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Pein Ne Bin

 

Not far from Kalaw is Pein Ne Bin, a village of the Palaung people. The Palaung, one of Myanmar’s largest ethnic groups, are renown for the pickled tea they produce, grown on plantations on altitudes of up to 6, 000 feet. The pickling of the tea requires a long period of fermentation, possibly up to a year. Supposedly, the longer the fermentation, the better tasting the tea. Easy day-treks can be made to Pein Ne Bin and other Palaung villages when based at Kalaw. The treks will take you through fields of aubergine, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard and oranges, as well as the ubiquitous paddy. At the villages you will be served an expansive lunch and have the opportunity to taste their tea and try on the traditional costume of the Palaung people. You are likely to find the villagers courteous, curious and quick to smile.

Photo: Aung Thu Myint

 

Mythology of the Palaung People


The traditional dress of the Palaung women is one of the most colourful of all the tribes in Myanmar, incorporating garments of green, blue and purple velvet, over thamain fastened with plastic, silver and bamboo waist rings. This traditional dress originates from the mythology of the origin of the Palaung people.

The Palaung believe themselves to be the descendants of a beautiful bird who was able to shapeshift into the form of a young woman. One day this bird was spotted bathing in human form in a lake by a young fisherman from a nearby village. Remaining hidden, the man watched as the woman finished cleaning herself, transformed back into a bird and flew away. Over the next few weeks the man returned to the same spot at the same time each day to see the creature come and bathe. Eventually coming to the resolution that this was the creature he had to marry, while absorbed in her ablutions the fisherman crept up and caught her in his fishing net. Ensnared, the woman was taken back to his house where she was shackled by a chain to prevent her transforming and flying away. She was then promptly set to work on the household chores. From this volatile coupling came the Palaung people.

Today, the waist rings the women wear are a symbol of the shapeshifter’s attachment to her husband; the plastic for the fishing net, the silver for the chain, and the bamboo for the baskets and utensils used when carrying out chores around the house. Some of these women do not even remove these bands when pregnant, saying, perhaps with their tongue firmly in their cheek, that they fear turning back into a bird and deserting their family by returning to the skies.

Read more about the people and culture of Myanmar here. If you are in the process of planning a trip to the country you can browse our selection of Suggested Journeys.

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