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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Jungles of Myanmar - Page 3

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The villagers living in the hills spoke no English but were always happy to see us. Throughout the day we would stop every couple of hours to drink delicious green tea and devour bowl after bowl of steaming noodles. Later that day we came across a young boy chewing betel-nut and picking handfuls of mushrooms, excitedly we bought a whole basket of the delicacy before heading to a cluster of huts where we were to spend the night. We stayed with a local family and although they spoke no English and had no beds to offer us, they heartily cooked us a feast of fried rice, green vegetables, spinach with herbs, garlic mushrooms and young bamboo shoots. 

Following dinner I smoked a cheroot with the men of the household. A cheroot is a weak mixture of tobacco and herbs rolled in a dried banana leaf and resembles a cigar. Throughout Myanmar cheroots are smoked by everyone from wizened grannies to crazed motorbike taxi drivers. As we continued to head further into the hills a ragtag group of children followed us shouting "bye bye!" again and again. It seemed to be the only English they knew and they were determined to use it!

On our final night trekking we stayed in a local monastery perched atop a finger of rock. Upon our arrival the head monk was busily shaving novice's heads with a razor and bid us to wash ourselves and peel off our filthy clothing before showing us to a small room with a set of reed mats for pilgrims to sleep upon. Later that evening the dutiful monks brought us tea as well as biscuits and honey which we wolfed down quickly before heading off to search for more delicious noodles. Throughout the night the monks sporadically chanted and rang gongs via a massive loudspeaker and so after a somewhat restless night’s sleep we began our descent back towards the main town. 

The trek back to civilization took us nine hours and passed through some truly untouched territory. Besides a small huddle of women in conical hats busily collecting firewood we didn't see another soul. As we rounded a corner, a crumbling pagoda with peeling white paint burst unexpectedly through the undergrowth. I can’t help but wonder who on earth builds and maintains these structures. An insect orchestra enveloped us as we followed a rough dirt track and penetrated further into the jungle. On my left side the path disappeared altogether and the thick jungle mist half obscured a steep drop concealing unexplored valleys, waterfalls and tiny collections of huts. 

The simple beauty of the region and the warmness of the people continue to take my breath away. In the words of Rudyard Kipling "This is Burma, it is unlike any place you know".


©Will Hatton


(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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