Having walked quite a long way in the last couple of days it was perfect to spend an afternoon on a boat gently floating around a lake. Inle Lake is the second biggest lake in Myanmar at just under forty five square miles and it […]
Anywhere that I have travelled in the world it has always been the people that leave a lasting impression and are the icing on the cake of the whole experience. In this regard Asia has blown me away with the kindness, welcome and warm hearts of the people. Myanmar being top of that list.
Just five minutes walk from the monastery there was a shop where you could buy soft drinks and snacks. It was basically a tiny wooden shack. We pottered over there to get stocked up on bottles of water for the following days hike. The young lady that ran this shop was gorgeous in every way and her baby who was tightly wrapped like a bright chubby caterpillar in a cocoon and secured to her back was the cutest thing I’ve seen in ages!
We also met lots of children who I suspect had recently come out from school and were burning off extra energy running around and play fighting. One little boy thought it would impress his friends if he pretended to attack us the intruders with his sword which was interesting, thankfully we all survived and later he became my friend over a drawing.
There were lots of baby monks (I like to call them that) who are sent to the monastery by their families to ensure they get a roof over their head good food and an education. It is kind of like boarding school I suppose and seems to serve a very important role in life here. It seems to instill an excellent set of values and work ethic into the boys who were delightful to hang out with. Many of them will leave when they are adults and train for another career but the stability and discipline of this simple way of living seems to be a good start in life. I loved that they had not lost any personality of cheekiness through being there as you can see from the above photo!
As with everywhere I go I settle down to draw. I’d chosen a simple wooden barn like building as I was tired and the day was drawing to a close. My activity seemed to spark the interest of my new friends and one by one they beckoned each other over to see what I was doing. I tried to get them to draw something in my book but they all shyed away from my offers of a pen. They then started trying to encourage me to draw a different building which happened to be the most complicated one of all of them! I took up the challenge and they were all transfixed while I drew, such a lovely experience. (Incidentally the boy in the white teeshirt and green sarong was the sword wielder from earlier.)
When I had finished the drawing just before they were called away to do their chores we attempted a selfie! 🙂
From Hpa-An we took a night bus to Kalaw in Shan state. It took about eight hours including a stop half way. As we left Hpa-An the coach stopped numerous times taking more and more people and packages on board so much so we had sacks of rice on the floor down the middle aisle and people sat cross legged on top of them as well as a chicken in the baggage section under the coach. We were crammed in but as we had seats we had a pillow and a blanket and a bottle of water. In the morning we were given a box each of donuts and cakes for breakfast. I think Theresa and I were a bit over tired as we got the giggles very badly so much so I was literally crying for sometime….it definitely helped the journey go by!
We arrived in Kalaw at 5am and were dropped off very close to the place we were staying, a nice friendly gentleman met us and took us straight there. It was very beautiful surroundings high up in the mountains and was mercifully cooler than Hpa-An or Yangon. We stayed at the Golden Lily Guest House which is very cheap so we paid a fraction more for a room with ensuite which was simple but good. It is run by a Sikh family who have lived in the area since their grandfather came over from India to help build the railway line. Myanmar has become home and now it is too expensive and complicated to ever visit India and family they still have there. It was fascinating hearing all the stories but quite sad to think how privileged I am to be able to travel wherever I want to while they are not able to visit family and a heritage they have never seen.
From a gluten free point of view breakfast was great as I had vegetable fried rice made especially for me which I was very grateful for. We ate dinner next door to the guest house which was my cheapest dinner on the whole trip at about 72p for everything including rice (I had egg curry). The picture doesn’t do it justice as it was very fresh nutritious and tasty.
We chose to stay here as they also offer a range of packages for hiking down to Inle Lake which I will talk about in my next post.
We were based in Hpa-An for our few days in this area as most things you might want to see are within about an hours (or much less) drive in any direction. The town is not huge but has everything you need. It has a number of temples and interesting bits of architecture but you don’t need long to explore the town it is the surrounding area that you come for really.
One thing that is indisputable is the beauty of Myanmar. Everywhere I went was stunning. The landscape is idilic and looks pretty unspoilt. Obviously there are numerous fields of rice perfectly manicured and luscious in colour but they sit so perfectly alongside the majestic mountains in the distance. It makes for a pleasant day driving around watching the landscape go by. The people we passed along the way are also delightful most of the time very interested to see a western face and extremely friendly. You could end up with arm ache after all the waving!
On this day out our taxi driver asked if we might be interested in seeing a local weaving workshop along the way and of course we did. So our next stop was fascinating watching a large group of predominantly women weaving gloriously coloured fabrics. I had seen this in Laos a few weeks earlier and had an afternoon of weaving myself, this workshop was very similar.
One of the differences with this style of weaving was the added tufts (for want of a better word) of threads that are carefully caught between the weft and warp threads creating kind of tassels. They are arranged in geometric patterns and create an added texture to the fabric. The workshop had bowls of these perfectly sized and cut bunches of threads ready to be inserted.
One thing that was a lovely change from most of my travelling was that we were not asked to buy anything at any point. We had simply been introduced to this workshop because they were proud of what they were doing and wanted to show it off.
Outside the weavers we came across this gorgeous little chap. I am slightly dog crazy and had been photographing a dog a day on my travels so he had to be added to my collection. To be honest he was so cute he nearly went in my bag!