forest gathering Wood during daytime. If you Come during the day all you will see are the children and old people" our guide informed us.

Akhas in their traditional costumes

Other villages of interest are the Hokyin Akha villages. There are four villages group together just opposite loimwe, which is the highest peak around here. loimwe used to be the headquarters of the British District Commissioner during the colonial period and the old bungalow used by the D.C is still standing. To save time we took a car to the foot of loimwe range and started oUr trek from there. Pine trees swayed in the stiff breeze as we climbed Slowly up the bridle track. "Why do all these people have to put their villages So high ? asked one of our group between gasps." The Akhas say they would like to hear the pounding of Indra's feet than live where the only sounds audible are croaks of the frogs" the guide answered. Indra is the King of the

The eligible bachelor
 from an Eng village

Celestial Beings So the Akhas are saying that they prefer to live on breezy mountain-tops rather than in damp and unhealthy valleys. Finally we reach the top and it was worth our climb. All the villagers were in their native costumes. The womens' silver headdresses flashed in the sunlight as they sat in front of their huts and embroidered intricate designs on pieces of cloths. Some were dyeing the threads in huge iron vats. A group of children had gathered around the village blacksmith as he fired up his kiln. This is an unusual village because it is part animist and part Buddhist. The guide pointed out" See, the marker pillar stands in the middle separating the two," But everybody seems to be living in complete harmony, which is usual for the country. The other three villages are visible from here. All are on different peaks and to get to them we go down from one village into a deep valley then climb up again to reach the other.

Eng village of Nam Ling Mine

A group of Eng villagers

At the entrances to the villages are gates. They are traditional Akha village gates. On them are animist signs. These gates separate the realm of the living from the dead. Our guide beckons, "Come and see here. These wooden statues are placed here by barren couples who pray to have many children in their next life. But do not touch them. It is taboo." The statues are crudely carved out of wood but anatomically (and explicitly!) correct. The Akhas live on remote mountain peaks and in old age the only people that will look after them are their own children so they always want a big family. So barren couples are not happy and they put these statues so that they may be blessed with many children in their next life.
 

White Lahus

White Lahus

Eng villages are also near Kyaing Tong and possible for day return treks. The Eng villages of Nam Lin Kaung and Nam Ling Mine are also on high peaks. Walking across terraced fields and through Palaung and Akha villages we get to these villages. The track is not steep or hard. It is mostly on level ground except when nearing the villages. Then it will go up steeply. The village is situated on a slope with the panoramic view of the Kyaing Tong valley. Water is brought from a mountain spring via bamboo conduit pipes. A man approach us smiling, with a flower stuck in one of his ear lobes. The guide calls him over and they converse in the local dialect. "He is saying that this flower is to announce that he is now ready to get married" translated our guide. That's good. Any girl interested should apply!! Nam Lin Mine is an animist village but there are no signs. "These people may seem dirty" said our guide, "but their philosophy is that it is far better to be clean inside than be clean outside". That is good philosophy for many of us to note.

A White Lahu lady

An Eng lady

Next is the White Lahu village of Konche. This is a medium trek taking around 2-3 hours from the last village accessible by car from Kyaing Tong. The track is up steep mountain sides with a panoramic view of the valley below. White and Black Lahu can be differentiated by the colour of their costumes.The White Lahu, both men and women, wear white shirts with blue baggy shan style trousers and blouses and blue longyis. The women have plaited and coloured bamboo strips as necklaces. The Black Lahus' costumes are black for both sexes. Their New Year coincides with the Chinese New Year and is celebrated at all Black and White Lahu villages. All the villagers dance around the ceremonial tree and offer portions of pork to their traditional spirits. One interesting thing of these Lahus is that every family must plant a tree on New Year Day to pay back the debt they owe to the forest for providing them with their needs. A good environmental conservation concept, we should say!

Konche White Lahu village

"Are we going to see the Palaungs also?" asked one from our group. "There are Palaungs here around Kyaing Tong also and they have an interesting story on their origin and their dress, especially the ladies" our guide answered. But that's another story.

So Let's Go Walking, Boots, And Enjoy Ourselves.



 

 

Hpone Thant is a regular contributor to Enchanting Myanmar magazine. He can be reached at: harry@swiftwinds.com.mm


 

Enchanting

Myanmar

A Guide to Tourism Destination and Beyond

Vol. 2

No.1

October-December 2002