A short hike you say..
During our time at Mt Kyaiktiyo Frankie suggested a ‘small’ hike to a neighboring village where some pre Buddhist ‘Nat’ spirit idols are situated in the hillsides.
The small village, Kyait Htet Gyi (pro.Jow Chat Gee) is tucked away from visiting foreign tourists, approx. 1-hour hike straight down the mountain along a dirty maintain track. The monsoon season has not been kind to the Kyait Htet Gyi area. Situated along a ridgeline on one side of Mt Kyaiktiyo in the region near the Myanmar border, which is home to Karen (pro. Car En) people, which are a Burmese Ethnic minority and to the east is Thailand.
While strolling along the dirt track we were over taken by a local man, muscular and wiry which was perfectly suited to his role as a carrier. As the name suggested he is a man powered product mover. He was carrying supplies on his head and in his arms for the local tiny corner stores. For extra income he also carried timber that was harvested in the area for building supplies often carrying weights equal to half his body weight in a single trip – up hill and down dale, on their head or on their back
Frankie struck up a conversation with him in Burmese and he offered to be our guide in exchange for us buying a drink from his little house stall. Today he was taking the trip to deliver goods to the small path-side stalls in preparation for ‘festival season’ and the newly constructed stalls. The trip normally took him 35-45 mins. With us novices it took over an hour. He also kindly took us to his main source of income – his stall. We met his little daughter and son both aged less than 5yo along with the business manager – his wife.
When not carrying goods they all live in a small space behind their stall measuring no more than 5m x 5m constructed of bamboo, thatch and tarps. Frankie purchased all the children little packets of chips.. the cautious smile that appeared on all faces was priceless.
In fact we approached one fork in the path our ‘accidental’ guide pointed out the path to Thailand.
Almost at the end of the trail our guide took us down a small washed out landslip to a small ‘Nat’ temple for the ‘Mother of Dragons’ who guard the mountain. The Game of Thrones reference was not lost on me and brought a little smile to my face when Frankie translated our guide’s explanation.
Further at the end of the trail was another rock that is similar to ‘the golden rock’ only, not golden. The rock is balanced precariously on the side of a cliff just like is more famous cousin. The elders of the village that also look after the temple space told us that each year they travel to another village to collect a long thick vine that is climbed by a designated village member to place donations of gold leaf and adornments on the top. If the walk down to the village was not harrowing enough… the walk back – all uphill was certainly a challenge.