Thailand and Myanmar-Hot Hot Hot!

May 28th, 2015, 05:01 AM
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Inle Lake was pleasant, but touristy for my tastes, and smelled too much of fish. The prices were hiked up and the goods were too familiar and while there were things that were lovely to the eye and Ioved my hotel and its sweet staff and adorable dog, I was ready to move on. Had it been cooler, I might have done the hike from Kalaw or seen the elephant camp. But heat is a huge factor here as are the rains. So I left for Kyaing Tung, and arrived about mid morning after a weather delay.

A young man who calls himself Eric (Kyaw Sein) collected me pretty ferociously at the airport but I was the one who pinned him at his rickety motorcycle taxi. I again used the same approach. I had three days to fill and I wasn't interested in the touristy village visits practically in town. Eric was a member of the Akha tribe, and immediately offered to take me up high into the Shan Hills. He'd help me pick out what to bring as gifts, we'd start early and spend the day. He eyeballed me closely. You CAN hike, can't you?

Remember that line.

My hotel, the very welcoming Khema Rhatta, had only one problem, which the whole town suffered. Well, two. The power often went off, often for many hours at a time, and wifi was a joke. They did however have a massive, monster bathtub. Now I recall driving into Sapa with a small group in January to a freezer of a hotel which also had a massive bathtub, thinking that at least I could have a hot bath. I had not yet learned that the Barbie sized breadbox on the wall was your entire hot water supply, which came out to about two inches of water, the sum of which turned to ice crystals as I futilely splashed it over myself to get clean and also attempt to warm up.

This isn't that. This place had water so hot that the first time I filled the tub I had to wait an hour for the water to cool down. I fell dead asleep in pure relief, as I am a bath taker, the simple joy of floating in such relaxing luxury was overwhelming. Wifi? What wifi....zzzzzzzzzzzz. Every night I was in bed at 8 and up at 4. Breakfast was eggs and fruit at 6:30 and Eric was there at 7:30. The schedule was to hit the market, pick up soaps, knives and peeling instruments. I also suggested nail clippers which went over very well with the men.

Day one was a long drive. Now let me explain something. Eric's taxi is made for groups. You put your tender butt on a hard wooden bench and suffer the consequences of the most evil road conditions on the face of the Earth. Too narrow for a Hummer. Only navigable by motorcycle, motorcycle taxi or ATV, if there were any and there aren't. I've never had my spine smashed or my pelvis pounded so hard as the thirty miles we drove those three days. The word "roads" do too much justice to the Pits From Hades that we drove. The government does nothing to grade or work on the paths that lead out towards and up to the villages, although the close in ones get attention. Even there the heavy gravel threatens to shake out your molars. But these "roads" are pathways carved deeply by rain, rivers and puddles, very deep holes that eat the tires, send your coconut through the canvas and make you bite your tongue. My hands were bright red from holding onto the bars on either side. Most of that was simply trying to say in the cab and avoiding going completey airborne. But Eric took pity on my bony butt and installed a soft bucket seat which balanced atop a big fat tire which balanced atop the metal floor of his taxi. Nothing strapped, secured, no seat belt. Hang on baby. The seat moved everywhere, including up and down, and so did my sense of humor. By the last day my lower back was so annoyed with me it was speaking in tongues even Southern Baptists wouldn't understand. But that's why they make Panadol.

So up we went, and found the day's resting place for Martha the Mauler, and we picked up our gear and took off. Not knowing what to expect I'd loaded my backpack so my gear on this extremely hot day was about 25 lbs. Eric's cousin had come along to practice his English.

Along the way we stopped in at a friend's where Eric kindly fashioned me a walking stick of bamboo (very strong and sturdy, wish I still had it!) and in minutes we were off. And headed straight up.

And up up up up up up up . The road curved around right and left and left and right, always up up up up up. Now if you read my stuff you know I love to climb. I'm a fool for it. I run steps at home to be able to do this. This year for the first time I invested a horrendous $600 in orthotics to deal with the vicious left knee pain that nearly sent me hurtling down Kilimanjaro a few years ago, and has made descents such a misery. They were in the boots that day. Up up up up. I found my stride.

At some point I realized I hadn't heard anyone say anything for quite a long time so I turned around and neither of them was in sight. Now mind you, Eric is 32, so that makes him about half my age. His cousin is younger.

