Keng Tung

Keng Tung

Drive about an hour to Burma border at Mae - Sai Tachileik. Pick up another guide in Burma, and 4.5 hours to Keng Tung. The Thai border town was pretty scrubby. It was used mainly by Burmese people coming over the border to buy in Thailand what they could not get in Burma. We had time to kill, and wandered round the market for an hour or so. Eventually telephone communication was got with our Burmese guide, and we passed through Thai passport control, across the bridge in no mans land, before Burmese control at the other side

One of the quite bizarre things about traffic, is that Thailand drives on the British side of the road. Burma did until about 30 years ago, when the military changed unilaterally to driving on the right hand side. This would have been fine, but for the fact that all Burmese cars are second hand imports from Japan, where they drive on the left. The result is that all Burmese cars have the driver in the wrong position, a bit like a UK driver in Europe, and reliant on the passenger for overtaking.

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Our Burmese guide was quite gormless, with a poor command of English. He was fine when spouting a prepared script, but could not answer questions. I did not complain about him, as this is a seldom visited part of Burma, and I would think that the demand for English speaking guides was very low. The long drive from the border to Keng Tung was along a good mountain road, that has apparently been much improved in the last few years

Lunch along the way was at a very typical Burmese "local" restaurant, of which we saw many

Keng Tung is not a tourist destination, hence there are no recommended hotels. We stayed at the Golden Star Hotel - on TripAdvisor. This is a typical Chinese hotel (and its in Myanmar) in every way, from the decor to the food and the running of the business. There is no public space, no bar and no restaurant. Hence you go out to find a restaurant for dinner. A somewhat difficult journey in the dark of several hundred metres along unlit roads. We turned left and found an acceptable restaurant at that distance on the opposite side of the road. Our bedroom was small, basic, but perfectly adequate. Bizarrely it had bars across the windows and no view, so was a bit prison like. The bathroom was smelly. Internet connection existed, but was slow and patchy. The staff were cheerful, but spoke little English. I did not think the breakfast was as bad a some reviewers on TripAdvisor made out. To summarise, it was a featureless hotel which looks a lot more modern on the outside than it does on the inside. It is a place to lay your head, but it was (fairly) clean and is probably as good as you will get locally

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Next day we skipped Keng Tung's market, as we felt that there would be many more (and better) markets to see in Burma. We went by road to Pin Tauk village, which was to have been the starting point of a trek of about 1 hour to the Akha minority village of Hwe Lon. We skipped the trek, but went to the villages. Our (poor) guide was not able to anything other than wander aimlessly round the houses in each village. Then on to an Ann Village perched on the slopes of a hill . The Ann minority is known for its traditional black dress and blackened teeth. In two of the villages the ladies were into aggressive selling of tourist tat - which was quite odd really as they could not have had more than a half dozen tourists there in a day.

Probably the most interesting thing we saw was production of a rice whiskey, distilled by a local family on an enormous scale by only a few workers. They were busy fermenting a rice wine, which eventually was distilled in stills using wood fires for power.

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A tour of Keng Tung was included. There were only three things for the tourist to see in Keng Tung - the view from Lone Tree Hill, the Pagoda and the Lake. All in all , it showed me what a difference a guide made to one's enjoyment and understanding of what you see. This chap could not communicate, and we just walked up and down villages, with little understanding of who they were, and why they were there.

Everywhere there is burning, and the visibility of the whole landscape drops down to a few miles


On the last morning we visited two more native villages and then transferred to the airport for a 35 minute flight to Heho

On to Inle Lake

Burma Holiday