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tappers’s Travel Diary

Monday, 14 Aug 2006

Location: Shan State, Myanmar

MapAnother early start at 4am to catch the bus from Bagan to Kalaw in Shan State. The journey wasn't as traumatic as the previous bus ride, buit was still not fun - public travel in Myanmar must be the worst on the entire planet, i sat for 12 hours with a piece of metal jutting into my legs and chest!

Arrived Kalaw late afternoon in the rain. This is such a beautiful location high in the mountains, and the town is nice because it is small and thus easy to get to grips with. Spent the first full day in Kalaw day tripping to Pindiya caves which is a natural cave 490 feet deep which houses more than 8000 buddah images - stepping into the half light is an overwhelming experience of religious faces! The caves were also cool because of their rock formations, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Whilst at Pindiaya we managed to watch traditional paper paraols being made for the monks which was a plesant experience. BUT the highlight of the entire day was to watch the colourful five day market in which local tribespeople come to town to trade goods. The produce on offer was all food but to see the different tribal costumes, and watch the people waying food on really retro scales was really fun!

The whole point of visiting Kalaw was to arrange a trek for three days to the natural wonder that is Inle Lake. Myself and a Swiss girl named Ines decided that we wanted to do this full on trek and i must say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life - a chance to get back to nature, but also to experience different tribes and their way of life. The first day consisted of a steep uphill climb into the mountains past ginger, orange and tobacco plantations! The people of Myanmar are so hardworking and spend their entire day in the fields ploughing and harvesting - it is a hard life of poverty! Stopped at various villages of the Pa-O and Pulau tribes.

Mountainous scenery up here is amazing, and we passed people harvesting tea and herding cows along the mountain paths. Every village we entered was most welcoming and the people truly amazing! The villages are all pretty similar consiting of a collection of wooden houses huddled upon a hillside. The scenery soon became rice paddies which look beautiful when reflecting the afternoon light, and as the sun came down there is an exodus of villagers moving from the fields to their homes - hundreds of women carrying hoes and baskets, whilst the men herd ox carts full of tomatoes back to the village. Stayed the first night in a farmers house, which is illegal because toursits in Myanmar can only stay in licensed premises! The house was beautiful because it was made entirely of bamboo, and as soon as the sunset there was no light at all!

The whole trek was basically three days of walking - which i can't really describe here! All i will say is that the scenery is beautiful, the tribespeople amazing - and that i will have to show you all the remarkable photos upon my return to England!

Whilst trekking i experienced the highlight of my travels thus far. On the second night we slept in a wooden monastry situated on a mountain top. The monastry contained five monks, and twenty eight novices - it was amazing to meet these people and find out about them and the buddhist religion. Whilst trying to wash in a well full of monks i became the prime attraction of the local village as people flocked out to see the strange white man washing beside the monks! Sleeping on the floor of teh monastry amongst the bats and sleeping monks was truly a spiritual and magical experience, even being awoken at 4am by the monks chanting and meditation!

After three days we arrived at the beautiful Inle Lake - this place is nature at its best! Have spent the last couple of days here and it has been amazing! BUT i will save that for another day!