My final day of ‘trekking’ around Kyaingtung was sadly not as good as previous days. I don’t have many decent photos so have put a few snapshots from my compact camera in to fill it out a little. The day started as usual, buying a few items in the market to give to the villagers we visited. I also bought some local tea (which i unfortunately forgot to retrieve from Sai Zawm Wan’s bag at the end of the day).
Photo: tea stall at the Kengtung market
Not far from the main road, we entered an Akha village. My guide had been there some months previously for a village celebration. To his surprise, the people were not wearing traditional Akha clothing. The chief’s son explained to us that they just wear traditional clothes on special occasions. I spotted a small church, and the chief’s son explained that Christianity was now popular in the village. That was a surprise for me! I decided not to take any photos here as it nice to just sit and talk, rather than snapping away.
Following lunch, our next destination was an Akhe village. The Akhe people are ‘sister’ people to the Akhas, and wear similar traditional clothes. The women are also known for smoking large pipes. On entering the village we were called into the first house, where an old lady in traditional costume welcomed us, served tea, and received our gifts. The Akhe clothing is very similar to that of the Akha, but less elaborate; the headdress of the ladies doesn’t carry the sliver that the Akha headdress is known for. Conversation quickly turned to a sales pitch, and various goods we brought out to show. Two more Akhe ladies joined us and immediately started showing me necklaces and bracelets to buy. I was very conscious that there was little conversation happening other than sales which, considering we had been there just a few minutes, made me quite uncomfortable. I told my guide I wanted to leave and we thanked the lady for the tea and made our way back to the scooters. I was feeling quite sad that the introduction of tourism to this village had essentially turned the ladies into high-pressure salespeople and the tourists into cash cows.
- The ‘toll booth’ to pay for crossing the bridge to the Akha village
- Fishing with electricity in the river
- A broken-down truck at the entrance to the Akhe village
Our next stop was at a pagoda that had views across the plains. At this time of year the air is a little hazy, but that doesn’t detract too much. I was interested in visiting more villages, so I was quite relieved when my guide suggested we move on.
Our last stop was to visit an older Shan man that my guide knew. It was really nice to talk to him about his life, and to hear him talk about his tattoos. He wanted some photos, which of course I took and emailed to my guide for printing. I would have preferred to shoot from a lower angle but, because of a staircase and handrail, I had to shoot looking downwards. Regardless, I hope he likes them. After our conversation was concluded, we made our way back to Kengtung.
My last day trekking was a bit of a disappointment. However, the previous days had been really enjoyable so I had plenty of great memories of the area. I hope to visit again next year. However, having seen the nearby villages, I will need to find a guide who can take me to more remote places, including close to the Chinese border. There are many ethnic groups living in this area, and I feel there is much more to see.
I have some final thoughts on hilltribe visits, as it appears the hilltribes get little benefit from tourist visits compared with other sectors e.g. accommodation providers and guides. However, I think I will leave those thoughts for separate post to be made after returning home.