We are scheduled to do “light trekking” to visit some more tribes that are completely inaccessible by road. I know you will find the concept of me trekking as hard to believe as I did but I was persuaded by my desire to see these tribes and by the term “light”. Suffice it to say that I would not describe over 6 hours of walking up and down a small mountain as “light trekking”. However the day was riveting.
After a couple of hours walking straight up the mountain we come to the village of Banglu where the Enn tribe live. This is a collection of 24 huts each housing a large family. Each hut is made of bamboo and rush matting, which offers very little protection from the cold and it gets cold here as we are now quite high up. The homes are just a jumble of shacks in a dirt clearing in the jungle. The homes are built on stilts to protect them from the rainy season and to allow a place for their animal, if they are lucky enough to have one.
The tribes people wear black clothing decorated with brightly coloured ribbon and tiny beads of silver. But their clothing is ragged and dirty. There is no form of record keeping in this village, so no one knows how old they are. The Enn tribe is famous for its women who have black teeth and lips from their constant chewing of the betel nut. They never brush their teeth.
I had said earlier that the fishing tribe that we visited on Lake Inle were the poorest people we had ever met. Not any longer. This tribe is not only the poorest, but without doubt it is the dirtiest. They wear no shoes and their hands and feet are filthy, which presents a problem as the men all want to shake our hands. The details of their personal hygiene, or total lack of it, may offend the more delicate of you, so if this is the case you might want to skip to the next paragraph. There is no running water or plumbing, although they do have a series of horizontal bamboo pipes bringing water from the stream to the centre of the village.
They very rarely wash, but when they do, the women keep all their clothes on, presumably from a sense of modesty and because the water is so cold. The men never wash below their waist or above their thighs. That doesn’t bear thinking about. But it gets worse. There are many dogs in the village. When the people go to the toilet, they call the dogs over to lick the relevant body part of their body clean, and to clean up what they have deposited on the ground. But wait, I haven’t finished yet. Each family has acquired a few tin plates from which they eat. They never wash the plates, instead the dogs are called over after their meal to lick them clean. Try not to think about that, either.