I waited. Took some photos. Found some shade.

Waited. Eventually the cousin appeared, then he stood at the curve, hands on hips in that classic NFL Defensive Unit posture of "crap I'm tired."

Eric labored around the corner. I was taping them on my camera. We were hardly a third of the way up. I wasn't even warmed up yet. My best work is at the end of the day, not the beginnning. Eric was having a tough time, and also he had no hat in this heat. He wore a heavy polo shirt in a dark navy. Not choices I'd have made in this environment but he lives here.

Well I did wind sprints. I'd find a spot up head, sprint to it, find the shade and wait. Then they'd come up and we'd do it again. But once we got close to the villages I walked behind Eric, this is a conservative country, and it's his family. Along the way he told me about his people, the culture and what to expect.

I didn't even realize what was missing at the time. Knee pain. Nothing. Nada. And with that, a level of energy that comes when you're not constantly correcting for, protecting for or in some way afraid of sending that ice pick into your knee. God love my sports chiro.

The village appeared and with it, the first Akha woman, wearing the extraordinarily complex, pure silver decorated headdress that my Thailand antique dealer friend Juliet had shown me back in Chiang Mai.
jhubbel is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 05:11 AM
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In Eric's village of the Akha people, all of whom he considered family, the first thing they do is push the local hootch in your hand. You're expected to down it immediately. I do not imbibe. This creates a problem because I'm aware that to not to so is to be rude. So I tip the glass and do my best to fake it, but I stil get some of this holymotherofgodjesusmaryjosephwhatdidtheymakethiso utof stuff on my lips and tongue. We were inside with about six people and they were are watching me for my reaction and happily they all had a good laugh, and while they were doing that I stashed that evil stuff next to my leg where I could do no further harm to my person. Tea came next, something I spent a great deal of time drinking, and the woman of the house put out some lovely boiled peanuts. I damned near ate the whole bowl, too. They were delicious.

We sat and ate and talked amiably for a good long while. The questions most frequently asked of me were always about my age and family. Since I have none, and this was distressing, I fashioned an answer that providing some satisfaction. What I told them was that since I didn't have children or a family I am out meeting my entire family which is the world. And that in many ways is very much the truth. The more I said it the more I felt the truth of it. And to them it made sense, too.

Eric knew that one of my goals was to buy that headdress and the outfit that went with it. So we slowly made our way through a series of households. At each, we'd stop and spend time with one of the diminutive women, most of whom came up maybe to my mid chest. For each we had soap, which was treasured, and for certain households we also gave out knives, which were a big deal. LIstening to Akha was fascinating, as Eric spoke at least five dialects among the villages, and I did my best to learn thank you in three of them as we hiked our way around.
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May 28th, 2015, 05:34 AM
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Just before noon Eric walks me up to this house (they are all on ground floors, this is the only village we visit that has houses sitting on the ground) and an ancient woman, taller than the others, comes out to greet us. We go in, drink tea, eat peanuts, and eventually she puts a mat on the ground and out come the goodies. We go through the entire collection and soon I am the happy owner of a silver headdress, a jacket, belt, scarf, purse, and leggings (Danskin did NOT originiate this idea). All for 130 bucks US, which btw, is about a third of what that headress cost in Thailand, and the same headdress costs $300 plus in the marketplace down in Kyainag Tong. This way the woman gets paid directly, and boy can she use this cash. She is beside herself.

Suddenly the house is a flurry of activity. Eric comes flying through the house with a screeching hen in hand shouting THIS IS YOUR LUNCH and before I can say WAIT I HAVE MANGOES I hear a clunk and no more screeching. Well I guess that's lunch now. Begins now the long process of boiling and plucking, and since I grew up on a chicken farm this is all very familiar territory. Meanwhile Grandmother brings in and begins to knead big platters of herbs. Eric's got his shirt off and Grams has brought in liquor and peanuts and is constantly indicating to me to eat eat eat eat. I'm already nearly full, and chicken something or other is coming.

This is a real honor to have a hen killed for you, a genuine celebration. The fire is stoked, the herbs and garlic and all the home grown veggies are cut and the whole thing is put together slowly and carefully. Eric has no clue that this dish is called, only that he grew up with it and he loves it and wants to share it with me. That's what's important.

