Please, open google MAPS and enter Hsipaw. Now enter Pankam. Probably you will not find it, but we were right there. And round.
Back in Mandalay, while we waited for a boat, we met two Dutch guys – John and Isaac (Ivan and Isaac translated in Bulgarian). Afterwards it happened by chance that we traveled together by bus and all at once we decided to do a trek together. Trekking in the mountains of northeast Burma, with starting point Hsipaw is an activity that we intended to make after reading the reviews in Internet.
Our small Bulgarian-Dutch-Polish group (John is half Polish) consisted of four people and the guide – Ax Sai. We chose 3 days trek with two nights at local houses. Forecasts predicted great heat. You know what – they were right!
We started the trek singing famous tourist song in old Duch, but after a few we even did not want to talk. It was not just tiring, it was draining. Literally! For several hours walking we drank such quantity water that we drink usually for a month at home. Nevertheless, the water evaporated through our skin, only!
And so on the next 16 km. At the moment when we were about to forget even our names, Ax Sai announced that the village, our first sleeping point, was very close. And then we figured out why we tortured ourselves like that. The answer was – the PEOPLE! Such a real and smiling people we had not encountered anywhere. All they were delighted meeting us, smiling, posing for pictures and the only thing they wanted in exchange was to see the pictures on the camera display. And, of course, the children, all these kids showed such a joy when saw our foreign faces.
There is no electricity, no water in the houses, no draining system. There is no point asking about mobile or internet signal. The only technology they use was the solar battery. During the night we were able to see a small electric bulb flickering in some houses. Locals go to bed around 7 PM after having dinner and making the obligatory prayer. And they, being Buddhists, are very strong believers and respect very strictly all traditions related to their religion. Another curiosity is that the women work on the field (meaning hill, planted with black tea) from morning to evening, and the men take care of children at home. Craziness. So, we saw fathers dandling their small babies and women, overwhelmed by the hard work on the field, coming back home at the evening.
We spent the first night together with two French and two Japanese guys in one house. We all slept together in one and the same premises on the ground, covered with thicker blankets and mats. It was great fun. The lack of amenities further enhanced the true experience effect. In order to bathe ourselves, we had to take and pour cold water from a small tank using a mug. The food was extremely tasty; these people have learned to cook everything which is in the range of their vision. Like leaves of something, roots of other thing, fruits of something, the core of other thing, in other words – extremely yummy, we do not exaggerate. Absolutely vegan cuisine. In the evening, after the dinner, with a cup of rice fiery liquid, we had a very funny Bulgarian-Dutch-Japanese-French evening with lots of laughter and stories about interesting experiences.
We asked the Japanese guy Yoshi if he knew where Bulgaria is situated, whether he had ever heard about that country, and he enthusiastically told us that he had not only heard about it, but he had already visited Bulgaria twice. Then, becoming proud of that fact, we invited our pais-bas friends to take Yoshi as example. For all, especially for the guides, we were very interesting because of our country of origin, as nobody had seen a Bulgarian around until now. How proud were we!
The next day, we have been through the next 16 or more kilometers, but already got used to the hills and especially the heat, so it was easier. This time we stayed in another village, with another family even sweeter than the previous. The food was exceptional. The mother of the family cooked it in front of us, on the covered veranda where we slept. The cherry of the cake was grated bark of special tree, which was flavored in a way to taste like mince.
Local were very kind and smiling. As in every village, there was a monastery were children monks lived, and we even played football with them.
The most surrealistic moment came when our hosts made their evening prayer. A meter or two away from us, one after another, they knelt in front of the beautiful home altar with the image of Buddha in the middle and each of them sang half an hour monotonous chants in their incomprehensible language. They repeated the same ritual in the morning as well while we were still sleeping on the ground next to the altar. Obviously, nobody worried about our tourist presence at that time. The hosts did their usual daily activities as if we wore invisibility hats. It was very cool. Like in a movie.
The next day we walked the last ten kilometers or so to the base camp, but it was quite easy and after nearly 50 km trek in total, we got back to the hostel.
We will let you guess what was the taste of the first beer after 3-days of forbearance J…
We had small mishaps, of course. We ran away a wildfire. Local light fires along the paths in the forest in order to keep them clean of weeds. Guess who controls that? Nobody! It was dangerous in the forest but we managed to escape J. We escaped the water buffalo as well, which apparently considered us as a danger and suddenly jumped towards us. These animals are really dangerous.
We were on the other side as well – somebody hid from us, namely a hundred military, lurking in a forest we crossed. It’s a long story. Burma is notorious with the involvement of militaries in the government but they hide from foreign eyes and cameras. Finally we even escaped a train. The last few kilometers we took tuk-tuk and the driver recklessly crossed the rails just in front of the passing train.
This was not all folks, but be patient for the next episode 🙂