Yes, this is the same tablet...
Mission accomplished: inside Burma at last!
Notice how rough and narrow the trail is.
The 10 or so kilometres that seperate Qinlandang (the last village in China) and Mukegeh (the first village in Burma) were the toughest and most dangerous stretch of the whole walk. The trail was full of bamboo ladders, log bridges, dangerous landslides, venomous snakes (yes, I actually saw one) and bloodthirsty leeches (those not only I saw but also felt!). The trail was especially slippery because it was the rainy season.
"In the Jungle, welcome to the jungle..."
A true jungle walk... No wonder I contacted Malaria in this area! If you're planning on going, take anti-malarial tablets well in advance
Rawang people coming out of the jungle
Would you have crossed such a "bridge"?
Well, I guess that sometimes you don't have a choice...
The log was really slippery because of recent rains, and the current of the stream was really strong. Falling down into the stream means being immidiately swept to the main river - in other words, sure death
The entire area of Northern Burma, all the way towards the Tibetan frontier was turned into the Hkakabo Razi National Park. This was due to controversial efforts of the American conservationist Alan Rabinowitz. Hkakabo Razi itself is the highest peak in South-East Asia, situated right on the Burma - Tibet border.
The park regulations. Burmese readers, I'll be happy for your translation!
Ditto for this set of regulations
I stayed at this friendly woman's house on my first night in Burma
And this is her son
The village of Mukegeh. With the exception of the Tibetan villages in the northernmost reaches of the national park, this is probably the most remote village in Burma. It takes at least a week's walk plus a day's drive to reach the town of Putao, the gateway to Northern Burma.
Interestingly enough, during the summer months it is actually easier to reach Mukegeh from Gongshan in China (the gateway to the Drung Valley) than from Putao! This was the route I took...
The village actually consists of 3 mini villages on both banks of the river. collectively they are known as Mukegeh
Interestingly (and sadly) despite this area being a national park, the villagers still use Slash & Burn agricultural techniques. Fortunately, there is so much jungle and so few people that the damage to the environment is still minimal.
Going hunting! There are plenty of wild animals in the jungle, and in many of the houses it is possible to see animal hides on the walls. The park authorities are actually trying to fight this practice, but so far they haven't provided the villagers with any good alternatives. Even so, I believe that most if not all hunting is for subsistence and not trade with Chinese merchants - this fella is hunting birds, for example.
A beatiful stretch of the river
I still don't know how the river is called in Burmese... I think it's "Taron Wang" but I can't really be sure. It is one of the major tributaries to the Irrawady river which flows into the Bay of Bengal
A house in the village of Gushen - the second village in Burma I reached coming from China
Your eyes are not mistaken - this is indeed a satelite dish! Surprisingly, a few houses had satelite dishes (made me wonder how they were able to transport them all the way up here...) , and in the evenings people gathered around to watch TV together. The villagers honoured their unusual guest by showing CNN that night!
Notice how the people are wearing the traditional Burmese Longi. Despite the remoteness of the region, some mainstream Burmese influence is still evident. Many people knew how to speak and read & write in Burmese. No English or Chinese though...
inside the church. They have a bible (old and new testament) written in both the Rawang script and Burmese.
From the fruits of this tree the Rawang women prepare a sort of fried dough, a typical Rawang snack similiar to Tibetan Tsampa.
The biggest, and one of the most beatiful butterflies I have ever seen
I met this friendly dude working his fields on the mountain slope. Going down back to the main trail, I was sporting my Timberland hiking shoes and a walking stick, while he was walking barefoot. Still he was able to walk maybe 5 times faster than I did!
Gushen, like Mukegeh, consists of 3 mini villages huddled together. This is the look towards "Upper" Gushen.
Gushen is also the furthest point it is possible to visit inside Burma. Further on there are soldiers stationed by the SLORC - the notorious junta that rules Burma.
This is the look from "Middle" Gushen which is situated on the mountain slope, down towards "Lower" Gushen situated right by the river bank
Fixing a fishing net. One evening I had fish curry, quite a delicious meal. Quite curious where do the glasses come from?
The guy to the right is my guide, whom I hired in Qinlandang. The guy to the left (wearing the red cap) is the Gushen village chief. A guide was essential, not only for helping to carry my stuff on the slippery trail, but also for translating from Chinese (which he spoke with me) to Rawang (which he spoke to the other villagers in Burma)
This shaky bamboo bridge connects Lower Gushen with the rest of the village
Can you notice the bridge?
A house in Lower Gushen
The Rawang people, friendly and hospitable just like the rest of the Burmese.