I sit with the old woman as the boys cook, and I tape her while she pantomimes kicking them out of the kitchen and taking over. She's a hoot.,

Finally, plastic chairs are produced, bowls full of chopped chicken and parts I don't recognize are set out, and rice and other bits are placed in front of me. The broth smells heavenly. Suddenly a cat appears and insistently moves in and among us, and Eric produces a basket. The cat clearly knows what's coming because she moves to escape, but down it comes over her head, and there she sits. Waiting. Because eventually she gets goodies, which we sneak to her as we work our way through this tough as nails chicken. This creature has spent its entire life running for its life, and it is made of pure ligament and tendon. I was given a drumstick as the honored guest, but I swear to you, I bit into it and did not find meat. I did my best and Kitty got the rest. The broth, however, was fragrant and wonderful and over rice, that and the leaves and herbs that Eric had used were simply lovely. Kitty continued to get gristle and bone, and there she sat, happily distracted from her prison, cracking bones to her heart's content.

I took out my mangoes, and as I cut up the sweet flesh I shared big slices with the old woman, Eric and the cousin. They initially refused, but fruit this good- and I had three- is not to be refused. She was in heaven.

She was so happy for the sale, so happy for the company and the fact that we spent the time, and ate with her. It was the beginng of my favorite time in country.
jhubbel is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 07:42 AM
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Sounds like you are having quite the adventure!

I absolutely agree with you about the stupas - at InThien, at Kakku. I love them in the state of blessed decay. But it's a cultural thing, having to do with making merit by "fixing" up the stupas and painting them white or gold.

I'm enjoying your trip, though I'll still opt for the "less hot" season Nov-Dec-Jan
Kathie is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Sep 2014
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The only horse riding for tourists I have come across is at Ngapali Beach where there is a string of about 4 well kept ponies available for riding along the beach water line. Experienced riders can dtot whilst newcomers are accompanied.The ponies appear well kept and fed and are treated well.
Some Burmese friends were visiting us in England a couple of years ago and we took them down to the family Equestrian Center and their surprise at the facilities ,which they called the English Horse Hilton, was a joy to behold. Their eyes popped out of their head when they saw inside the Horse Box,not only the comfort for the 4 dressage horses, but the TV/Kitchen/Lounge/Sleeping area for the humans!
As for sweet spots- the horses all love it and Laddie our chockie Lab rolls his eyes and moans with delight when one hits the right spot.
Your narative is a joy to read but also confirms that my normal visiting months to Myanmar-October through February, are the right ones.
Silverswimmer is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 03:05 PM
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The march down the mountain at midday was a scorcher, and again, it wasn't until a lot later, like the next day, that I noticed that the knee pain was missing. The forests were cooling, the shade was deeper, and we quickly devoured the way down. Periodicaly motorbikes would pass us. Otherwise we were along in the aging afternoon, and we came back upon the motorcycle taxi and threw in our packs. We were all soaked to the skin, and ready for the breeze, such as it was, of travel.

One trick that sometimes helped with the intense beatings one took in the back of the taxi was to keep moving. Shift and move and flow and bend, and in all ways keep the spine flowing. It kept you from being rigid, and trying to resist being slammed around, which was inevitable and hurt far worse. It helped. But I still needed Panadol in the morning. And a lot of yoga, which really helped.

The next day we visited the Eng tribe, a very different tribe, culture and way of being in different villages in another part of the Shan Hills. The hike wasn't quite as epic but the sun was hotter. No cloud cover, and the power had been out the night before at my hotel. We arrived at mid morning, and climbed the stairs into the home of two women who were waiting out the heat of the day. The grandmother was rail thin, and she had her grandchild tied to her body. She immediately came to sit with us and began stuffing betel nut and leaves into her mouth. During the next half hour she continued to stuff more and more matter and products and leaves into her mouth until she had quite the mouthful, and then she proceeded to carry on a conversation with Eric. She had few teeth that I could make out and what was left were blackened stumps from the betel juice.

For any child who'd ever resented being told not to speak with his mouth full, this was the village to live in. However these children have never seen nor smelled soap or water, been bathed, known clean clothing. There is no toilet, nor shower or any kind of facility. There is no concept of hygiene. My guess is that the kids, who wear a constant layer of grime and who play with all the animals who are equally dirty, have about the most powerful immune system imaginable. When I mentioned to Eric I had to pee, he pointed down the path to the woods. I actually found the town "toilet" which, interestingly didn't smell, dor did its people or children. The tp of choice were banana leaves.

