Myanmar – Part II

I’m writing this from the comfort of our new apartment in the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. We’re both back at work, we’re getting settled into the new place, planning our wedding, and getting on with our “normal” lives. We were both amazed at how easy it was for us to adapt to the travelling lifestyle. Transitioning back into the working world was a little harder, at least for me, but I think we’re back into the swing of things now. Myanmar seems so far away — both in time and distance. And I guess it is. But that’s not going to stop me from writing another blog about it. We set up our blog with two goals in mind: (1) to keep our friends and family updated while we were gone and (2) to serve as our trip journal. Although we’re not exactly current with goal (1), we’re hoping to keep plugging away so we can complete goal (2). Plus it is really fun to reminisce about our former lives!

Thanks to Camille for her great blog about much of our time in Myanmar! As she mentioned in her blog, we were able to take a wonderful multi-day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake. That hike will be the focus of this blog entry. The journey was 3 days and 2 nights. We paid about $50 each, including a guide, a traveling chef, accommodations, luggage transport, and a boat ride at the end. (I’m not sure we can Uber across town for that at home). So it was definitely worth the price. Instead of providing a chronological recap, I’m going to categorize a few groups of pictures and mainly let the captions tell the stories, hopefully giving a bit of flavor of what we were able to do/see/experience.

People

After having been on a bit of the tourist trail in Asia, we were really craving a more authentic experience, and this trip certainly gave us that opportunity. During our three days, we had the chance to hike through rural villages, giving us the chance to see the local people in their everyday lives – playing, cooking, socializing, lounging. We were amazed at how happy everyone was, and it was a good reminder that while fancy homes and shiny toys may be nice to have, you don’t necessarily need them to live a full life. It was also obvious that these folks hadn’t been completely jaded by the constant stream of tourists, which sadly you notice in certain other parts of SE Asia. Hopefully that doesn’t change as more and more visitors flock to Myanmar.

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Ashley playing with one of our hosts’ children. His water bottle full of dirt was plenty to keep him happy. Notice his cute little longyi!

 

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A group of small children walking down the road. The (slightly) older kids seemed to have much more responsibility in taking care of the younger ones than we do in America.

 

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An elderly lady who spends every day bent over the loom making beautiful shalls, blankets, head-dressses, etc. She told us that the younger generation is not as interested in sewing/knitting — she can’t get her daughter to do it. Ashley bought a couple items from her prior to taking this picture.

 

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A little guy we came across while passing through his village – he held our German trek-mates captive until they took a picture of him and showed it to him. It was pretty fun to watch.

Accommodations

One of the most interesting, eye-opening, fun, memorable, you name it, parts of the trip was that we had the chance to stay in villagers’ homes each night, eating food from their kitchens, using their facilities, and getting a glimpse into their everyday lives. It was incredible how different their lives are from what we are used to at home.

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The village we slept in on the second night. The oxen sleep beneath the sleeping quarters. Electricity was provided by car batteries and primarily used for minimal lighting and (of course) charging smart phones. This was one of the only brick buildings that we saw.

 

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A typical outhouse in the villages. There are no toilet seats in there, just indentations in the floor that drain to something…. We all avoided coffee during the hike and were able to only use the outhouses for select functions.

 

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Our 6 beds, side-by-side, at one of the guest houses. I slept in the middle to provide a buffer between Ash/Cam and the other trekkers. Not a lot of padding on the wooden boards. But it was nice how neat and tidy they kept it for us — plus, having Buddha watching over you while you sleep is comforting!

 

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A typical “bathtub” — there is a small scoop that you use to take water out of the “clean” tub and dump it over yourself into the dirty tub. As you can see in the pictures, it is quite dusty in Myanmar in March/April, so being able to rinse off before getting into bed was actually quite nice. I did have an incident where one of the little kids (shown earlier playing with Ashley) decided to come in and watch me rinse off. I teasingly splashed him with water. He then left, got a bucket, came back and dumped it on me. It was really fun to interact with folks that you had no chance of speaking to.

 

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Us after lunch in one of the villages. It was REALLY hot in Myanmar, so we were encouraged to take a small siesta (that word is burmese right?) after eating our lunches.

 

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The kitchen at one of our hosts’ house.

Culture

It’s always fascinating to see the customs and traditions in other cultures. Below are just a few of the many customs we were able to observe and/or participate in.

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Our guide, Geeta, teaching me how to fish with a cane pole and a piece of string. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything — story of my life.

 

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Geeta showing us how to chew betel quid — a nut wrapped in betel leaf, with lime, tobacco, and spices. Many of the local men chew it non stop and it has stained their mouths and teeth a bright, nasty red.

 

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Cam didn’t do so well chewing the betel. I pretended to like it to look tough in front of Geeta. She promised us our mouths wouldn’t be stained from just one try!

 

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A group of boys playing sepak taraw – like volleyball only the ball is a small woven ratan ball and you can only use your feet! It was incredible how high they swing their legs to spike the ball over the net.

 

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Pulling over to the side of the road to let an oxen cart pass was a pretty regular occurrence. This guy was probably on his way to work his field.

Scenery

I wouldn’t say Myanmar was the MOST beautiful country that we’ve been to — looking at you New Zealand, Thai islands, parts of Chile, even the good old U.S. But it certainly had enough to look at to keep your eyes exercised – tea fields planted on steep slopes, terraced rice fields, and villages situated on unique landscapes. I think it might be even prettier if we weren’t there in the dry season, but of course then it might have been harder to do our hike.

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A village that we walked through, but didn’t stay at. Villagers were working the tea fields planted on the steep slopes beneath the village.

 

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Ash and Cam on day 2 of our trek, after what was probably the most grueling section. Still smiling and happy to be there!

I’m so glad we got to experience this trek and see a different way of life. Thanks to Camille for organizing! It was really fun to look back at these pictures and have the memories rush back. It is amazing how vivid they still are. As time begins to dull the memories, I’m sure that Ashley and I will turn to these and other pictures anytime that we need a good smile.

One thought on “Myanmar – Part II

  1. Wow what a cool adventure! I now have a better understanding of why you said I probably would prefer the accommodations we had in Thailand over the houses you stayed in here. An experience you’ll never forget I’m sure.

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