“Train travel animate my imagination and usually give me solitude to order and write my thoughts: I travel easily in two directions, along the level rails while Asia flashed changes at the window, and at the interior rim of a private world of memory and language. I cannot imagine a luckier combination.” The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
I live near a station along the circuit train of Yangon city. The British has paved the rail line for easy access to all parts of Yangon. Since my childhood I used to take trains to tuition with some friends and came to like it. When I became a teenager I took a train ride to Nyaung Shwe near Inle Lake. It is amazing! Trains here are pretty slow with narrow gauge rail tracks. Presently the Myanmar railways have 4300km (2700 miles) of track covering most parts of Myanmar.
Since I love taking pictures of people, I take the train ride into the city from time to time. I can see various walks of life in the trains. There are people who are hoping from one train car to another for selling food like noodle salad, fried noodle, potato chips, boiled corn, boiled eggs, iced water, juice, etc. There are people who commute to their work or going to the big whole sale markets to buy stuff to sell at their homes in the community. Some veggie vendors to a spur rail line out of circular track to get to a whole veggie market place where all veggies from the country come down by train. They purchase veggies and load them on the train, sort and bundle them for selling in the local community markets.
Some school kids go to school by train with their parents by smearing all-time Burmese make-up Thanaka on their faces like mud! They gaze out of windows with the breeze and being sleepy because of early wake up from beds. Some vendors come to the city to sell their goods such as brooms, machetes, small wooden furniture, bamboo mats and so on. I spot some time some vendors who sell the stain remover by demonstrating by pouring ink on a white shirt to get it off right a way to prove how good their product is. One time a man just started telling tales about some strange events happened to a boy who speaks about some celebrities in his daily life as his close friends. The parent found out the strange nature of the boy and people started talking about the reincarnation of a film star who died of drug in his mid thirties. The print out fliers of the boy is sold out at a good selling price of 50 kyats (17 cents) and almost everyone in that car bought it. But in a week that become an old story and other vendors who climbed on the bandwagon didn’t sell well anymore!
It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to make a whole circuit by train through Yangon city.
We walked to the main market of Kyaing Tong from Princess hotel. It’s just 5 minute walk from hotel. We could see sea of motor bikes parked at the entrance of the market. All the way through the main aisle we saw vendors selling fruits, tea, foodstuff imported from Thailand, spices and herbs, prayer flags, ethnic textile, head dresses of Akha people, beautiful outfits of Lahu people, babmboo baskets, various kinds of rice including mountain rice in red color and etc. After the market visit we went to a local monastery to witness the annual confession of monks from different monasteries around the town. The atmosphere was really spiritual.
In the courtyard of the monastery, we saw some 40 or so small temporarily built straw huts where monks from all over are staying for 11 days here during the festival. It starts from the fifth waxing of our lunar month of Pyatho till the fullmoon which would be the next day on 8th January. The devotees from all over are coming and visiting to the corresponding monks of their areas. Inside the monastery we saw people praying in front of monks which is to invite the spiritual beings to come and listen to the prayers later said by the monks. At one corner at the kitchen of the monastery ladies are preparing sumptuous meals to offer to the monks for the second last day. People are so nice and accommodating to us that we even had a conversation with a monk. It was something new for us. We had a chance to see it thanks our local tour guide Sai Ywet who asked me the night before if we would be interested to go. Not a single foreigner was there but us. We were very very privileged!
Then we visited a pottery village, a lacquerware making home and back to hotel for checking out. On the way to the airport we stopped at a nice Sein Pan Nee Nee restaurant and had lunch together with clients and Sai Yewt and our driver. I hosted the meal for all of us as the farewell lunch for all of us. We will be saying goodbye to Kyaing Tong and my clients would be leaving Burma the next day morning.
