The city of Kyaing Tong is way out there, at the confines of the country, on the Shan plateau. The region is part of the so-called Golden Triangle, at the junction of the Burmese, Thai and Lao borders. It has traditionally been a hub for trade, not all of it very legit. A trip to Kyaing Tong and the Golden Triangle is for adventure seeking souls, people who can accept a bit of hardship and effort in exchange for unique experiences. Surrounded by numerous Hill Tribes villages, Kyaing Tong is the perfect base to explore a lifestyle that will eventually fade into oblivion. As modernity tends to eradicate tribal ways and customs, it is high time to visit the few animist tribes remaining before the efforts of missionaries convert everyone to Christianity or Buddhism, whichever prevails and everyone starts using cellphones !
Up in the mountains, trekkings to Palaung, Lahu, Akha, Akhu and Ann villages propose a number of anthropological experiences. Sure, some Lahu villages have been Christianized while others stick to the Buddhist Faith but each ethnic group has animistic customs and particular clothing that can surprise. The Akha with their headdresses embossed with old silver coins, the Ann with their teeth blackened by the sap of a tree that prevent evil spirits and dispense of daily tooth brushing yet still seem to ensure good buccal health and a pleasant breath. The Golden Triangle Hill Tribe people all continue their ritualistic offers to Nats during festivals. Main rites of passage like the coming of age, weddings or funerals still involve some sort of acts of devotion to spirits, all of which some modern city dwellers might see as witchcraft or sorcery. Half day hikes, sometimes a bit strenuous, allow visitors to hike to some isolated villages, off the beaten track. See their unchanged ways of life, wander in their houses and discover another facet of Myanmar.
Myanmar Airways operates a daily flight from Yangon and access by road is possible (160km) from the Tachileik/Mae Sai border crossing. No special permits are required to visit the villages around Kyaing Tong but one should hire a local guide for trekking.