As you’re all aware, we’re in Myanmar. It’s the country formerly known as Burma which boasts a government that has a running interest in keeping its citizenry in the dark. Thus, no consistent internet connections, no blogging, and, often, no electricity. Letters To Milo is apparently too dangerous for the common good here. I know one cat who’s very angry!
But we will not be silenced! Thanks to my mother, here are some dispatches from the previous 11 days. She’ll post them periodically until we rejoin the modern world from India (!!!) on April 5.
By the way, our feelings for the Myanmar government should not be confused with our feelings for the people. They are wonderful. And if you can stand the heat, and the bumpy roads, and the occasional disappearance of electricity, we encourage you to visit.
Our busing nightmare from the town of Bago ends with us, dusty as ever, on the side of the road in a pleasant, sleepy hilltop town called Kalaw. Surprisingly, after 18 hours on two buses, we’re hanging in there. We make plans to trek the following day. We can’t argue with the terms. Guide, three meals and lodging for $10 per person, per day.
Day one of a three day, 50 kilometer trek into the hills of central Myanmar. On your map at home, put one finger on Kalaw, one finger on Inle Lake, and you have our itinerary in between.
Before we embark, we spend the morning inspecting produce at the local market. Held every five days, women from villages in the hills descend to sell the fruits of their labor. As always, there are some exotics. Tamarind paste, anyone? But this time we’re impressed with how similar the vegetables here are to the ones we Americans are familiar with: cauliflower, eggplants, cucumbers, peanuts, watermelons, and lots and lots of tomatoes. Red ones only, though.
We hike in two groups. The lead group has our two cooks and a pair of German-speaking Europeans. Our group has us, the guide, a French woman and two men from Canada. One of the Canadians has been traveling since 2001 and Myanmar is country number 91. He tells some good stories that have CeCe and me rethinking graduate school plans.
At a stop at a train station along a dilapidated but still active railbed that we’ve been following I have the second drug experience of my life: betel. In short, it’s a nut with narcotic properties that people all over SE Asia chew with a passion. It gives you a buzz and turns your saliva red. My mouth got numb, I started feeling nauseous and I spit it out. My first drug experience? CeCe loves it when I tell people it came at age 13. I sucked too much helium at Jamie Kuperman’s bar mitzvah and got a real bad headache.