Life has never been easy in Myanmar. From the day it gained independence the country was plagued by ethnic strife. A 1962 military coup lead to half a century of sporadic civil war. And, though recent elections have been said to hail a breakthrough, political tensions remain high.

In the middle of this lies Shan State. The fruit basket of Myanmar, whose gold mines and thriving agriculture make it the country's richest state. Despite living in the midst of ongoing conflict and the constant threat of violence, the hill tribes continue to live their traditional lifestyle. Living in wooden houses, perched high in the air on stilts, they continue to farm using oxen, water buffalo and ancient methods perfected over the centuries.

Even after fifty years of warfare it is hard to find a more welcoming people. With violence all around them, they continue to show nothing but kindness to the few travellers lucky enough to reach their beautiful, secluded corner of the world.

Words: Fredrik Keate

Photographer: Ester Keate