As well as a boost for your body and mind, you may well find that the glorious scenery, little villages and happy adventures encountered on a holiday hike remain some of your fondest memories. But maybe your idea of a vacation isn’t a day strapped into sturdy boots. Perhaps even a stroll around the countryside at the weekend leaves you yearning for a sit down and a Sunday roast. Is a hike in Burma really for you?
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you scour the internet for a pair of walking poles.
1. Know your limits
Not to kick off this list on a downer, but there are hikes, and hikes. Do you see climbing rolling hills for hours, sleeping soundly in basic accommodation (with no electricity) and taking a chilly shower as part of the fun? If not, don’t rule a ramble out, it’s all about picking the hike that’s right for you.
If you like the sound of seeing the countryside, but would prefer to spend the night back at your hotel, pick a day trek, rather than a three-day affair. Whichever you choose, be realistic – if you get out of puff after a short walk, you may want to give it a miss.
2. Prepare for the weather
There might be canyons between what you think you need to pack, and what would actually be useful. Burma can be extremely humid, but in mountainous areas chances are that a jumper may well become your most prized possession. Most hikes take place in Shan State which is quite high above sea level, so even though days can hit 40 degrees, you might find your teeth chattering as you bed down.
Also, wear sensible shoes. Even if your guide shows up in flip flops, stick to your guns. You’ll thank me later.
3. Pack sun screen and snacks
On the subject of packing, remember the three S’s (I’ve just made that up, but I hope it sticks with you). 1) Sensible clothes 2) Sun screen 3) Snacks.
It can be easy on cooler days to forget that the sun has its eager eye on you. It’s uncomfortable enough to get sunburnt on a flop and drop, sun and sand holiday, let alone on a challenging intrepid adventure. Hiking is also deceptively tiring. You’ll be oohing and aahing at the landscape, completely forgetting that walking is a good old workout – pack some snacks.
4. Expect fresh air and glorious scenery
Concerned parental points over, it’s time to focus on the good stuff. Patchwork hills climb the horizon, occasional pagodas pierce through lush greenery and little villages emerge alongside dusty trails. In the mornings, mist hovers over mountains, and the fresh air is a nice breather after occasionally stifling days in the cities. It really is something special.
5. Be flexible
Not everything goes to plan every time. It’s part of the adventure! If you’re trekking on paths that aren’t well-trodden, there may be the odd change of direction. Sometimes it’s in these unexpected moments where the best memories are made.
6. Be open to meeting new people
One of the best parts about hiking in Burma is heading into rural areas and passing little villages. Burma is still relatively new to tourism so a lot of people across the country will be excited to see foreigners. But in rural areas you may find yourself a complete novelty; take a break and make new friends. Learning the odd phrase will also be much appreciated.
Whichever hike you decide to do, expect to take the most incredible photographs. Feel free to send them in so we can live vicariously through your travels. We’re not envious. Not at all.
Whether it’s a day spent ambling alongside Inle Lake, or three days careening over craggy mountains, plan your adventure here.
Photos 2 – 4 courtesy of Alistair and Lesley Greenhill