Burma has recently emerged as a tourist hotspot, known for its glittering temples, ancient cities and colourful hill tribes but few visitors venture further north than Mandalay.
This year, adventure tour operator, Mountain Kingdoms, introduced a trek to the summit of snow-capped Phongun Razi in the remote north of Burma. Here the beautiful mountains of the Eastern Himalaya remain little explored and the region has only just been opened up to westerners.
Starting out in the flood-plains around Putao with its paddy fields and thatched stilt houses, this brand new trekking route crosses numerous fast-flowing streams by bamboo suspension bridges, traditionally used by the local Rawan tribes people when collecting medicinal plants in the surrounding jungle. Over time, the wooden slats on two of the bridges had become rotten and unsafe, requiring an alternative, and potentially hazardous, river crossing instead - something that Mountain Kingdoms MD, Steve Berry, experienced when he completed a recce of the trek earlier this year.
To help keep their trekkers safe and dry Mountain Kingdoms donated $1,000 towards the cost of replacing the wooden slats and rails of the bridges. This donation was matched by their local agents, and also by the Putao Trekking House who were responsible for the re-building project.
The local community have welcomed the bridge repairs, which in addition to making river crossings less dangerous; will also boost their income by extending the tourist trekking season as river levels no longer have to be low enough to walk across. It also enables the Rawan people to collect and trade more forest plants and barks. One such native parasitic root is highly valued by the Chinese, as when added to honey or alcohol it supposedly brings power and long life!
Mountain Kingdoms trekkers will make the inaugural bridge crossing this November on the first group departure of this pioneering Phongun trek. This departure is sold out, but a second departure in December has availability?.
Mount Phongun & the Burmese Himalaya trek
2 - 21 Dec 2012
£3,255 including flights.
|Value for money|