Let me whet your appetite for more of Myanmar with this guacamole dish. We were abundantly fed with avacado since it’s so plentiful here, and it’s so fresh and good!
Vast views of coffee and orange plantations growing on the hills unfolded before our eyes. They were neatly demarcated according to family territorial borders. From a distance, the adjacent land plots looked like a patterned quilt draped over the mountains. We crossed paths with the village kids, fascinated with our camera gear. After some coaxing they reciprocated with a slight smile and a peace sign for a pose.
One of our rest stops was at a local hut, where we were served sweet glutinous rice and hot tea. The portrait of Aung Sung Syu Kyi took a prominent place in the living room, earning a rank almost equivalent to that of their ancestral alters. She is widely revered as a Burmese national hero – someone who relinquished a comfortable life in the UK, to pursue a cause of democracy, to liberate the nation from Junta oppression. I’ve always admired people who have convictions of steel, who stay steadfast in their beliefs despite currents of opposition, to make a vision a reality.
The trekking journey brought forth sweeping views of wild flowers,
less-trodden trails of old railway tracks,
indegineous women in traditional clothing ,
chilli farms painted bright red in the glory of the harvest season.
Dandelions were in full bloom, their petals dancing away with the wind.
Oxen grazed in the plains.
Night began to fall and temperatures began to plunge. There is no electricity source in the mountains of Kalaw, other than sporadic solar panels that lit the lone light bulb in the hut with a weak glow for a few hours. The toilets- essentially makeshift shacks without roofs- had no lights so we had to shower up before dusk. I remember taking the quickest baths in my life in Kalaw- stripping in the open-air bath and throwing the frigid water over my body, drying up, and making a quick dash back to the hut.
From Kalaw, we also crossed Inle lake via speedboat back to the bus station.
I saw how people established their livelihood by the lake – housing settlements were built along the Bank. Oddly enough, they did their laundry, fished, and obtained plants like the water lotus (fibre from the water lotus is used to make fabric), from the same lake.
We boarded the bus back to Yangon to spend our last day in Myanmar.
Temperatures were back to tropical. We visited Shwedagon Pagoda, an icon of Myanmar and the grandest Buddhist architecture the country had to offer.
The entrance fee of 10 USD was a tad pricey. Admittedly, I’m not particularly intrigued by Buddhist history and culture. It was more of a checkbox to be ticked when you visited Yangon. We strolled along the roadside marketplaces, where raw fish was peddled out in the open on the floor, with the fishmonger lady trying to swat away the hovering flies. Avocados and fresh produce were sold out in the open, and housewives were haggling for better deals. I always like to bring a piece of a country back home, in the form of ethnic fashion. I tried, without success, to hunt around for their traditional wrap skirt.
Through this trip, I experienced how a different way of life was being led, and how a different definition of happiness was written. The joy of reflective meditation while trekking in the solitude of hill country, away from the bustle of city life. May Myanmar never lose that rustic charm, even as she begins to open her borders to the outside world.