One of my favourite things to do when I'm travelling is to get off the beaten track and explore the countryside, so I decided to sign up for a 3 day trek while travelling through Myanmar, from Kalwa to Inle Lake. Unlike many other tours in South-East Asia, where ‘tribespeople’ are paid actors dressed up in traditional garb to put on a show for tourists, trekking through Burma offers a genuine glimpse into the culture of the hill tribes, without being intrusive.
My homestay during the trek was with a family belonging to the Shan state, who numbering 4-6 million, are the largest ethnic group in Burma. The Shan’s past hardships they’ve endured in their ongoing fight for independence was hard to imagine in the warmth of their welcome, as they made me feel instantly at ease with smiles and laughter around a campfire. In a country struggling to free itself from a history of repression, corruption and reclusiveness, it felt very special to be welcomed into a family home to learn more about their culture and customs.