Actual Fourth day:
We woke up very early (around 5:00am) and started our way back to Hsipaw. We didn't make any stops, and kept a good pace, climbing the hills with no problems at all. By 3:30pm we were back in the lovely Hsipaw, tired but happy. We made it in 4 days :)
The area around Hsipaw is full of small valleys and hills, and is an ideal location for treks, hikes, and cycling excursions. Don't miss the panoramic view of Hsipaw town from the Nine Buddha hill.
A traditional ceremony in Hsipaw streets
Monks collect food
Although Mr. Charles offer organized tours with a guide, and although they told us you must have a guide to trek this area (the government established some regulations in the last decade) we decided to make an independent trek from Namshan back to Hsipaw.
Our new friend took us to his village, and we knew that we won't complete the distance we planned to walk. Well, that's the price of being spontaneous.
Our friends village was pretty small (very few houses), and it appeared that he owns some of the tea fields in his village area. He placed the other guy and myself at his house on the top empty floor, and the girls went to another house with his daughter and his grandchildren.
The family was extremely welcoming and friendly. They gave us longyis (the traditional skirt) and offered us food, tea and local home-made cigarettes (they have something local made of banana leafs).
They invited us go downstairs and sit with them for a dinner
Me and my new 'Longyi' during dinner
Namshan is a Palaung village north of Hsipaw. It's located in the height of around 2100 meters, and is surrounded by green hills covered with tea plantations.
My partner decided to go there with a motorbike (5 hours drive on a very bumpy road). I wanted to do a 3-4 days trek from Namshan back to Hsipaw, so we decided to split for few days. (Later I learned that he had a motorcycle accident and went to some local hospital). I met two girls who wanted to come along on the trek, and we met another person in Namshan who joined us.
The way to Namshan took us about 7 hours with a local pickup. We arrived before the sunset to a nice village with very friendly people. It had one main road, and at the end of it you can climb to a promenade that offers a great view of the area.
We tried to get a local map and information about the trek we were planning. In Namshan there's only one guest house, and the owner tried to convince us to take a local guide. When he realized that we're going to make the trek on our own, he agreed to give us some maps with local information about the path back to Hsipaw. He told us about the distances from one village to another, and recommended us where to look for a place to sleep and how to pronounce the local villages names.
You can download the map below to have a better resolution of the path details and location names.
Actual Second-Third days
We woke up early and had to leave this wonderful family. The father walked with us for a few hours before he went back to the village, and we continued our journey...
Few hours later we stopped at a tea factory where tea is produced from the local fields leafs. The manager was around my age, and unlike other Burmese people we met in the area, he was an engineer and graduated from a university in Yangon. He was a very funny guy, and gave us a complete tour in the tea factory, explaining about every machine and the trucks that were imported from China. He also invited us to a very good meal, and offered us some tea souvenirs.
Again, we didn't walk that much. We stopped a lot, because it was very sunny and hot... We arrived at a local village after dark, and couldn't find a place to sleep. Eventually we found a monastery where a few monks gave us blankets and allowed us to stay for the night.
The day after we woke up a bit late... We realized our 3 days trip is probably going to extend to at least 4 days, and went to some local school to watch the kids lessons.
We continued on our way, arrived to a small village, and guess what? another wedding! We didn't want to "crush" another wedding but they invited us to join their celebration, and we spent two hours eating, dancing and celebrating with the newly weds...
Our second wedding in the trek
On the 3rd night we stayed in Kunhok, where we were supposed to be on the second night. There's only one place in Kunhok that can act as a guest house, and we stayed there knowing that the last day is going to be the hardest one in this trek . Until then we were very "tranquilo", but had a 9.5 hours climb planned for the next day.
Our basic plan, based in the instructions we got from the guest house owner, was as follows:
First Day (a 7 hours walk):
Second Day (a 7.5 hours walk):
Third Day (a 9.5 hours walk - mostly climbing a hill):
Well, this was our plan. But as usual in Burma (did I say Alice in wonderland?) what really happened was a little different...
Actual First Day:
We ate breakfast and left Namshan through a local tea workshop.
People saying goobye :)
We continued walking according to the original plan.
A lot of kids everywhere welcomed us with the local hello - "Migalaba!!"
Around noon we arrived to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere, and some kids saw us from the window and started to shout "Mingalaba". Their father heard the noise and invited us to inside to drink some tea. The house was completely made of wood. It was almost empty, and you could see the family was really poor. We gave them some avocados we had and they taught us some local words.
After the short visit we headed south, walking in a very green area, going down the hill and bypassing a relatively big village.
We continued to the next small town, but it there were almost nobody there... We thought it's completely deserted, But than we discovered the real reason: There was a big wedding inside one of the houses.
The men were sitting on one side, smoking and talking, and the women on the other side. There was a local orchestra playing outside. They were extremely welcoming, and invited us to join the party. The most surprising thing was that they were even more excited than we were to host us in their celebrations.
The ladies on one side of the local wedding
The men on the other side (of course, me, on both sides..)
They served us special dishes and once again demonstrated the Burmese kindness I mentioned before. It was a real uplifting experience.
We had a chance to talk with the locals about the area. One of them even invited us to stay in his small village with his family for the night. Since we had our plans we declined the offer, but he really insisted so we decided to be spontaneous and make a change of plans. We gave the young groom and bride a nice present and continued our journey with our new friend, who didn't speak English (we relied a lot on hand gestures and signs).
Our new friend