We had to get out of the cities. We needed space to think and fresh air to breath and most importantly, we needed to get away from the tour buses. This is why we decided to explore the northern region of Myanmar and the beautiful Shan State. Whenever we hear something on the news about Myanmar it has to do with this state. The Shan, the local ethnic group, consider themselves different from other tribes in the country and would like to be autonomous. You can’t blame them, they have their own language (closer to Thai than Burmese), culture, food, and according to the people that we spoke to, they have been bullied by the Burmese government for far too long.
The famous Shan noodles
We started our exploration in the city of Pyin Oo Lwin, a small city with a few markets and a botanical garden. The lack of activities was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries. After a few days of eating, bicycles rides, and sleeping in, we took a train to Kyaukme. The train was very nice and the views fantastic. One of the highlights was crossing the Gok Teik Viaduct, an old rickety bridge built by the British that rattles as if it were going to break! The views again are incredible and well worth the train ride.
Tracy gets ready for the train ride
Gok Teik Viaduct
Our plan in Kyaukme was clear, explore the rural mountains on dirt bikes and visit some rural villages to better understand life in Burma. I, Simon, had never driven a dirt bike or on an uphill dirt road for that matter. It was a challenge for sure but one that I’ll remember for a long time!
We drove by rice fields, small villages up in the mountains, through narrow bamboo hanging bridges, stopped at temples and met some very interesting locals. For example, we met a man who was 103 years old and had both legs completely tattooed. He lived with his 100+ year old blind wife and people stop to donate some money in return for a blessing. At the end of the day, we stayed in the living room of someone from the village and ate dinner with them. We had a local guide who knew the region and who organized things along the way—no one speaks English around here, it’s awesome!
Inside the living room
Our hostess getting ready for her day
We ended the two days-one night bike trip with a smile and dirt on our faces. We were happy.
If you are interesting in doing something like this, there are two people who run tours: Thura (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Joy (email@example.com). Just be sure to specify up front if you are going to be charged for two days or one and a half depending on your return time to Kyaukme. And of course, let us know in the comments if you have any questions!
Happy and dirty!