Trekking in Shan’s Nature
By Jaycee Jung
The country’s diverse geographical features have gifted Myanmar with some of the best destinations for trekking, and is safe enough for solo travellers as well. There are trekking guides that are equipped with skills and knowledge of the routes, so be assured that you are in the best hands when trekking in Myanmar.
Trek and Interact in Kalaw
When you trek in Kalaw, nestled between mountain ranges, you are presented with an undefeatable view of Shan, immersed in the lush greenery of nature. Shan villages have various local ethnic communities where you can join them in multiple activities, such as following them on a hike or learning how to cook local dishes. You’ll be experiencing the full life of the villagers as you bathe and splash in waterfalls and fish at riverbanks. Engage with the wildlife as well by bathing elephants and planting a tree to contribute to Kalaw’s reforestation efforts. After a long day of trekking, the best way to unwind is to find a tea house and sip on a cup of tea as you take in the beautiful sight of the forest coupled with steady sounds of nature. Lodges are available for tourists if you wish to spend a night in Kalaw.
Immersive Adventure at Hsipaw
Enjoy the fresh morning breeze at Hsipaw as you trek your way to the village with a tour guide ready at your call. The rice fields, banana plantations and rich foliage offer sights that are worth the entire journey even if it leaves you exhausted. You can rent a bicycle from the guesthouse and cycle for approximately 45 minutes to Nam Hu Nwe Waterfall and hike your way up.
You will find a small pond where you can climb up for a refreshing blast. The trees below offer shade, ideal for a picnic or just to lie down if you enjoy being soaked. You will also have plenty of photograph opportunities! As you make your way back down, catch the sunset at Hsipaw Sunset Hill. Away from the sounds of busy streets, transportation and people, you will only be surrounded by the sound of nature as you witness the best sunsets of your life.
Sacred Cave Systems
If you need a break from trekking, you should visit the caves in Shan state. Pindaya Caves at Shan State are located near Kalaw, which means you can make a stop there as you trek. Surrounded by farming fields and hills, the limestone caves boast an amazing formation of stalactites and stalagmites. Inside the caves, you will find more than 8,000 Buddha images placed by local pilgrims and devotees who come from all parts of the world. The caves are evidence of the unwavering Buddhist faith in the country. Find out more about cave exploration in Myanmar here. (link to Craving for Caving)
Fascinating Festivals in Shan
Besides trekking, Shan is known to host amazing festivals like Taungyi Tazaung Taing Festival and Phaung Daw Oo Festival. Villagers celebrate these two huge events with their own fun and traditional twist, so this is your chance to experience an authentic local celebration. In their colourful costumes and traditional headpieces, they dance and make merry for the festivals. You will even get to see the amazing one-legged boat rowers at Phaung Daw Oo Festival that can only be found at Shan State and Inle Lake.
Taungyi Tazaung Taing Festival, or Hot Air Balloon Festival has firework shows and hot air balloon displays. Hot air balloons presented in the day are mostly in the forms of pagodas and animals, whereas balloons displayed at night are colourful elongated paper lanterns, rugby balls, and balloons in other shapes and sizes that give an amazing view of the sky when accompanied with fireworks. To join this festival, visit Shan state towards the end of the year, best in November.
Celebrated at Inle Lake, this 18-day festival is a long-time tradition that has taken place since the 1960s. It is one of the biggest and most important in Shan state, so be prepared to witness a sea of people surrounding the pagoda during the festival. The festival’s highlight is the long boat races with one-legged rowers. Locals love this festival and they are used to having tourists celebrate this festival with them. They might even invite you to join them as if you are one of them!
\Trekking in Shan is not just limited to a single activity as the state is full of amazing attractions to be explored. Make pit-stops along the way to experience a fulfilling journey from the start to the end of Shan State.