There was a very primitive water delivery system that brought a trickle of water downhill through as series of wood troughs. That constituted the entire water source for the village. These houses, as were all the others we would see, were up on stilts, so to visit people you had to walk up to a platform. The advantage of this was to allow air to circulate freely and cool the house. Fires were in the middle of the house, the house was made of wood or rattan, wide open but for the women's quarters. The Eng were the only people who did not remove their shoes when coming upstairs and walking on the mats that people sat on. Their language was distinct, I learned to say "Mom" with a long "o" sound for thank you, when I gave out the gifts.

Eric explained to me that prior to five centuries ago, the Eng had no enemies. Everyone around were just other villagers. Everyone had shaman in each village. Then missionaries came: Catholic, Baptist. For the last five centuries, there have been enemies. I find this no surprise, as any people who strongly identify with a belief system rather than the people will end up feeling a need to be right about it, and that causes wars. I'm no fan of missionaries, but that's just me. I come to learn, not to judge someone's religion as being right or wrong. But then, that's why I have a problem with missionaries. If they'd just show up to provide education, fine. If they proslytize, there's the road out. I can't think of a single country that this didn't end up in war and death. but that's just me. I'm just a journalist.

What struck me most, and story follows later (bedtime here) was the generosity of people so starkly poor, but the question I had to raise was by what standards? And that becomes a very interesting question.
jhubbel is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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I'm with you on the weather. The heat is stupefying. I've never traveled in such heat before, and don't plan to again. While I've kept my sense of humor about this, I recall vaguely times when I was in Oz and it was bloody hot but nothing, nothing like this. This is like traveling in a broiler, and on top of that, hiking, exercising, and exercising HARD in it. That it doesn't seem to affect me terribly is surprising, but that said, it's just not pleasant. Geez what an understatement.

I heartily agree with all you've said about time of year. And yes, I'd have liked to make it to Mrauk U, and your guide finally did contact me. It wasn't until I was nearly done with this trip that she did. One has to appreciate just how bad the internet really is to understand that lack of response to a business inquiry.

Next time!
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May 29th, 2015, 05:29 AM
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Zaw and I left this morning at 6:30 for Golden Rock, and he failed to tell me one itty bitty detail. There's an epic hike involved, for if there's a choice between taking the truck or hiking, I will do the hike. I only had my sandals. They made it, but not my choice of footwear for the conditions. That's besides the point. It was still fun. We got to Golden Rock about ten and I check into the The Eternity Resort right away. On the way Zaw keeps telling me that this hike take guys about 3.5 hours, and women about four, so it should take me about five.

Now I should preface this with a story about when I was seventeen. I had just quit smoking five packs a day (you read that right, 100 cigarettes a day, my parents were smokers), and I had severed my Achille's tendon. My family doctor, Willie Steele, informed me that I would limp for the rest of my life. The day after the cast came off I marched out to my junior high school track and began running. Hurt like hell but I never limped a day in my life due to that injury. I don't take well to having other people throw limitations at me, and one of the reasons I speak- especially at women's conferences- is for that very reason.

So I've checked in. Lightened my load. The hotel manager has pronounced it will take at LEAST four hours and so does my driver. I tell them three. They laugh. Zaw takes me to the start point, I take a photo of my watch, and take off.

This is a wondrous hike. You climb ancient steps.You go through the middle of people's houses and they want to sell you water. There are plenty of places for food along the way although most were closed. The way was devoid of tourists but for the two guys from Seattle I stopped to talk to when we were viciously attacked by the sweetest natured little puppy who licked us to death for about fifteen minutes. What a love, almost stole him. Then off again. I sweated rivers, oceans and thunderstorms. There were a few flat spaces as I traversed from hill to hill, but most of it was combination of rotting stairs and rocks that worked as stairs. There were such beautiful woods around certain stairs that they made photographs. Finally there were views.

What was utterly hilarious were the two times I got hijacked by a golden rock that I didn't realize wasn't the real thing. I stopped, climbed up the steep hill, took a photo. The monk who was working the ground said to me on the way down, "You're the first person who's done that." Thanks a rock.

When I got to the second, someone saved me from repeating myself and sent me up an incredibly steep concrete road. This, I would learn later, was the roller coaster mad ride down by truck, which many people take up to avoid what I had just done.

