Shan State is Myanmar largest administrative division (state) and borders China, Laos and Thailand. It’s mainly inhabited by Shan people who are originally thought to come from China. It’s also largely rural and has a number of ethnic armies.

I spent three days trekking in villages near Kaukyame with an excellent local guide staying in homestays along the way, getting real insights into how the local people live, what they eat, how they bathe and so on. This was a real privilege as official government policy is that you’re not allowed to stay with locals. Our guide had frequently seen local militia and we did come across the government’s armed forces in one town, although all seemed peaceful and relaxed despite an array of massive weaponry.

Here are some highlights.

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Typical Shan house in the morning light. We stayed in houses like this throughout our trek. The accommodation was never prearranged, our guide simply turned up and asked.

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A man on a motorbike who drives up 2-3 hours from Kaukyame into the hills every day to sell vegetables. We kept running into him in our sojourn around the hills.

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Our wonderful guide Thura with a local gun. The farmer who owned it brought it out for us to shoot. They use it mostly for killing feral pigs.

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Grandma and child. It was always wonderful being invited in with local families to have tea, to talk, to play with the kids and be part of life.

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The stairs leading down from a village monastery. The cat at the end completes the shot.

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Play time with inner tubes from motorbikes.

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These kids were having a great time looking into this concrete storage container. It had some water at the bottom that they’d let out from time to time. Watching it run out was a great source of enjoyment for them and there was a lot of laughter.

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Bath time with icy water. This is the way we bathed as well while we stayed in the villages.

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The afternoon rush hour returning home.

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A young monk just before he was called into prayers. Children often spend a month in the monastery when they are younger, in fact all good Myanmar people do this at least once in their life, although this could be a tradition that may start to fade as the nation modernises.

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Wooden houses in a Shan village with dirt streets..

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Dusk in the hills.

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A friendly family that invited us in for tea. They were very poor but produced fruit, biscuits and drinks for us. The men were all working locally in towns and cities and often away.

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We passed rice being threshed via an automated system using water as a weight to pull down the threshing log onto the rice.

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Buffalo are prized agricultural aids in the villages. These beasts were tied up by a very long rope meaning they could wander down into the water whenever they liked.

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A woman prepares thanaka to put on our faces – a kind of wood resin that’s used for sunscreen and as a beauty product.

To read a recent article about this trekking experience see this post with photographs on Travel Wire Asia:
http://www.travelwireasia.com/2014/04/trekking-and-homestays-in-burmas-shan-state/

More images are loaded to the database at this link http://visitedplanet.smugmug.com/organize/Asia/Myanmar/Shan-State/Trekking-to-Shan-villages

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