Even though the roads in Burma are terrible, hitching here is really easy. We had a chance to check it while traveling to Kalaw where 3-day trek through Kalaw hills awaited us. The first highway part went smoothly and usually the first car stopped for us. From Meiktila it was harder as per mountain roads so we had to catch a bus. We got there around 2 pm before Sean and Doireann who joined us one hour later. Yes, our Irish friends met in Goa had the same plan like us so we decided to do this trek together. As for Myanmar we found quite cheap accommodation ($15) in Golden Lilly where we spent one day charging our batteries and enjoying Myanmar beer, the national delicacy. Sean, after a stinger fish attack in Sri Lanka still had a huge cut in his foot but he was ready to walk with us.
The next day our trek started. And even if it was couple of not high orange hills it wasn’t easy at all. We had two young girl guides with us who showed us a little of the life of local tribes. In She Pin village, where we stopped for lunch, we met a nice 80-years old grandpa who really enjoyed speaking to the foreigners. Although the conversation was basic we learned how many children his neighbour’s daughter had and how many of his family members had died. The grandpa himself was in an excellent shape, sharing his stories and making fun of two grandmas who didn’t understand a word.
I didn’t mention about Sheena, an Australian girl with Chinese roots who joined us during our trek. Her and her life story was a good entertainment at least for me. It’s funny how after being a corporation employee you can find your destiny in designing underwear for male and female pole dancers. I usually avoid girls who spend hours cleaning their faces from a daily make up but her honeyed energy was quite cute. Sometimes. Anyway, we had fun altogether in the evening in Kyauk Su village, where we stayed with a funny local marriage. And like a typical marriage, a husband was chewing paan while the wife made sure we had everything on the table. She decorated us in the local orange turbans which suited Callum especially. Although turban is a typical only for Kalaw villages, paan is common absolutely everywhere in Burma. Curious of a red liquid constantly dripping from Burmese mouths, we tried it the next day in Nantain and, as I thought, it was disgusting. It doesn’t change the fact that every man chew it all day and all night. Local rice wine that we tried in a small eco-village was similar to the one we tried in Bardia and even though I thought it was weak, it managed to make our lovely guide girl drunk. We weren’t worse with our “High class” whiskey but with our European livers we definitely win.
It didn’t make our last morning trek easier though, but we knew there was just few hours left. You may think: “You’ve done Himalayas and you can’t take Kalaw??”. Yeah, but in Himalayas there wasn’t 40°C in the shade. As it was a dry season the whole area was covered with dry or burnt grass and thorny bushes. The landscape and the villages on the way were really interesting though. The life there basically looked like Europe 50 years ago. The farming equipment they used nowadays you can see only in European museums… and here it’s is commonly used. Unbelievable. It was great how these people enjoy their hard but happy life, for a moment I felt like in some dream.
Once we got to Inle lake we all agreed on one thing: just relax. As Nyaung Shwe was really touristy we could enjoy “touristy” food which was definitely good for our stomachs. We stayed in a Gypsy Inn hotel with Sean and Doireann knowing in 2 days we would split again. Inle was a kind of place I’ve never seen before. And I was completely amazed. Our quad and Sheena went for a full day boat trip which showed us a piece of local life and craft around Inle. Our boat guide, Owen (his real name was too difficult so we named him ourselves), took us to a Lotus waving workshop which totally blew my mind. All the textile machines were made of bamboo and run by hands and legs of strong Burmese women. Making one scarf took hours, sometimes days- this is a real uniqueness. Another place was a silver smith where all the jewelery was made by hand. Obviously it all had its price so we stuck to looking and admiring. The lake was massive and full of floating villages, stilted houses, gardens and fishermen boats. There was a different kind of life, I’ve never seen a village that was so connected to its environment…
I heard about some tribes in this world where women wear golden rings around their necks in a name of beauty but I didn’t have an idea it was in Burma. And yes, we’ve seen them even if it wasn’t in their original village but in a local souvenir shop where they were happily posing to pictures. Their necks were unnaturally long as the rings that weighed couple of good kilos lowered their arms. I really would like to see a neck of such woman without the rings but I was told once they wear it they never take it off. As the boat trip without a pagoda wouldn’t have been a boat trip we stopped by a huge golden temple with 5 holy balls that supposedly contained a tooth of Buddha. He must have had 2 pairs of gums cuz I heard about his “holy teeth” dozens of times… The last stop was Jumping cats temple where you could really see some cats but they definitely weren’t jumping. Rather opposite- they were lazing around and sleeping, surrounding the holy Buddha. Anyway, after a cat disappointment we were rewarded by a gorgeous sunset and a bottle of ‘Myanmar’. So much information, our brains needed a rest. As we were promising ourselves a lazy day since India, the second day in Inle was based on doing completely nothing. Eating, reading, watching films, sweet “nicnierobienie. Sean and Doireann were leaving that evening to Yangon so we went for the last dinner together talking over our next traveling plans. As they planned to go to Thailand earlier we will probably follow them in Laos but even if not I’m sure our routes will cross again somewhere in this small world.