I booked a tour before leaving the States in order to trek in northern Shan State. I was given bad advice, so let me set this straight right now: it is very easy to do this independently. Yes, there aren't as many tourists up in northern Shan State, but that just adds to the joy. That said, there are many people who make their living off tourism, and just like in Kalaw, they are there waiting for you when you arrive to book your trek. So don't arrange a tour -- you are just paying someone 5x more than the price to get something you can easily do yourself. In my heart, I knew that was true, but I was worried given my lack of time. I met a number of people staying in the same guesthouses as me in Kwaukme and in Hsipaw who did everything I wanted to do and in the time I had to do it in. That said, this area has far less tourism infrastructure, so book your guesthouse early.
Even though I was very upset about paying too much, and a little irritated that on my fully supported trek we ran out of water on day two and had instant noodles for lunch on day three, it was still an incredible trek. This is a beautiful area of the world with incredible people.
We passed these guys making sling shot "bullets" to kill birds. I doubt they had a lot of success since we saw very few birds, and when we tested the sling shots they weren't very accurate.
The school children were studying for a country-wide test, but they were happy to have a break for our visit.
The cows were terrified of us.
Cooking Shan noodles. Here is the recipe: cook sticky rice noodles per instructions. Mix: stewed tomatoes, garlic, green onions, oil, salt and put on top of noodles with a little water (to make it slightly soupy). The kitchen is an open fire inside the house. Note the small square of cement for the kitchen, the rest of the house is made of wood.
A praying mantis graced our guide with a visit. She was pretty freaked out, but I assured her no harm would come to her and then asked her to stand still so I could take a picture. I'm such a nice guest.
One of the books I read while on vacation described the "blue hills of Burma," and thus, I spent a great deal of time trying to capture this.
This machines rolls the green tea leaves...
The kitchen in the chief's house -- we stayed the night here.
Older women, who can no longer work in the fields, weave the longhi's and head scarves for the family. It takes seven days to make a longhi (the sarongs that men and women wear every day). We were also told that women "over 50" shave their heads. I use quotations for "over 50" because no one actually knew their age. I think they really mean when they reach menopausal age, but that isn't something you'd discuss with guests.
My only wildlife sighting...
To be continued...