I made the stairs in precisely three hours, took a photo, then wandered the grounds until I found the REAL Golden Rock. Then I enjoyed the breezes, the view, and mildly wondered what the big deal was about except that really it was very pretty. There was a lot of construction going on, all by hand, with young women balancing a great many loose bricks on their heads and young men carting them by bag held against their foreheads.

On the way down the fun started. By the time I found the truck only one bank of seats was left. A solid row, one thin plank to sit on. The clouds were threatening and people were selling brightly colored raincoats. It had been threatening for hours and I had already covered my pack. Suddenly my seat had about twelve people on it and there were elbows and arms everywhere as folks dressed for the inevitable.

The truck started down hill and immediately I realized that this was no ordinary ride. We had a sadist at the wheel, and he took great evil pleasure in hitting the hairpin turns at the highest possible speed. There were of course no belts, the only option was to hang on for dear life, which we all did, to the steel bar of the seat in front of us.

The rain began to build and soon there were umbrellas in my face, which served only to channel a great deal of rain onto what was left of my dry pants. We all hunkered down, trying to grasp the umbrella while also doing our best to stay in the bed of this enormous truck while this madman hurtled around the turns. I got my camera out, and taped the entire trip down, and boy am I glad I did.

I have gleefully ridden some of the most terrifying roller coaster rides in the USA, and I love them. However this was far worse. Rollercoasters have bars across your body for safety. They use G-forces to ensure you don't rocket out. This is the real thing, and the only G-forces are the one grabbing at your various body parts to rip you into the canyons below. On long stretches the guy would speed up to the extent he could without overshooting the hairpin turn, our stomachs would lurch forward and we'd go flying around the turn and I swear body parts would detach.

When we left the concrete and hit road that was still under construction the sound track took on some comments that weren't for public consumption as there was of course no padding on the seat and the wood and metal beat the poo out of my bony parts. It reminded me that a Snickers bar now and then really doesn't hurt.

My battery finally ran out and I spent the rest of our trip enjoying watching everyone else, checking to make sure my hands were still functional (white but functional). When the guy pulled up in front of the The Eternity Resort I was so befuddled by backlash I had no idea it was my stop) and he was taking off by the time I realized I'd better holler for him to stop again.

This place did a very nice turn by delivering tea and a menu right to my hands as I walked up, so that within minutes I had a meal at the door. I am of course drying my clothing again all around the room, I had to round everything up. As soon as I removed said clothing they stood up and headed towards the door quite on their own and announced they were going hiking again. I do believe they had a bit of a workout this trip.

I do wish to make a disclaimer, for there is at least one poster on here who has in the past misread my comments. I love to take on challenges because a good speaker walks her talk. It's not about ego. As I age I will discover limitations. And at the same time I will find new possibilities. The point is that I push. That is why I do this. Speakers who don't go out and constantly get new material, who don't walk their talk, aren't authentic. Travel is an extraordinary teacher of both, and of finding the sense of humor to be gracious about letting go along the way.
jhubbel is offline  
May 29th, 2015, 06:34 AM
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Ah, the famous Golden Rock truck ride!
Kathie is offline  
Jun 1st, 2015, 07:33 PM
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Honestly Kathie they should make that truck ride a completely separate event!!
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Jun 1st, 2015, 08:06 PM
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Well, drat. I had posted a couple of items on here, thought I pushed the submit button, and now a few days later.....hummhhm.

Okay, rolling back. My driver, Zaw, whom I now consider my friend (have to with all the time I've spent with him) took me as promised to the wildlife center not far from Yangon. I had want to ride, feed and bathe elephants, and he knew of a place where some of that might be done. So off we went.

What ensued was really, well. As a proflific writer, I'm stumped. I'll try. These are the facts. Three ellies, tied to trees. (Not my country, but I HATE this). You buy sugar cane in small buckets. They want the food. I get inspected by a long trunk and immediately my poor grungy-but-clean shirt is done for the day. All good humored. While I do this, I explore ears, scratch, rub eyelids, so very gently. Test the reaction. Zaw photographs, the ellies are happy about the food and not resisting the touch.

Handlers are mystified at what I'm doing, and why would I show affection? Well, it's not something you can explain.

