We took the bus from Bagan to Kalaw. This is how things work here: picked up by a van that takes you to the bus station and you sit in the trailer at the back. No seats, on the floor. More and more people get in until it's bursting at the seams. You just hope it's not to far to the station...The westerners take up twice the room as the burmese, struggling to cross their legs and sitting on each others feet. I was giggling the whole way.
Ten hour bus to Kalaw. Unfortunately we were in the back row. There's no space for western legs. The burmese have weak stomachs for a bumpy ride and all four of our seat buddies were puking. Lucky for me Tobias bore the brunt of flying rice.
Kalaw is a mountain town in the shan state of burma, perched on the side of a cliff, all alpine vibes. That night we went to a tiny little burmese rum shack. Rum and whiskey sours are the only drinks on offer and the locals playing guitar and singing burmese music. So much fun.
The next day we started our trek to Inle Lake with a Swedish woman Lena and our guide, a thoughtful and interesting guy who has spent time in prison for his support of Ang San Su Kyi NLD party.
The landscape veers from bamboo jungle, banana and papaya trees to fields of ploughed red earth and pine trees. We stopped for lunch at a train station frozen in time in the middle of the country side. Old train, pull down windows and wooden seats, women hawking on the platform. I played peekaboo with a cute kid.
A little bit further and we arrive at a minority village where we will spend the night. Que being pushed firmly outside of my comfort zone. The room was a barn, sleeping on the floor. Ok. I'd hopefully asked the guide for a shower as I was sweaty and covered in dust. 'No shower' and he points to a well with buckets in the middle of the courtyard. Clearly no privacy either. I had a type of wash with my clothes on whilst the granny gawped at me. Awks.
I jigged around the family's three month old baby until it weed on me. We walked further into the village and met more filthy children, swinging them round by their arms until they were hysterical and too dizzy to walk. Our guide cooked us an awesome dinner and we looked at the stars; Lena is a wealth of knowledge about constellations. It was pretty cold in the barn so we did what our sleeping partners the mice do and built a nest of blankets.
The next day we walked about 20km. The colours are so intense and vivid, a cloudless cerulean sky, bright green and red earth. We arrived at a monastery were we spent the night. We watched the monks playing football and joking around. There was no shower again, but at least there was a wall so people couldn't see me throwing cold water over my head. There are a lot of child monks here, super cute and not shy. They tend the cat with the broken leg, and are always doing some job.
Forget your romantic ideal of sleeping in a Buddhist monastery. Thin mats on the floor, rats scurrying around and cold, so cold. Obvs being Buddhism the chanting also started at 4am. Honestly, I will be able to sleep anywhere and through anything by the end of this trip.
The next day another trek through fields and beauty to inle lake where we took a boat to the north side. The lake is so beautiful. Huge, turquoise and surrounded by mountains, hundreds of longboats travelling back and forth, fisherman balancing precariously to drag in their nets and women washing on the banks.
Exhausted, we arrived in Nyaungshwe at the north of the lake and said a sad bye to our guide.
It's been an amazing three days and one of those experiences that given me a little insight into how Burmese live, from the most basic of housing to the really excellent food. We've also walked 50 km in the burning hot sun and my agricultural tan is coming on in leaps and bounds.