Monday, 22 February 2010

The Trek to Kakku

Much of the high plateau of Shan state is vast and untamed; it’s also out-of-bounds to foreigners. This level of governmental control is hard to figure. What don’t they want us to see here? Maybe it’s just because they are acutely embarrassed by the poor quality of the roads; maybe they don’t want us to see normal village life. Well, whatever the reasons, we managed to circumvent the rules: today we went right off the radar! We set off with our new German friend, Jörg, and discovered this out of bounds location.
In order to do this, we had to undertake a gruelling six-hour trek into the mountains. We were up and about again around 6.00 am to take the wonderful longtail boat journey down to Nanpan (it’s just like being in Venice with these sleek, black gondola-like vessels). As our plan was to delve deep into the Pa-O territory, we picked up a knowledgeable local guide, who greeted us in his smart Pa-O tribal clothes: navy blue flowing long trousers and jacket, white shirt and colourful turban: the Pa-O don’t wear the Burmese ‘longyi’. The trek began without any hesitation, and from the off involved cutting across fields, rice paddies and through woodland. The rural way of life here is very simple, but totally compelling. We called in on a small cottage industry: here sugar cane juice was being boiled up and made into squares of tasty, moreish jaggery. Nothing here is wasted, for the furnace was being stoked by the dried sugarcane stalks, and the ash is recycled as fertiliser on the fields. It tasted good too!
The ascent to the top of Hti Ne mountain was both steep and winding, but totally worth it for the magnificent, breathtaking views along the way, back down the valley. Eventually we made it to the smart, large village of Naung Kei. Here many of the houses were reinforced with brick and proudly sported bright blue window frames. From here there was a short ride to Kakku: “A hidden treasure, an unusual magnificent collection of Buddhist stupas, unheard of by historians and unlisted in guidebooks lies in the deepest Pa-O territory southern part of Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State in Myanmar.”

The taxi ride back increased our adrenaline levels, as it seemed as though cars played “Chicken” with one another. When our taxi met oncoming traffic, our driver tended to wait until the very last half-second before swerving out of the way. Saying that, our driver had attitude and most people were moving out of our way as he beeped his horn fiercely. On arrival to Nyaungshwe, we followed Jörg to his favourite local pub where we enjoyed the best green salad ever (was it Morning Glory or watercress, none of us can be quite sure…) with an accompaniment of peanuts and lashings of Myanmar beer! Prost!

No comments:

Post a Comment