I went to the boy who was still looking for food after spending about fifteen minutes with the female, who decided she was happier with my working on her right side. These animals have never had someone scratch behind their ears, gently rub the skin around their eyes, scratch their heads, chins, anything. This is all new. So they're curious when human touch feels really really good.

I reached up and scratched behind Little Man's left ear and he let loose with a big song, which is all I can describe it as, right into his female partner's ear, and ended with a blast of air. Not angry or aggressive, more like WOW, and he settled down into just receiving. So I went after him, the parts I could reach, the areas my fingers were strong enough to scratch. And on an ellie, there are limitations. What I found was that the softest skins were the places they most liked scratched, behind the ears, the ears themselves, way inside the ear canal (YUM) and the eyelids and around the eyes.

We have three videos of his behavior, the last being the most evocative. After about forty minutes, during which I'd go back to the female every so often, I was standing on the roots of the trees so that I could reach higher on his ears. When I stepped down, he leaned his head into me and pinned me against the tree. Not hard, just firmly, and then he moved his head so that his eye was about two inches from mine. There he stayed for minutes on end. I'm scratching his ear, rubbing his face and eye area, and we are looking into each other's eyes. Then he sways out in a rocking motion and does the same thing, over and over, for about thirteen minutes, until he stops, and I have my right arm wrapped around his face, and my left around his head, and close my eyes. He's totally calm, and we just move together like that, rocking a bit.

What that felt like to be that close to this enormous creature and be without any fear (respect, absolutely but not fear) is what I cannot express. I have photos and videos. Otherwise I'd have disputed the truth of it myself. This creature responded to touch, I can't know what was going on in his mind, or the whys, I don't know ellie behavior. But I felt, and was, perfectly safe, and apparently he felt that way with me.

Had others not shown up wanting to feed the ellies this might have gone on longer, but I'd likely overstayed my welcome. I didn't ride or bathe either, just loved on them. Frankly this was quite enough. That such a massive animal allowed me to attend to him in such a way, well, what I do know is that much of this trip has involved some kind of engagement with very large beasts, and the opportunity to explore massaging and touching them, and being in an amazing zen place while doing so. Not all accept attention any more than all kids or adults do. But the ones that do, do so with a grace and gratitude that make you feel so humble.

After we left the ellies, we drove through the many divisions of monkeys. In fact we merely had to stop the car and they would gather. This was birthing season, all the moms who weren't still pregnant had just borns clinging to them. And they were proliferating. No natural predators except the local villagers. All the tigers are gone, so they get fed from the cars. Not a good idea but no one has told people not to do this. However, knowing Myanmar, they'd do it anyway, just as cyclists ride in the passing lane on the "highways."

One more stop before we left revealed a group of smallish deer with some stags. A doe was close to the road, and a woman selling greens to feed her with stood nearby. I got out, approached the doe, offered her an ear scrub first. She laid her head in my hand with some force in that way that dogs do when an ear scrub is just what they've been wanting all day long, and I took that as my cue. Sure enough, this doe was delighted to accept a full body massage. She was intensely curious about what was going on when I got to her back legs.

At one point I was working on scratching the inside of her right rear leg at the knee (same place that the Appaloose collapsed) when she reached around with her delicate wet nose and touched my hand, and then lifted her leg as if to say, "Under here please?" So I obliged. Her sweet little head dropped, dropped....there she went. We taped this too. She was the calmest thing.

When I sat down she poked her nose in my face a few times, and I just caressed her for a while. I was her main bud until another cab showed up and another girl got out and bought her FOOD. Whereupon I was relegated to chump change and she wandered off to make goo goo eyes at the new patron. Sigh. Love affairs are so short and sweet.
jhubbel is offline  
Jun 1st, 2015, 10:29 PM
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Yesterday Zaw took me to the pottery village not far from Myanmar, where the industry spawned the entire town, and is now slowly dying off. This place makes the large pots into which people put their plants or crabs, depending on the design. We watched the process done the old way, with the eldest man carving up river mud blocks into shavings which were placed into circles of pottery powder. Then he poured water into the middle and mixed it where it would sit, and then be mashed for a while like old fashioned wine making.

This man, a lean, wiry, happy faced ancient of 81, was as lively as anyone a fifth his age, and been doing this for six decades. The other man, with whom we were talking, was bemoaning the fact that he couldn't find young people to teach.

