Monsoons, Monks and Monasteries a very special day

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
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Trip End Feb 26, 2011


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Where I stayed
In a monastery somewhere???

Flag of Myanmar  , Shan State,
Friday, July 16, 2010

We left the guest house at 8am and after a short car journey, surprisingly in a white Toyota Corolla, we met up with the rest of the group in a tiny village, Christopher from Poland, Anna from Germany and Burt (the self proclaimed devil in disguise)and Ruth from Belgium. A real good crew for trekking with and they had already done one day of walking when we joined them. Erica nearly went back home as we heard a loud buzzing noise, upon closer inspection it turned out to be a huge swarm of bees looking for a new home. The whole sky looked black and the noise was incredible. The walk involved all types of terrain from rice paddies, jumping across streams (which Lady E did not like at all, but fair play she did it), the colours were fantastic as well with fertile soils dark brown and bright red. We walked in total for about 8 hours on this day only stopping for lunch in a village leaders wooden hut and a few short breaks and it was one of the most memorable and favourite days of our whole trip in Myanmar.

The trekking was fantastic, even better than Sapa. What made the day so perfect though was the incredible people. Operating with nothing but ox carts, horse carts and simple digging tools these people work the fields for about 15 hours per day. We met women of 80 years of age who worked these hours seven days a week for pretty much nothing except personal survival, yet the happiness was obvious to see and she offered to share half her lunch with us. These are still ethnic minority tribes like in Sapa so you can imagine all the colourful dresses and scarves. The villages were basic beyond belief, often with no electricity just wood huts an open fire stove and an outside hole in the ground. Well, after our stinginess around the world so far we found this experience a complete soul cleanser, I have never seen women of 60 years of age sprinting across fields to receive a toothbrush and be so over the moon with it. The kids could not take the smiles off their faces when they were given a pencil. Perhaps the highlight though was one of the poorest villages where we met the teacher and gave her a good amount of the gifts. The kids lined up in front of her in the torrential rain and were given pencils, pens and notepads, you just haven't seen happiness quite like it, it was more like complete amazement.

To reflect on my own life and how greedy all us Brits are we would have needed a new bike or something to bring that kind of joy, 20 years later it would need to be a Playstation 3, new bike and 300 quid of games etc. It was very, very moving, the teacher was also very, very appreciative and could not stop thanking our generosity. We then started feeling guilty that we should have brought more. Clearly if we are in about the poorest area of the poorest country in SE Asia you have an idea of what poverty can do, but to lack the simplest things and for them to mean that much is amazing. I think the difference between the trekking in Sapa and here is that here tourists are not that common, our guide changes tracks each time he goes out to distribute medical supplies. People are really glad to see you and they are not trying to sell you anything or looking for anything off you. On reflection you can’t help but think that our personal greed actually goes a long way to having destroyed the fabric of communities in the UK but also it has destroyed the happiness that should be felt in simple everyday life.

Anyway we walked for about another hour and a half through the sun and the wind saying hello to everyone we met. I tried to help a man weed his field but after about 5 minutes I was knackered and doing a very bad job of it. Eventually we arrived at our overnight accommodation, a monastery in the middle of nowhere. The monastery had one head monk and 6 novices. The novices could not be supported at home as their families could not afford to feed them so the only remaining option was for the head monk to take them in and teach them. We sat outside an old teak monastery in candle light drinking green tea and had a fabulous meal and an interesting chat. We particularly got on with the Belgians who were both chatty and funny but also appeared able to laugh at themselves the way E and I do. We were completely knackered having walked about 19km and we were asleep on the floor of the monastery in front of all the Buddha’s with the monks in the same room by about 9pm. Despite the monsoon rains hitting the tin roof and the roof leaking a little we were soon asleep, despite the deep ponderings about life, happiness and the future of a country I have already fallen head over heels in love with.
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Comments

Stevie T on

Just brilliant, well done!

Stevie Z on

Just went through all the photos on this page with Jasmine. Nice opp to explain these kids have no pencils and Andy and Erica are taking them some. Erica was immediately named by Jasmine (good memory for 3!). Everyone else was 'who dat man?'

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