One of the best ways to get off the beaten path in SE Asia is to hop in a kayak! Much of local life in Asia revolves around water, so floating through the countryside is a great way to experience rural life and see some spectacular scenery. Leaving the city of Yangon behind to explore little known areas in Myanmar, like Kayin State, gives you the opportunity to get to know more about the country and its people.
Kayin State, a mountainous region between Yangon and the Thailand border, is famous for its stunning limestone escarpments, caves, and shimmering fields of rice paddies. The Kayin or Karen people, are mostly subsistence farmers that live in small mountain villages where they grow rice, vegetables, and raise animals.
This particular kayaking adventure was developed as a community-based tourism project to foster sustainable tourism to the area and help support the locals year-round. Local Kayin people established the water ways and hiking trails, manage the kayaks, guide the travelers, and also offer lunch in their homes. Not only are you on a great adventure meeting local Burmese people, but you are also supporting the local community.
The adventure beings when you jump in you kayak and paddle through the flooded rice fields along the Thanlwin River, passing through stunning limestone hills and green farmland, before continuing on foot along jungle trails to visit the homes in a local Kayin village. Take a leisurely walk along a Kayin jungle path to another isolated village to enjoy an authentic home cooked meal served by the family of the house. Sharing a meal gives you the unique opportunity to learn about their culture and perhaps share some of your own.
With full bellies say goodbye to your newfound friends, conitnue on your explorations to the beautiful Buddhist grotto located inside the scared Saddar Cave. The entrance to this gigantic cavern is marked by two impressive elephant statues, inside hundreds of golden frescoes and Buddha figures line the limestone walls. For the adventurous, walk further into the cave to revel in its more natural decor of stalactites and stalagmites. Follow the muddy pathways through sacred underground caverns to a hidden temple to the other side of the mountain. The exit of the cave opens onto a serene lake on the other side, where you will return by dug-out canoe.