Myanmar Notes

July 26th

Internet isn’t hard to come by in Burma just good internet is. Haven’t been able to post pictures because of it but hopefully India will be a different story…right. Last few days have been pretty good though. Managed to take a boat around Inle Lake which was great. Went to see the long neck people (cant remember the name atm) who wear brass rings around their necks. This actually pushes the collarbone down and makes it look like they have an elongated neck. Believe they get up to around 20 rings by their 25th birthday and then stop. Those figures aren’t accurate but close. Asked my guide why they do this but couldn’t get a great answer. Someone said so tigers couldn’t bite their necks but that doesn’t seem right, probably just messing with me. Anyway these ladies make various handicrafts and one I found interesting was the umbrella making. They were taking bark from a tree and soaking it in water then pounding it with a hammer to make a sort of paste. They would then put this in water over a fine net. Once spread out they would pick it up and let it dry. After a day in the sun they had paper. They used this to make the umbrellas (for shading sun not rain of course). Impressive.

The most interesting part (to me I guess) of the lake was how they farmed. They would take their teakwood boats out and with a long pole scrape the bottom of the lake and around floating brush piles for a thick sludge/seaweed they would pile in the boats. They would then take bamboo and make a tiny little barge to tie this stuff to. So now they have a half submerged bed to start plating things on. The main crop was tomatoes that were leaping out of the lake for miles. When we were sailing through the, well farmland I guess, it looked like you were driving a proper field but everyone tending the crops were in boats using their feet to paddle around. That’s another thing with inle lake, its one of the few places in the world were the locals have learned to paddle by wrapping one foot around the oar and paddling leaving the other foot and two free hands to fish with. I thought stand up paddle boarding was difficult… This floating farm was a few kilometers long and nearly one kilometer wide with a many floating houses within it as well. My friends farming tomatoes back home thought moving hand line for tomatoes as a child was a pain, guess they had it easy.

After Inle Lake my tie rod decided to go out on me. Well to be fair it started to go out the day before but really decided to crap out after the lake. Suddenly doing more than 15kph would feel like the front tire was going to shake straight off the axle. Drove for a few hours at less than 15kph which caused a lot of towns people to stare at the goofball creeping through their town. Once we reached a village the mechanics cloths came on and the creative juices started flowing. Luckily Travis from Nordic had explained to me what I could possibly do to fix it so we found an old hydraulic hose and started chopping that up to make it fit. Ensuing few hours consisted of scooter rides around town searching for parts and showing old man river what needed to be done. We did a pretty good job as well; damn thing still works but has been showing signs of crapping out again on the rough roads. On Pk shit road index they get about a 6.5, even the highway we took towards the capital was suspect. Infrastructure in Myanmar, like most of SEA is developing but you see fewer road works compared to the others. Stopped on a long bridge today to checkout the river and the whole thing was pulsing like a persons chest after a long run. I was the only one on it so it wasn’t due to big trucks passing. Needless to say I got back in and darted across to solid land. Anyway now I know how to fix a tie rod in an extremely remote area, always a bright side.

Myanmar is extremely religious and is loaded with pagodas as ive mentioned. The town of Bagan has over 2000 I believe. You can do hot air ballon rides here which are fantastic but not this time of year. One fun thing you will notice at the more popular pagodas is the Burmese applying gold leaf to the Buddha images. Like at the golden rock they buy a small packet of gold leaf and apply it where they can which makes the Buddha images glisten in the light. One statue we visited is over 8inches thick with gold leaf. They have pictures of what the statue looked like years ago to show how much gold has been applied. Its nuts. Also if you want to pay respect at these pagodas you need to walk around the inner circle of the pagoda at least once. Some do this upto 5 times…maybe its better luck dunno.

Few fun side notes, I did learn you should never walk in a Monks shadow, very bad luck. Just fyi if you see a monk tomorrow and want to say hello. Another fun observation is how much some of the South East Asian countries like Ovaltine. Remember that commercial “rich chocolate Ovaltine please” haha. Thought that stuff disappeared with sunny delight and grape soda... maybe it did in the states and ended up here. Another is how they call for the waiters attention. They use a kissing sound whether it is a man or a woman. The first time they used this technique it was a waitress and I was waiting for her to slap them in the face. Apparently in a restaurant its ok, outside not ok. Speaking of restaurants the food here is not what I expected. I’ve been eating mutton curry every single day. Oh sure I changed it up with a beef or chicken curry here or there but everything is curry based. I probably lost 10kg riding the bike around Vietnam and Laos but at least seven of that has come back. You get your tiny curry, which is 60% oil, not like Indian curry at all. Along with this there is between 5 and 12 different little dishes that can be dried fish, young bamboo shoots, even rice powder mixed with spices. Most of the meals have been either street food or road side restaurants, which is pretty much street food here. Food has all been very good no complaints, just very different. Last one is the size of their pigs. Literally thought one was a donkey the other day it was so big. Gave it one of those “wtf is that thing” looks. They aren’t like the ones in Denmark or the wild ones in the states I’ve seen. The ones in Laos were massive but not like this. If I had better internet I would look it up right now.

Tomorrow is devoted to driving towards the border and passing out toothbrushes to a few different schools along the way. Guides have a few in mind apparently. Time to do a little good. Unfortunately schools have been closed the last few days so tomorrow is go time.


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