We started out at 8:00 a.m. by picking up our picnic lunch. Drove to the outskirt of Kyaing Tong town to view the water buffalo market happening every other day and every two days alternately. We saw only one water buffalo and several cattle for the time now is low action season for agricultural sector and the summer is coming in in late February. After the water buffalo market we drive down south of Kyiang Tong along the road to Thai border for an hour. Thai border is just about 100 miles south of Kyaing Tong. Stopped at the trail head at 1300 meters altitude on the roadside and started hiking uphill. On the way we saw some plantations of rice, crab apple, tangerine and rice. Among many shrubs we saw there were some wild ginger flowers in deep bright red which grows and blossom right on the ground. After half hour we reached to the highest point of our trail at 1570 meters where pine trees are found here and there. We started going down the trail to see the view of the valley on the right side scattered with villages. Those are 4 Akha villages of Ho-kyin.
Some 15 minutes later we reached to the first village of Buddhist Akha with a small pagoda at first sight when we entered. The house next to is where they cook mountain rice and corn liquor. We were shown the big sacs of fermented corn and rice stored in a house. Then we started seeing a couple of Akha ladies with their beautiful head dresses and colorful costumes with babies trailing behind them. There are houses here and there. Pigs, dogs, cats and bulls forage and moving around. A small family of chicks and the mother chicken being chased away by a dog which churned up the dust in the sun. Then we saw the fertility poles where they carved the male and the female figure out of wood in the center of the village. It is a mix of animist and Buddhist believes flourished here. Some Catholic missionaries arrived in Burma in 19th century and some minorities in the mountainous areas of Burma were converted to Christianity. Akhas are one of them. We found a church in the second village where we had lunch at a house of an Akha woman.
After lunch we headed downhill through two other villages of Akha. On the way we saw a saw at a playground for kids made of a bamboo pole. It was already 4 p.m. by the time we got back to the car at a different pickup spot. It was beautiful to see green patches of paddy fields dancing in the wind under bright afternoon sun along the road back to Kyaing Tong.
We picked up our lunch boxes at Golden Banyan restaurant in the morning at 7:30.
Drove to the trailhead at 3200 ft which is located on the road to Chinese border after two check points
Started trekking for 1 hour to get to the first village of Wan Nyat with a monastery and 4 long houses. We visited the beautiful old monastery and continued trekking up. Arrived the Wan Seng village around noon. It is located at 5000 ft above sea level. They have a wonderful 400-year-old monastery and seven long houses. At least 20 Loi families live in each long house accounting from 80 to 100 people.
After visiting two long houses we backtracked along the trail and stopped at Wan Nyat village of 4 long houses. We noticed people have been drying wild grass in their yards on small wooden stages to make them brooms to sell in Kyaing Tong market. Some men of the village are trying to work out an area of clearing for constructing a new long house. We have returned to the car and drove back to Kyaing Tong. Stopped by at Golden Banyan restaurant for tomorrow’s lunch during our trekking to Akha villages.
Woke up early to the marching girl band without brass for celebrating 64th Independence Day of Myanmar from the British since 1948
Watch Danu minority girls in beautiful costumes
Breakfast at hotel and checked out to drive to Heho airport for flight to Kyaing Tong
Stopped at Aung Ban highway stop for bying some snacks
Stopped at a small farm which grows tangerine, strawberries and dragon fruits
Took the flight to Kyaing Tong via Air Bagan
Arrive Kyaing Tong airport and checked in Princess hotel
Drove 25 minute to visit Wan Sai village of Akhu minority village
This morning we checked out Pristine Lotus Resort and drove to Pindaya.
On the way we visited Aung-ban 5-day market. It is the largest market around the region.
Markets here are as colorful as ever with vegetables which are freshly picked.
Due to the lack of refrigeration, most people in the country buys all fresh veggies.
The morning light over the red color earth and the view of Shan hills along the way makes our mid-morning drive perfect. Stopped at Tha-yet-kon village to observe the bamboo hat making house
Arrived Pindaya and checked in Inle Inn Pindaya. We had lunch at Green Tea restaurant on the northern shore of the lake of the town. After lunch we took steps up the hill to reach the entrance of the cave with Buddha images. Clients are amazed by the maze of Buddha images. There are over 8,000 Buddha images dating from 14th to 19th century. After the cave visit we drove to Shan-paper making and paper parasol making house. From here we walked leisurely to downtown of Pindaya and back to hotel.