Tea trekking from Hsipaw to Kyaukme. Part I.
Hsipaw, a small town in Shan state, lies 200 km from Mandalay. You can take the slow jumpy train ride and enjoy the view. Most tourists who come to Myanmar (Burma) for 2 weeks don’t come here and those who do, come to Hsipaw for a 1 or 2 day trek. We had something different in mind…
After settling in Yee Shin guesthouse for 5 $/person (the cheapest we’ve had in Myanmar) we called for a guide at reception. Young man with smiling eyes by the name Axsai came and explained that he has a route he did only twice before. It’s trekking from Hsipaw to a nearby city Kyaukme (sounds like Chow Mei) and it takes 75 km and 3 nights. Just what we wanted! Luckily, no one wanted to do a trek this long so we were alone.
We started our Hsipaw trekking right from the city and Axsai immediately stared to inform us about culture, food and everything else. Right in the beginning, we visited a noodle factory and then moved on the the countryside with rice fields. Not like neon green rice fields on Bali, these were golden in colour. There were fields of sesame and corn and if I squinted it almost looked like our country, Slovenia 🙂 ‘Most people here are Buddhists but some villages are also animists’ said Axsai as we passed some sticks with colourful ribbons. ‘They’re praying for rain’.
After 8 hours of walking up and down the valleys full of tea bushes and smiling women picking them we arrived to a small Pulaung village. The smell was funky but nice and it came from the big barrels with liquid oozing out. ‘These are fermented tea leaves. Here only a small amount is dried for tea and the rest is fermented to make fermented tea salad.’ He took us to see the process of preparing tea leaves for fermentation where several women were rolling tea leaves with a special wooden machine. By hand, of course 🙂 In these parts women do most of the work in the fields and men look after children and cows.
We slept at a lady’s house who owned a small shop. Things were stacked on the wooden shelves and hanging from the ceiling. There was even some Coca Cola which Myanmar got only the year before. Houses in this village (and there were maybe 20 houses) don’t have their own toilet so there was one a couple of minutes walk on the dirt road (if you want to read about a different toilet experience of the Siberut jungle, you can :D). Lady of the house didn’t speak English so we smiled a lot and it looked like she was happy to have us there. She served soup, rice and a funky side dish. ‘What is this?’ I asked Axsai. ‘Remember the poisonous black bees we saw in the morning?’
Continue to part number two of our Hsipaw trekking