Remote Myanmar gets ready for tourism boom

After a decades-long blanket ban on tourists, Kayah State in eastern Myanmar has opened up to the outside world. Travellers are pouring in to get a glimpse of its untouched beauty. As Pichayada Promchertchoo reports, the remote state is hoping to develop a tourist industry without losing its charm. LOIKAW, Myanmar: U La Y is scraping dry chicken bones with his knife, searching for a message no eyes can see. The elderly shaman of Pan Pet is performing a tribal ritual that dates back centuries. Then comes a moment of revelation. “The bones told me you will have very good fortune over the next year. If you stay in foreign lands, nobody will be able to stop you,” U La Yu reveals my future, turning two chicken leg bones around in his hands. Grey smoke curls up slowly from a fire-pit to the ceiling of his house in the mountainous state of Kayah. Fortune telling is an integral part of his role as a spiritual leader, but it has a wider purpose. It is also a popular attraction for tourists who visit Pan Pet, a collection of five hamlets native to the Kayan ethnic group in Myanmar’s hilly east. Until recently, however, a tourist industry would have been unimaginable in this region. Since the 1950s, Kayah State had been a war zone between the military and ethnic armed groups. Tens of thousands of men, women and children fled violence to refugee camps in Thailand. For decades, the area remained blocked off from the outside world.

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