Towel clad mountain people and life on stilts

Trip Start Nov 21, 2013
1
5
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Trip End Dec 16, 2013


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Flag of Myanmar  ,
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Beautiful open fields of flowers, bamboo groves and endless rows of hot red peppers dotted with pickers working away under back-breaking conditions. These were all sights on my trek starting at the wonderful little hill station of Kalaw heading to Inle Lake. The familiar greeting of "minglarba" is exchanged between hilltribe people such as Shan and Pa-O, that are passing by with large baskets, that they carry with help of a headband (comes in lots of styles and colors). Quite fun to see the Pa-O tribe that has the costume of wrapping bath towels on their head, these modern-adapted head adornments are sported by both the men and women.  

Men are plowing their plots the old fashion way with a cart powered by oxes, women working in the field while their small ones are napping next to them on blankets, birds are singing. This country is so beautiful!

After about 5hrs of hiking and lunch at a local home, we have arrived at our destination and home for the night. A small village with a little temple and the local “bar” where men are playing cards and getting drunk. My thought is that the women does most of the work around here… I have done homestays all over the world and think it is a nice way to get to know the culture a little better, while supporting hardworking people. It is quite interesting to get to see a slice of their everyday life, which includes everything from no electricity, no running water, pit toilets (if any at all) and animals living basically inside of your home. It certainly makes you appreciate how fortunate you are if you can turn on your lights and drink the water out of your tap. Not to mention the incredible luxury of having hot water. Here one goes to sleep when the sun sets and, yes you guessed it, you get up and the crack of dawn to the sweet sounds of coughing and spitting by your family members, along with the scraggily sounds of a tired rooster. 

Another 5hrs of hiking trough breathtaking landscapes takes you to the beauty of Inle Lake. It is incredible to see all the homes built high up on stilts, high enough to stay above water in the rainy season. Inle Lake children can swim before they learn how to walk and will quickly become masters at maneuvering the only means of transportation that is necessary- boats. I welcome a boat ride after the long trek and let my hair out. It is so nice to feel the wind in my hair and float trough the canals watching the locals go about their daily life that revolves around the water and getting everything possible done with or from boats. Floating flower ladies, floating fish markets even floating souvenir sellers! I see children hang over ledges several meters above the water, playing with knifes. I guess I would call it a pretty liberal upbringing! 

 I stay on the lake for three nights, exploring the area. Here is the only place where the desirable lotus fabric is woven and monks robes are exported from Inle Lake to monasteries around the world. One can go to the shop where this incredibly expensive fabric is created from the loved and treasured lotus flower stems. I visit the famous Nyaung Shwe monastery (oval window monastery), get massages and ooohh and aahhhh when the one-legged fisher men balance on one leg, paddle with the other and use their hands for fishing. These guys are so good, I'm thinking they should start a Cirque de Solei Burma-style here on the lake. 

A skip, hop and a flight away and I land in Yangon, Burma's largest city and home to the massive Shwedagon Pagoda, a ton of bustling open-air markets, churches, buddhist temples and mosques alike. This is the melting pot of people and religions in Burma. A beetlegeuse-spitting (that stains your teeth red) and smooching (you get your waiters attention by making a kissing sound) crowd that can enjoy moving about in the city via foot, bicycle or car as motorbikes here are banned. Iv'e heard several stories about the motorbike ban, and seemingly a high-ranking general was hit by a moto and decided to ban them altogether. Here colonial crumbling buildings snuggle up next to new and modern high-rises and lots of new hotels. Still free from the evil cooperations and fast food changes of the west, it has a lot of independent food stalls, little shops and restaurants. But what else is expected in a country where one of the standard greetings are "sar pyi bi lar" (have you eaten your lunch yet?). 

My last night in Burma is spent watching the sun go down over the Shwedagon Paya, the most sacred of all Buddhist sites in the country, which every Burmese wishes to visit at least once in their lifetime. This massive golden structure rises almost 100 meters (322ft) above it's base and is surrounded by a dizzying amount of pagodas, Buddhas, golden towers etc, etc, etc. I would call it the "Buddha World" as an answer to the western "Disney World"- the happiest place on Earth. I hope this beautiful country will be able to keep it's traditional ways as things will be changing rapidly in the near future. Rules for import/export are loosening and sadly CocaCola just started to be sold in restaurants and stores. If you want to see a part of the old world, a country who has been sheltered from consumerism and capitalism. Come soon. And I mean soon. This is truly a magical place.

My next stop is Cambodia and the largest religious structure on Earth- Angkor Wat. See you there!

Peace, Love and Golden Pagodas Galore
TheSwedishVagabond 


     
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Comments

Lennart Malmi on

Micaela,
I say it again... Wow!
Keep up the good job. ;-)

Rebecca on

Underbart härligt! Ser verkligen fram emot att läsa om och se foton från Kambodja och Angkor Wat. En av de bästa resorna jag har gjort (tack vare dig) och jag längtar efter att få återse landet igen. Kram!

Rebecca on

Efterfrågar en selfie-bild där du dricker ananasjos och kokosnötsmjölk i plastpåse med is. Ett av dom ljuvliga smakminnen jag aldrig glömmer! Köpte det i en bar i Pnom Phen där dom hängt Pol Pots toalettsits på väggen (påstod dom). Haha! Kul bild blev det iallafall. :)

swedishvagabond
swedishvagabond on

Tack Lennart! Rebecca, jag tror att de har slutat med "dryckes-påsarna" eftersom det blev så otroligt mycket skräp över hela Asien. Jag drack dock minst två coccosnötter varje dag!

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