Kachin Tribal Village Trek, Burma/Myanmar - Hiking in the Jungles of Burma
Flying from the U.S. to Yangon, the capital of Burma, is a long, slow process. I said goodbye to my bags, checked them all the way through and pondered the odds of seeing them again. There aren’t any direct flights from the States to Burma. However, my fears were unwarranted as Kirk and Nancy, who I met in Nepal, were waiting for me at the airport.
Our first tourist stop was Shwedegon, the Golden Pagoda, an icon of the country. It was incredibly impressive and ornate. Like many third world countries the contrast between the resources vested in temples stands in strong disparity with individual wealth . . . or lack of it.
Next it was time to start the long journey to our trek. The combination of getting a better feel for the countryside with the most efficient form of internal combustion transportation led us to skip a series of easy flights to the start our trek and begin a long, but fascinating series of train rides north. The first leg was a first class train to Mandalay. The seats were comfortable enough, but this was no Amtrak experience. The windows were wide open and a series of broken-down fans littered the ceiling overhead.
We visited the handicraft center of Mandalay. It was a nonstop whirl-wind tour. Starting with the carving of marble and casting of brass statues, we learned the secret of cheap production, child labor. There was little concern for environmental or health issues. It was so dusty that the trees appeared covered by a recent snowfall. However, it was watching how the gold foil was manufactured for use in the temples that captivated my interest. Young looking kids pounded gold wrapped in leather packets with heavy mallets for what seemed like forever. Instead of counting how many strikes it took to complete a series, they simply used a very advanced water timer. A cup with a hole in the bottom was filled and flipped when it emptied. After a sufficient number of flips they divided the gold and pounded it some more.
The story continues...