Travel in Burma to Meet the Northern Hill Tribes

Burma's northernmost province, Kachin State, is also one of the least-frequented by western visitors who travel in Burma. Those adventurous souls who do venture into the northern mountains will be rewarded with incredible views of peaks and valleys, spread with lush jungle €" some of the most abundant and biodiverse landscapes in the region, with rich seams of rare jade underneath.

They will also have the honour of being able to meet some of Kachin State's diverse peoples. The province is home to many ethnic groups, some of whom have very little contact with the rest of the country. The people of the state are sometimes referred to collectively as the Kachin, but they are in fact made up of very distinct groups. The largest, in terms of population, are the Lisu and Rawang so you are most likely to meet these groups as you travel in Burma. As you will be guests in their lands, you may want to learn something of their cultures before embarking €" so read on for a short introduction on the wonderful Lisu and Rawang people of the country.

The Lisu

The Lisu people are an ethnic group with populations in several modern nations, including China and Burma; they trace their thousands-of-years-old ancestry to Tibet. They are one of the peoples you are most likely to meet as you travel in Burma, passing through their villages and lands where they work in rice fields. Some villages are Christian, others Animist €" look out for spirit shrines in the latter. Like many other Lisu tribes, those in Burma keep their historical records in song form, and these songs can take all night to sing.

The Rawang

The Rawang nation is made up of over 70 tribes, inhabiting Kachin State as well as Arunachal Pradesh in India and nearby parts of China. They have traditionally been a hunter-gatherer society, but may have settled in this fertile region of Burma in order to cultivate rice; they also mine the jade and gold that the region is known for. They have their own language, Rawang, and distinct clothing with red and blue/black patterns on white.

Manau Festivals

As you travel in Burma, you will see that there are many differences between the peoples of Kachin State, but traditionally they share the Manau Festival on National Day in January. This is marked with music and dancing in honour of the creator spirit, Lamu Madai.
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