We had friends visiting from Yangon who wanted to get off the beaten track a little bit, and so we took this as the perfect opportunity to get out of Lashio and show them one of the treasures around Lashio. There was a new road that we wanted to try, and so my family along with 2 other young families jumped on 3 small motorbikes and headed down the highway. After a faulty fuel gauge on our Chinese motorbike left us stranded roadside for 10 minutes, we were on our way shortly after leaving Lashio on the highway. The first turn off the highway took us down a windy and hilly road with Palaung villagers tilling and weeding amongst their corn fields, doing their diligence of maintaining their crops. The road was smooth and the view of mountains in the background and manicured fields made for a beautiful trip.
As the trip lasted longer and longer, the road became a lot more bumpy and muddy. This road again winded up and down between jungles and fields, passing water buffalo along the way. There were some other waterfalls we saw that will have to wait to another adventure, and going through a military base which required special permission for our company. Ten minutes past the military base, we came to the rickety old bridge that crossed over to a village. The village has a couple places to get Shan noodles and a tiny market, but other than that, it is a quiet and peaceful town, with people washing their laundry in the fresh spring coming down the hill, and holding down the fort at home with the kids while the rest of the family is working the corn fields and rice paddies along the hillsides.
Our group is quite the picture to the locals. Rarely do they see foreigners, and being three foreign families with young kids, which they love, but who all look very different from their own kids...we are quite the sight! Knowing our way around the village, this time we made our way straight to the waterfalls, and told our friends at the Shan noodle shop that we would be back in a couple hours to eat. So, we marched down a little overgrown jungle trail which dives down the hillside into the river valley. Winding down for a few minutes, we end up at the bottom of the Dark Horse Falls. The water is a little dirty from the rains we’ve started to get during the late start to rainy season, but not so mirky that a swim isn’t tempting. I decided to jump in and go for a swim, and soon my friends jumped in too, while our wives watched the kids wade on the banks and dig in the mud. I swam over to the falls, and as I got closer, the water was shallow enough to stand up and walk behind the waterfalls, behind the veil, so that my friends could no longer see me. A pounding wall of water separating our view of each other. But this enticed them even more, and soon all of us were sharing in the adrenaline of swimming behind the falls and trying to stand beneath the weight of the pounding water dumping from 20 feet above.
This only gave us fuel to explore more. Two of us found a place next to that fall which was a challenging wet climb up to the next falls, and upon weighing the risk, we went for it reluctantly, but with anticipation. Our other friend skirted this climb and found his way to other falls. But as we climbed up to the next level of the falls, we found that the next 100 feet of the falls was a slight uphill with rocks that our feet stuck to, even though the water rushed over our ankles and plunged 20 feet to the pool we’d just been swimming in. The rock on this level was almost like a sloped plateau, separating two plunging waterfalls. But this plateau was unique. Its as if the water has carved out curling waves into the limestone slab, which the rushing water curls over side to side down the slope before it cascades over the edge into the pool below. We walked up this slope to the base of the next falls, and discovered our wives way below, pointing to their watches, giving us the sign that it was time to go. We had explored, but there was still so much to explore, but it would have to wait to another time.
So, back down to our wives and kids, clothes back on, everyone cleaned up, and the short hike back to the village, as the smiles of many villagers give us joy as we head back to our motorbikes and the Shan noodle shop. I offered to pay for Shan noodles and water for all 12 people, which sounds generous, but cost me less than $7 USD. For our friends, it was their last day in Lashio, and they had a bus to catch. For us, we are working on establishing a residence there once our business license is approved, and we will have many chances to learn and explore again and again. So, knowing the road and driven to catch the bus, this time we cruised back, cutting our time nearly in half from the journey earlier in the day.
This time we explored Dark Horse Falls, but there is so much more we are convinced. Next time, I will need to go out in the morning, and spend most of the day there to really learn all the possibilities and learn more from the people in the village. Living with this in their back yard, I am sure they can share many stories or more ideas about local places to see.