Relationships through Cliff Jumping

There is a village we spend a lot, I mean A LOT of time in from January to June, because its the community that is host to an incredible waterfall adventure that MAO operates. It also happens to be the time of year when the kids have time off school, so more time to come and hang out. When we show up, the kids start chattering and by the time we are ready to guide people down to the falls, a group has formed who both participates in and brings joy to both us and our clients. Our guys have become like heroes for these boys and young men, and have an open door to influence them positively. Lots of young men end up using and becoming addicted to drugs in Northern Shan, as this region is a source of a large amount of production, so we are trying to develop opportunities to influence this younger generation to make wise decisions with their future. A lot of them now want to be guides because the men they look up to work with MAO, and guide in their backyard waterfalls, so we need to capitalize on this relationship capital and start investing in these kids so that they make the foundational wise decisions now to stay committed to school, keep away from drugs and addicting substances, so that in the days of their youth they can pave the way for a future. We are right now in the discussing stage of creating a young men’s group that meets a couple times a month, but have yet to set a plan in motion.

Just on the edge of their village drops a waterfall that we’ve coined Dark Horse Falls, as we feel like it is a dark horse favorite for best waterfall in Myanmar. We’ve compiled a video titles Dark Horse Men to celebrate our MAO guys insanity and the courage of the young generation in the village.

Our Myanmar Adventure Outfitters crew has lots of fun engaging with the local kids and pushing our boundaries and skills. 2019 season is coming to a close as the rains come, so celebrating with this cliff jumping edit.

"I Can't Wait to come to Lashio!"

In chatting with a Yangon expat recently in response to our Instagram Story, they wrote to me, “I can’t wait to come to Lashio!” Investing in this place, seeing all the amazing potential, and building deep relationships here, we are stoked that we are putting Lashio on the map. Indeed, it is an amazing place, but few have seen it the way we see it, and we are excited to hear more people exclaim the same.

We have been working at bridging two areas we work together, and this week we’ve found some great things to help push a little further out. We have taken a couple river trips in a remote backcountry area, and made a couple videos we want to share. The first video we collaborated with Nice Studio out of Lashio to edit our GoPro footage. The second video is what happened when we put some of the same footage through the Cameo app made by Vimeo. They have a very different feel, and we are hoping good media will inspire more to exclaim, “I can’t wait to come to Lashio!”


Changing the Narrative on Lashio

We knew it wouldn't be easy, starting a tour company off the beaten path...in Lashio.  The vision was always to create opportunities for people and communities where there was little opportunity, so going to a place where no one else was doing anything in tourism development was what we were aiming for, but its hard!  A place not known for good tourism experiences, we knew we had to change the narrative on Lashio, change the perception.  

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When we first connected with the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism in Lashio, they were excited about us coming and had a vision for getting people to go see pagodas in Lashio, and as worthwhile as some of this can be, we saw so much potential in the diverse & isolated communities outside of the city.  People from Lashio scoffed at the idea that we came to Lashio to start tourism, even their narrative was one of a naysayer.  But we've won over even people from Lashio, as now even locals stop me on the street wanting to do tours with MAO, because we've found places and created experiences even Lashio locals never thought possible.  

With Hsipaw just down the road, our challenge has been to get perhaps 3-5% of people who would stop in Hsipaw to continue on up the road to Lashio, and in actuality we are happy to send people on to Hsipaw.  Hsipaw has some great trekking, and we aren't trying to compete with Hsipaw, but rather create unique experiences that would make both stops worthwhile, electing to help develop tourism throughout Northern Shan State, and not pitting Lashio against Hsipaw or Kyaukme or Naunghkio.  So many great opportunities for authentic adventures in Northern Shan!!!

When we first came to Lashio, water festival had shut the town down, and we were left uninspired.  Reading wikitravel, we found the perception of Lashio was one of a big dirty market town with nothing to do.  It is a big town, one of the biggest in Shan State.  It has an amazing market where all of the diverse communities converge for buying and selling.  It is certainly not such a dirty town in comparison to many places in Myanmar. 

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And beyond all this, there are amazing untouched adventures just over the hills of the city.  In my opinion, the best waterfall experience that can be had in all of Myanmar is just outside of Lashio, a feat we've come to achieve by going dozens of times and learning all there is to learn.  But beyond this, MAO has even put some waterfalls on the map that now Lashio's locals know about because we put them on the map.  All of this comes from endless exploration.  North Face, the popular brand, has the slogan "Never Stop Exploring", and we've embraced this mindset.  There is always more to explore, and we are determined to find it, pushing every boundary, leaving no rock unturned.  We've found so many things, and so many places, experiences that few have even encountered with us yet.  For many who have come with us on an adventure, now two years later, there is so much more to do that we didn't even know about two years ago.  

For example, Lashio is famous for hotsprings, but in my opinion, the best hotsprings are not inside the city, but the untouched ones outside of the city, with at least 4 places with amazing hot springs we've only taken a handful of people to, two of which we've never showed to anyone yet.     

Hidden hotspring river

Hidden hotspring river

Adventures of Rainy Season

Right now we are in the middle of rainy or monsoon season, which means we can have fun, but it will certainly involve getting muddy and dirty.  Its God's decision, not mine, and we are left to figure out how to have a safe adventure despite environmental changes.  This means that every adventure can look drastically different depending on weather changes.  Some of our pictures are taken in hot season, when the paths are dry and the river is clean and not filled with dirt eroded from the hillsides resulting in a brown slurry that is the rivers in rainy season.  Some things we cannot do, and some things we can do with greater effort, and some things involve getting wet anyways, so why not embrace the rain!!

If you're willing to get dirty and embrace the mud, we can have a lot of fun.  Scroll through the carousel below of fun in rainy season so far.  Some days are sunny, and some are rainy and muddy, so there is lots of adventure to be had still.

Photos are by the amazingly talented Dewi Natalia from Bali.  Check out her work at: www.forasiacheersphotos.format.com.

Exploring Local Waterfalls

A blog post 6 months ago, we highlighted a waterfall in a small village, a 45 minute ride from Lashio.  In the past week, we've been back there twice, and there are many falls and little nooks and crannies to explore around and in and behind waterfalls.  I shot a short 360 degree view video from one vantage point in the falls.

Come and explore Dark Horse falls with us on a trip to Northern Shan State soon.  We can engage with the area and the community around the falls through Mountain biking, motorcycling, hiking, river tubing, and connecting with the village people.