The State Of Shan

Trip Start Jan 20, 2012
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Trip End Jan 12, 2017


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Friday, March 30, 2012

This is about as far north as foreigners can go at the moment, well Lashio is the stopping point and Hsipaw about 100 km below it.  There were not many travelers there which made it all the more appealing.  I rocked up at 5 a.m. from the bus, this is the way you have to travel in Myanmar, expecting to be in the destination at a reasonable time but probably the worst time is the reality, due to compensating for things going wrong with the bus.  I was really tired so rented a very expensive room for 3 hours and after breakfast found a pick up to take me to Namasam.  The pick up was basically a van with seats and the locals were pretty sweet, I sat next to a cool old woman who made hats and laughed when I said "Ne ne pe pa ooooooo".  The road was dusty and my legs were squashed but easily ignored by the stunning views.  There were 2 dutchies with me in the back and they opted to sit on the roof for a bit of fun which I would have done but the drop to the right of me put me off it (becoming safe James, how boring!).

Namasam is about 60km north of Hsipaw and a wonderful half km road of villagers and shops, but just the 1 monopolised guesthouse. The sleep was great and the village dead at night but 4.30 a.m. on the dot the monks start chanting and big, noisy lorries passing right by my window, I am not sure which was worse and cannot say that the chanting was going to get me anywhere near Nirvana.  I decided to do the walk with the dutch couple although not take a guide (it was 10,000 kyat a day per person and when you see how much you can do it for you may understand that decision) as the path was told to us by the locals and a slightly disproportional map was available.   

We started walking on the jungle path after being told we may have to turn back, there is fighting up in the Shan state and if we were to see the military then that was the probable outcome.  Immediately the views were of mountainous passes and deep valleys, our path was determined by which village we had to get to which was another reason why this walk was favorable.  The people throughout all the villages greeted us with grace, kids were friendly although some very shy.  There is tons of tea on the mountain sides and early morning you see the whole family up and out to pick it before the sweltering heat becomes unbearable.  

The walk was not an easy one, which I prefer, with ups, downs, rounds and rocks but we ended up at about 5 in the afternoon to the village we intended to get to.  Instantly finding a monk he greeted us with a tentative attitude and initially I was not optimistic about the outcome but it turned out that he was from another monastery and had no say in what happened there.  The head monk came and was a star, looked like he worked out quite a bit or he just ate a lot. They all made us very welcome asking if we had eaten lunch, answer being no and then he asked "Have you eaten breakfast", this I reckon was just to practice his english. So we were told to wait for a little while and I just thought there would be a bowl of rice and a bit of vegetables, damn after an hour of waiting goods things do really come to those who wait, instead of a meager couple of bowls they brought the whole table full of about 9 different dishes (big ones), a big pot of rice, side soups and some green tea.  After that filling I slept like a log.

The second day of trekking started with a hearty breakfast of rice, the left overs from the previous night and a fried egg (I have eaten more eggs in this trip than the entire population of chickens in south east asia can lay in a year). We wanted to give a donation to the monk and he said "Ok, 5000 Kyat", for all that food I was nearly unpacking my stuff and setting myself up as a fully fledged Monk. The trek started off as a really wonderful morning with villages and mountains but toward midday the path became mundane, the dutch were tired of it and I was a little fed up of the moaning. Our decision was made to make it to Pan Nyoun and get a bike the rest of the way. Getting there we heard gunfire and met a tiny girl and boy who raced us through tea plantations to the village....We ate some Shan noodles there and managed to find 2 bikes from Pan Nyoun to Hsipaw.

I got an early morning bus to Mandalay the day after and found out they have weak stomachs on the buses,admittedly it was all twists and turns but it was pretty much all of them in this state.
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