Trekking in Shan State – Part 2

On February 9th we woke up, freezing cold, in a Palaung village. The Palaung are an ethnic group, many members of which live in Shan State. We ate a big breakfast and quickly left the village to get in a longer day of walking than the previous day. As we left, this little child stared intently at us. Seems to be a ninja in training or something :-)

At one point as we walked up and up and up and up the steep hills/mountains, we came across a massive saw at the side of the road. Scott, a carpenter, assessed it as being ridiculously sharp.

A couple of valley views from hillsides:

In another village, one of the women brought out a ruler to measure Scott, who’s around 6’9″ or so. Apparently this happens to him on a regular basis.

We had tea with some locals, most of whom could not speak English but this guy was pretty photogenic:

In the evening, there was a big festival in the village. There was dancing, and a massive tug-of-war game. Here’s one man doing a traditional dance:

I handed my headlamp to a kid and told him to wave it around in circles for a bit, which they found highly amusing:

The tug-of-war was repeated a number of times, always men against women. The men won most of the time, but sometimes the women managed to win with a bit more organisation and less alcohol. Hundreds of people showed up from all the surrounding villages, it was really a huge deal. Women preparing to pull:

This shows the men ready to pull, and the big wooden ‘pyramid’ that was at the centre of the rope. To win, one side had to pull the pyramid past a line on the ground. A Buddhist monk would start the match by climbing up and ringing a bell, then both sides would pull as hard as possible to win.

Long exposures turned out quite interesting:

Many older Palaung women still wear the traditional dress of their villages:

Another long exposure showing a few spectators crouching on the left near me, and the men pulling to the right in the background:

This monk was standing alone in the distance in the dark, so I took a 30-second exposure to get the light as it appears here. He didn’t move much, and the camera sitting on the grass managed pretty well.

Some stupas at the village monastery:

We headed to bed after a fun-filled night at the festival, and soon we were up again and on our way. More on that in the next post.

Trekking in Shan State – Part 1

On February 8th, I went for a walk. Having spent two nights in Hsipaw, I had met some other travellers, including three Canadians (one from BC, two from Ontario). We decided to go trekking together, and after fruitless attempts to catch a bus to Namhsan to start the walk back to Hsipaw, we ended up changing our plan to walk from Hsipaw to Namhsan and then bus back.

Crossing a bridge:

Crazily large parasite plant living in a tree:

Strange inedible berry:

My three trekking companions:

At the end of our first day of walking, we had reached a small village. We arranged to stay above a small shop, and eat food there too. A bunch of little children were interested in us, and they loved having their photos taken.

Having some tea:


Children playing around for the camera:

This is the room we slept in, which wasn’t very comfortable and was extremely cold at night:

We covered only 13 km that day, as we started quite late. It was a good day of walking, though, and the next day we had a big breakfast before continuing on our journey.