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Mountain Kingdoms are worldwide walking and trekking holiday experts with 30 years of experience in running trekking holidays as well as select trekking peaks, cultural tours and cycling holidays. Whether you’ve travelled with Mountain Kingdoms before or just love to travel, we’d love to hear your tales. Email us your Travellers’ tales

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Learn About the Spirits of Land and Sky When You Trek Burma

By Jude Limburn in Southeast Asia - 24th October 2012

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Wherever you go in the Himalaya, one thing is certain: this is a region to open up the eyes and the heart, whether by showing you the view from the top of the world, or by introducing you to the diverse spiritual traditions of the people whose lands you pass through on trek. Burma, a land of complex and varied religion, has much in the way of spirituality to offer those who venture up into its northernmost mountains, where all of nature forms part of the ancient animist belief system. And in each town or village that we visit on a Mountain Kingdoms trek, unique local customs show us a different facet of these beliefs.

While the official state religion of the country is Buddhism, and many of the hill tribe communities in the northern Kachin state have converted to Christianity, animist traditions pre-date both by millennia, and still form the vital, indispensable core of many of these communities’ philosophies, folklore, and customs. To trek Burma's Himalayas, we start in the valley town of Putao, where people come from surrounding villages to trade, rubbing shoulders and providing a glimpse of the mountains’ cultural diversity; later, when pausing at Lisu and Rawang villages, trekkers have the chance to learn first-hand about these distinct groups and their customs.

As in other regions of Burma, many here believe in Nats – spirits – some of whom are the souls of great human leaders and heroes, while others are the resident spirits of land, water and sky. However, there are traditions associated with Nats that are particular to Kachin state, such as the belief that a Nat called Madai is the ancestor of all the region’s peoples. Every village will have its own stories and practices, so travel with open ears and who knows what you’ll learn?

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