He handed me a small piece of clay to work with, which I made into a horse head. I handed it to him, and he made it into a bird. I love how you don't have to have words to speak.

A few years back my professional potter Jill (and by professional potter I mean that she put her kids through college, bought land and teaches classes, and buys and trains her Arabians professional potter) and I were in Taos. We were shopping, and we had met a woman who was showing us clay. Jill was working a small piece as this woman shared with us the loss of her daughter not long before. When we were ready to go, Jill handed her a perfect little horse, which is the Tarot symbol of the emotions. The woman was utterly charmed. I never forgot this gesture. I had the pleasure of traveling with Jill in Thailand years ago and hope to entice her out of country again, as she has a habit of leaving good feelings behind everywhere.

Zaw and I had cobbled together a list of souvenir shops to visit from a fancy brochure I'd found, but most featured very overpriced hilltribe weavings and scarves and the kind of made in China-look things that people buy on impulse. However, one did provide some goodies worth looking at and I did drop some dime there to add to my rising pile: Nandawun, No 55, Baho Road, corner of Baho Road and Ahlone Road, Ahlone Tsp. The shop is in a two story colonial and features room after room of many of the typical and some not so typical items. I found some metal (read: heavy) pieces here that were appealing, and they also had antiques. Selection was good, some pieces were impressive, and the wall of puppets had a wonderful selection and decent pricing. Clothing, lotus scarves, and two rooms of jewelry as well as a room featuring the sequinned embroidery finished it out downstairs. And then if that weren't enough, you could go upstairs to peruse both antique and new books on Myanmar, of which there were quite a few. All in all, one of my favorite places, and the air conditioning and comfortable surroundings made for nice browsing. Laquer pieces were also on sale for 50% and there were antique pieces as well. Recommended. BTW you can use your cc if you spend US100, which I found easy to do.
jhubbel is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2015, 06:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Well, you now understand why I don't recommend most of the elephant/wildlife places in SE Asia. As an animal lover, this must have been heart-breaking to observe. Still, I am glad you had good interactions with the elephants.

There is one that is truly dedicated to the welfare of the elephants, The Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. The others range from neglectful to abusive for the most part. Most places use hooks to train elephants, and visitors often see gashes in the hides of these great beasts, but it doesn't keep them from voting the camp the #1 attraction in Chiang Mai on Trip Advertiser. And any place that has tigers should be actively avoided (such as the Tiger Temple on the way to Kanchanburi).
Kathie is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2015, 08:02 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,865
Loving this report - serendipitous grownup adventure travel, inspiring.
crosscheck is offline  
Jun 5th, 2015, 07:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 637
Interesting Kathie that Tiger Temple had a very serious attack of a monk reported, no surprise. Where there is abuse, people will get hurt. BTW I got through the airport with ALL my stuff, was loaded to the gills, had my receipts. Of course not a soul asked. Good to be ready, though.

What struck me was the emotional response of the animals- the ellies were gentle, responsive to affection. As a farm girl, I've been around huge animals all my life. Kindness goes a long long way.

Got home to hail damage, a rainy Colorado and getting ready for Iceland in July. All the goodies are laid out on the table, and some have already found homes on shelves and walls. Worth all the trouble to get them here. They're stunning- and bring back all the memories.

Crosscheck, thanks for your kind comments. This trip moved me immensely. I left having gotten quite close to Zaw and his family and hope in every way that my recommendations get him business.
jhubbel is offline  
Jun 5th, 2015, 08:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
I'm glad to hear you arrived home with all of your purchases intact. Do the things you brought home look different in the light of familiar surroundings? I find the things look more beautiful, more exotic at home than they did in the shop or stall. Sometimes I think I get shopping fatigue and things all start to look alike.

Welcome home!
Kathie is offline  
Jun 8th, 2015, 05:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 637

I agree so much about shopping fatigue. Things lose their exotic nature when you are peering at thousands of them. Taken out of context, here at home, they are magnificent all over again. Most things have found a home, and a few gifts have landed in joyous hands. My large wooden dancing couple is awaiting mounting in my dining room. Temple angels go up in the bedroom. A mounted warrior is still on the way. Most other items have been placed here and there to please the eye and incite storytelling.

I have put the Akha outfit onto a mannequin in my dressing room, where it proudly shows all its color and that wonderful headdress.

Like walking around a travel museum....
jhubbel is offline  

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