Myanmar Shan Shangri-Las – 8 Days
Myanmar (Burma) is a magical land where time seems to have stood still; it so far behind the rest of the world in development, it may actually be ahead. There are few better places to see truly sustainable communities that thrive because of, and in spite of, the environment in which they live.
Inle Lake and the surrounding hills in Burma’s Shan State offer students remarkable lessons in human adaptations to their environment and in creating sustainable economies. The Intha, a Tibeto-Burma ethnic group that have made the lake their home for centuries, have adapted perfectly to a challenging habitat. They have developed a unique way to row their boats with their legs while standing upright to see over tall reeds and set their fishing nets. They create floating islands from lake vegetation to grow their gardens, build stilt houses to cope with fluctuating lake levels and have discovered a way to weave thread from lotus flower stems to create beautiful robes.
In the mountains surrounding the lake, no fewer than seven distinct hill tribe cultures thrive as cultivators of rich red soils, growing rice, safflower, potatoes, pumpkins, garlic, shallots and other crops for home consumption and market. Trekking from one hill tribe village to the next through gorgeous landscapes, students on this trip will come to know the hardships and joys of local life.
After a few days of trekking and spending nights in ethnic minority villager’s homes, students will descend to Inle Lake and fully immerse themselves in Intha culture. They will learn how to leg row, fish with traps, lake farm, weave lotus thread, build boats, barter for produce at local markets and cook traditional foods. They will investigate environmental and tourism impacts on Inle Lake and Burmese culture. Students will discover fish and snail species found here and nowhere else, work with children in isolated island schools and orphanages as well as delve deeply into the ancient animistic beliefs the people here so seamlessly blend with Buddhism.
Looking for a Shangri-la setting with fog-shrouded valleys, mirror-like lake waters, blue distant mountains and lovely peoples for an open-air classroom for a week? Look no further.