Breaking Burma Day 100: Operation Des(s)ert Storm

I can’t believe the day has actually arrived but I have now reached the century mark with today being the 100th day of this trip. Where has all the time gone? New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and soon to be Myanmar in the rear view mirror. All of that and I still have so much left to see. The amount of time left is admittedly intimidating as I miss home so I try not to focus on that distant future but rather what is near and tangible: the present. For a less than stellar guesthouse (not exactly within their control but the lack of electricity in the city produced no running water and toilets filling up, a rather messy business), they made some good banana crepes for a nice start to the day but Vim had yet to materialize as we had arranged before I left. With that being said, I had no choice but to go on my own to Sam’s trekking with or without him. My group ended up being composed of guide C2, two French girls my age (Marine and Flore) and a 43 year old Dutch man named Richard who more than kept up with the decidedly younger crowd. After booking my hotel stay in Inle lake, we left Kalaw for the wilderness as they asked what happened to the mysterious Brit that was listed on the ledger for the trek. We trekked through the valley and up the hills in the mountains where we took a break at a great viewpoint but the scenery was less than green as I had expected. During a chapatti bread breakfast under banana leaf and bamboo cabanas, we got to know one another and I found out from C2 that the guy from the U.K. had made it into Kalaw and was trying to meet us along the trek at some point today. We passed many people working hard in the fields and took a fair share of pictures. They have such a hard life full of struggle yet their happiness and perseverance never shies away. As far as scenery goes it was not what I had envisioned when I thought of rice fields since most of it has already been harvested or scorched from heat and fire. Some areas are even still being torched. I had long waited to see lush green rice paddy fields etched into the hillsides in tiers (especially in Vietnam) but alas it is not the right time of year. I began complaining to myself over such a misfortune but I quickly needed to slap myself across the face and get back to reality. How dare I get picky when I am on a world conquering trip. Some things are not meant to be and some things will have to be saved for a later date. When we took a break which was much more often than in Hsipaw, we always drank green tea no matter the temperature around us. I love Myanmar tea culture; it such an integral part of their social structure, a way to convene with friends and coworkers. Whole restaurants are dedicated entirely to the supply of beer or tea as ‘stations’. The French girls really surprised Richard and me. They weren’t snobby, spoke good English, down to earth, and a relief to be around for a trek as this. Their English is good but we had some confusion per say over some words. Flore tried to explain to me this dessert that had only salt and devoid of sugar. I kept questioning her, asking how can a dessert only have salt, that makes no sense. Eventually she caught on and said that it was a desert. From then on, everyone stumbled across the word one way or another, even C2. The other mixup lied in the not so similar variance between ‘beard’, ‘bear’, and ‘bird’. How they came up in succession I could never say but I will admit the English language is a disaster with anything more than the slightest accent. Beyond talking to my new friends from across the pond, I chatted with C2 since he is a ready made resource of knowledge as a local. We covered the typical chatter but his response to whether he had a girlfriend surprised me. Not only did he have one lucky lady, he had two. Not too long three girlfriends orbited in his bizarre social circle. Apparently in Myanmar it is normal to have several boyfriends and girlfriends with the opposite sex aware of such an imbalance until they realize who will be the one. An interesting take indeed but way too expensive for sure. At the railway station in the middle of nowhere we breaker for some group juggling chinlon before snacking on fried banana chips and a sweet/sour milk/yogurt drink that had refreshing tangy taste. Once at the sleeping village Vim was out of sight and in fact with another group that we would meet the following night. Apparently the story we all awaited to hear would have to be postponed for another day. I joked that it would be funny if the Brit everyone long expected to see was not Vim at all but rather some other bloke. Our evening’s entertainment was watching Marine chew on some beetle nut, which is something I wouldn’t even try. Onto more savory things, dinner was a delight. Chicken, eggplant, potatoes, lady fingers (a random name for me since in the real world where I come from lady fingers go into a delicious Italian dessert -there it is again- called tiramisu; actually okra) and such, all easily digestible with a liqueur scorch-fried banana as dessert. After the giant orb in the sky drifted below the far most mountains, the hills came alive with dancing streaks of orange by the continuous pursuit to burn the land. With no further entertainment, we chatted and joked into the night before an early curfew called us to sleep.


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